When I asked my local Chiropodist, why May is “Foot Health Month”?, the answer was an obvious one! May is the month where we all transition our footwear from winter boots and closed shoes to summer flip flops and sandals.
About 70 per cent of us suffer from some sort of foot problem, and women can suffer four times as much as men. “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art” said Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, a quarter of the bones in our body are found in our feet, in addition to the 33 joints in each one. Over our lifetime we will walk around the world at least three times in an average distance.
Foot health care is important because it is an important foundation to the rest of our body, and it can have an affect on the knees, the back, as well as posture and body mechanics. Also, foot ailments can become your first sign of more serious medical problems. Your feet mirror your general health, so conditions like arthritis, diabetes, nerve and circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in your feet.
Unfortunately, we also tend to ignore our feet!
What is a Chiropodist (Ker-opo-dist) / Podiatrist (Pod-aya-trist)?
Foot Clinic & Orthotics (FCO), situated in Caledon East have highly-trained Chiropodists, certified by the College of Chiropodist of Ontario: Hasinah Shaqiq, D.Pod.M and Associates who provide foot care services along with a nurse and an esthetician. Hasinah Shaqiq’s reputation and good service has become so much in demand, where she has recently opened a second clinic in Kleinburg.
Under the Ontario Chiropody Act, Chiropody is defined as “the assessment of the foot, and the treatment and prevention of diseases disorders, or dysfunctions of the foot by therapeutic, orthotic or palliative means”. Chiropodists can provide total nail and skin care; address foot and ankle pain; undertake soft tissue surgeries under local anesthetic; prescribe and fit patients with custom foot orthotics, ankle foot orthoses and orthopaedic footwear. Topical antibiotics and anti-inflammatories can also be prescribed as needed. Three years of study, post-graduate are needed as well as practice courses in medical science and completing hospital based residency programs. Podiatrists only differ by the fact the degree is American or based from another province that provides Podiatry and they do one more year, possibly with additional surgical residency. In Ontario, both are governed under the College of Chiropodists of Ontario, and both must pass comprehensive board exams as well as provincial exams to be licensed.
Foot Care Issues
Besides showing off those pretty summer toes, flip flops and sandals also mean barefeet. It is easy to pick up conditions says Hasinah Shaqiq, D.Pod.M., like fungus and splinters, never mind injuries. Last summer at the supermarket, I accidently dropped a tin of cat food on my sandal-shod feet and shattered the big toe nail (I didn’t know I could do that!). While I was careful to immediately insure I had disinfected the wound (which also had developed a giant hematoma), I had no idea that a fungal infection is a common consequence. It was not just a case of letting the nail grow out. Aftercare was also needed, which Hasinah had identified and provided in addition to painlessly removing the shards, enabling healthy new growth.
Besides injuries, increase sweating in the feet can mean athlete’s foot and toe fungus she says. Changes to non-supportive footwear can change the mechanics of the foot, which combined with increased walking can lead to over-use injuries like Plantar Fasciitis, affecting the heel and arch of the foot, which she treats. I’ve had it on a trip to Europe once: it’s very painful and makes walking not much fun! Soft tissue inflammation in the feet can also come from other conditions like heel spurs, achilles tendonitis, arthritis, sprains/strains and nerve entrapment to name a few.
I once also learned the hard way, why you should never wear sandals around a horse, and l am paying for it now decades later with arthritis and an incipient bunion having to be treated as well. We pay for our activities in our “old age” I’m afraid!
Other annoying common conditions which often come from improperly fitting footwear can include corns and calluses, Hasinah points out. Plantar Warts is contracted in places where we walk barefoot like showers, and around swimming pools, and are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). They can look like a callus, but grow to the deepest layer of the skin. While not serious, they can hurt and be very uncomfortable. And Plantar Warts can be very difficult to get rid of by yourself! All of these skin conditions can be treated in various ways, it’s always best to discuss with your Chiropodist / Podiatrist the right treatment option for you.
Other foot problems can be addressed by the use of orthotics (custom insoles) worn inside of shoes, and other corrective measures. For instance, the angle at which one’s feet strike the ground may not be “normal” and it can create rubbing and pressure and lead to sores when walking. Hence, the use of orthotics can help prevent such forces to avoid such complications. In my case, the arthritis in my toe as a result of the trauma from when the horse had stepped on it a long time ago is now supported while walking. Furthermore, the overuse injury of Plantar Fasciitis has completely disappeared with use of orthotics. A Chiropodist / Podiatrist is trained to spot and diagnose these problems and know what techniques are necessary to correct or heal them.
Diabetics have special concerns about foot care, Hasinah carefully adds. The condition can lead to losing feeling in nerves of the foot, as well as decreased blood circulation. Consequently minor conditions like ingrown toe nails and wounds can lead to ulcerations and infections, as the individual is not aware of the pain symptoms. Simple toenail trimming is not good enough and the feet need special care. I knew someone who had stepped on a nail without realizing it, and such a simple injury became a life changing ordeal.
Counselling and education about foot care if you are a diabetic is all part of the service there too.
Foot Clinic & Orthotics gives a few pointers about a number of everyday
“do’s and don’ts” in proper foot health care:
■ For good foot health, be aware of your feet and their importance to your overall
■ Practice good foot hygiene: wash and moisturize them on a daily basis. However,
do not moisturize between the toes.
■ Check the bottom of your feet regularly.
■ Don’t wear the same shoes every day, back-to-back, as you can continue irritating your
feet in the same places but may also accumulate moisture that can predispose one to
development of fungus on the skin / nails.
■ Wear good footwear: even some brands of flip flops can provide good orthopaedic support!
■ If you notice anything unusual, check with your Chiropodist / Podiatrist right away, as many
conditions do not simply “go away”
Foot Clinic & Orthotics provides full services to their clients. It offers specialized foot care
that aims to help patients take control of their foot health, improve mobility and prevent
foot-related complications. These include:
■ Custom made orthotics ■ Custom made footwear
■ Custom made bracing ■ Compression socks
■ Diabetic care ■ Surgical Procedures such as nail surgery, wart surgery
■ Sports medicine ■ Cortisone and alcohol sclerosing injections and cysts
■ Acupuncture ■ Laser therapy
Do ALL Your Check Ups!
So ignore your feet no more! Like your annual check with your physician, or dental check ups on your teeth,
see the Chiropodist / Podiatrists too. Foot Clinic & Orthotics recommends regular foot examinations every three
months if the feeling has been lost, and annually if the feet are otherwise okay.
Written By: Diana Janosik-Wronski