Save Your Soles: A Guide to Foot Pain

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Pain Problem: Plantar Fasciitis

What It Is: An inflammation of the plantar fascia, the tough band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot between the heel bone and the base of your toes. It's one of the most common causes of foot pain and can make you feel as if you're walking on a knife, especially in the morning (the fascia tightens overnight).

Cause: Feet over-pronate, stressing the plantar fasciae. Open-backed or flimsy shoes can strain the area. So can weight gain, which may thin the fat pad beneath the heel, flattening the arch and straining the bottom of the foot. Dancers, runners, and people who stand a lot often develop this problem.

Foot Fix: Add cushioned insoles or heel pads to supportive shoes with a 1- to 2-inch heel or use custom-made orthotics. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and cortisone injections may also help. Other approaches your doctor may suggest include extracorporeal shock wave therapy. There's also radiofrequency therapy -- electrical signals are sent through a probe inserted through small punctures in the heel area -- which is more likely to be covered by insurance, says Chicago-area podiatric surgeon Lowell Weil, Jr., DPM. Another option is surgery on the fascia itself. Stretching in the morning, evening, and before exercise also helps. Try this: Stand arm's length from a wall, one foot behind the other, legs straight, heels on the floor. Place your hands on the wall and lean in, stretching the calf muscles. Do 10 repetitions; switch legs and repeat.

Continued on page 4:  Pain Problem: Corns and Calluses


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