Even for those with fantastic foot formation, holiday shopping can be brutal on feet. To help avoid potentially debilitating foot pain SRO’s Orthopaedic experts share some tips for maintaining foot and ankle health during the holidays.

It’s that time of year again – it’s becoming impossible to avoid the holiday jingles, the rows and rows of wrapping paper and tinsel and the not-so-subtle hints from the kids; it’s time to think about getting the holiday shopping done. But before jetting off to the nearest shopping center the orthopaedic specialists at Santa Rosa Orthopaedics would like to urge shoppers to think about their feet.

Foot Basics

toe-socks-1258857The average pair of feet endures about 1,000 miles of walking each year. As nature’s shock absorbers, feet cushion as much as one million pounds of pressure during one hour of strenuous exercise. “Untreated foot pain can also cause problems in the knee, hip and back,” says Dr. Mark E. Schakel, director of the Foot & Ankle Program at SRO. “Foot pain that is ignored or habitually wearing fashionable shoes that put pressure on the foot and ankle can have a radiating effect on the body, and that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders later in life.”

In addition to standing in long lines during the holidays, there are many reasons for having sore, tired and painful feet and it’s no wonder with 26 bones, 33 joints and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments in each foot. Foot and ankle injuries are common among people of all lifestyles; from top-performing athletes to people who seldom exercise. In fact, 75 percent of Americans will experience some type of foot problem in their lifetime.

About High Heels

New research from the University of Alabama revealed that high heeled shoe-related injuries doubled in the decade between 2002 and 2012. More than 80 percent of injuries were to the ankle or foot, with just under 20 percent involving the knee, trunk, shoulder, or head and neck. Each year in the U.S., an estimated two million people are treated by orthopaedists for ankle injuries alone – many of those involving shoe-related injuries.

Results of this latest study also indicated that walking in high-heeled shoes can significantly reduce ankle muscle movement, step length, total range of movement and balance control. These results are backed up by similar studies which have documented that the long-term use of high heels alters the neuro-mechanics of walking and places greater strain on the muscles and tendons of the lower legs. Ultimately, when it comes to making a choice between a shoe with a high heel or a shoe without – flat soles win, feet down.

Flat or Arched

The type of shoes a person wears can trigger foot problems much in the same way as certain types of foot structure issues can cause shoe problems. Structural bone complications like heel spurs, hammer toes and bunions can all be aggravated by wearing the wrong type of shoe resulting in blisters and corns as well as sore, aching feet. Two of the most common structural issues with feet are ‘high arches’ and ‘flat feet’.

The term ‘high arch’ describes a foot arch that is raised more than normal. High foot arches are much less common than flat feet and are more likely to be caused by a bone or nerve condition. Unlike flat feet, highly arched feet can be very painful due to the unusual pressure that is placed on the section of the foot between the ankle and toes. This condition can make it difficult to fit comfortably into shoes. People who have high arches usually need foot support as an untreated high arch may eventually cause disability.

Flat feet (sometimes called fallen arches) is a postural deformity where the arches of the foot completely collapse leaving the entire sole of the foot so flat that it comes into complete or near-complete contact with the floor. It is believed that up to 30 percent of the population has an arch that never fully develops in either one foot (unilaterally) or both feet (bilaterally).

Foot pain comes into the picture with a fallen arch as the tendons and ligaments are weakened, resulting in intense pain throughout the foot including the heel, arch, ankle and lower leg muscles. Flat feet can also adversely affect the body’s posture resulting in discomfort throughout the hips and lower back.

Prevent foot and shoe problems from ruining your holiday shopping

With the help of an orthopaedic expert, both flat feet and high arches can be treated. Treatment can include prescribing stretching exercises to lengthen the heel cord as well as shoe inserts or custom orthotics to provide support and relieve pain. In certain cases, physical therapy is recommended. Where other treatments don’t relieve pain, surgery is recommended.

Whether it’s walking endless miles from store to store in search of the perfect gift, standing in long lines or navigating ice/snow slick walkways – there is a lot going on this time of year that can have a serious impact on the health of a person’s feet. The best way to avoid injury to both feet and ankles under these circumstances is to prepare ahead, ditch the trendy heels and seek out foot-supportive, comfortable shoes and call an orthopaedic specialist if foot and ankle pain persists.

About SRO’s Foot and Ankle Program

The medical team at SRO’s Foot and Ankle Program emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive evaluation in order to develop a proper diagnosis followed by the latest treatments and/or surgical techniques to restore function and relieve pain. To learn more visit the SRO website or call 707-546-1922.