Why should we look after our feet?
This was the subject of my post and associated with Foot Health Month this June. Each year the College of Podiatry promotes better health awareness of this important anatomical part of the body.
The campaign for Foot Health Month started around 1983 by The Society of Chiropodists before shortly after incorporating the modern name Podiatry although introduced in 1974 to the UK. Foot Health Month focuses on health education.
College of Podiatry
The College of Podiatry (educational and academic wing) hopes to deliver information in an appealing and engaging way. As a podiatrist and an independent author, I believe our work is vital to maintaining the Nation’s health. Foot health matters to all people, not just special groups like the elderly or young, but everyone. But surely every health profession, covering teeth to toes makes the same promise or uses a similar strapline? ‘Tooth pain,’ ‘back pain,’ ‘foot pain,’ is the worst type of pain.
Of course, podiatrists are passionate about health. Why take up a career in health if you are not passionate. So, to kick start why feet?
We need them to walk on? Yes, of course, but they are more than just wheels/tyres driving the body forward. They are shock absorbers and they change into levers. Anything that affects those two principle functions is going to impede the body’s progress.
Contacting the ground and building up forces impacting the ground when moving requires absorbing. Muscles, tendons, fat, skin and correct foot adaptation help with this contact, but these components, also called tissues can bear the brunt of an excessive build up of this impact in the form of strain.
If we contrast a well known bouncy animal, the kangaroo creates a significant bounce when hitting the ground and avoids harmful reacting forces when crashing down with some 90kg weight. Tendons have inbuilt elastic properties and can harness forces so energy is not wasted and can be used in the next leap.
In the human, the foot collapses and then becomes firm again at different times during the 3/4 second that it is in contact with the ground. Humans do not leap, except in extreme sports, but joints work together with tendons to absorb and harness energy to be used again. Muscle imbalance causes tendon strain and is bad news for pain-free walking.
As the body moves forward, leverage occurs by changing the foot into a rigid platform which makes it stable for our 50-100+kg bodies to function. Chimps, with similar foot anatomy cannot form levers around the middle part of the foot and adopt a curious pattern of walking that is less efficient and harder to sustain for any distance. Movement involves walking, running or sprinting. Feet should not hurt while standing still or moving about, but they do suffer injuries. Ignore those injuries at your peril for they will appear many years later which might surprise you!
Podiatrists as foot health specialists have now established a greater focus on sports and recreational foot health adding their first degree with extended qualifications at Master’s degree and now doctoral levels. This means podiatry provides a wider service than considered traditionally and this is underpinned with medical training.
Don’t you just hate having to pay out for new tyres on the car. The treads have worn or you have a crack in the wall. Foot skin is thickest under foot. It is the soul of contact (pun intended). If the skin weakens, breaks down, this becomes a big deal. Unlike tyres there is is no ‘Kwick-fix’.
Infection, pain, ulcers… not nice; but what of their impact? The body no longer wants to move as it did. Mobility crisis means giving rise to plenty of concerns for the podiatrist. Your foot health is letting you down and we need to find the source of the pain. Is it an infection, skin quality problems, fixed deformity, or those muscles and tendons that are not working? Maybe you have an old injury that has come back to haunt?
Arthrosis (better term than arthritis) affects shock absorption. This is where joint surfaces are damaged; often through wear and tear. In some cases, we can replace joints, but it is best to deal with the problem before that is necessary.
The go-to profession
Can we fix it? Yes, mostly. Some 95% of foot problems can be helped or supported, many cured with timely intervention. Lost days from work, impact on social life and family life, side effects from medication, weight gain, are all matters podiatrists have concern for working with patient’s GPs and other health professionals.
TO KEEP YOU MOBILE.
Consultant Podiatric Surgeon, Suzy Speirs assessing a patient using modern electronic equipment to analyse walking pressures
Foot Health Month
So, is Foot Health Month just another fad?
No, it is an attempt by a caring profession to reach out to people to take a greater interest in their foot health. Of course, focusing on foot health is an all year round activity through the four so-called seasons as we select different footwear for different temperatures and activities. More about shoes in other articles.
The College of Podiatry is the driving force behind Podiatry in the UK and they have said,
‘We want more people to understand the importance of foot health as part of their overall health, and for people to visit a podiatrist when they need to – and to know when they need to!’
If in doubt about your foot health consult a podiatrist early. The profession has not changed to podiatry from chiropody overnight but developed as powerful force offering wider scope and expertise over the last 40 years in both the NHS and Independent sector. Podiatry has many sub-specialties from sports podiatrists to podiatric surgeons. There is no designated age group that has special attention alone but of course, patients with medical problems causing impairment of circulation ever remain an important focus as we strive to save lives and limb amputation.
To find a podiatrist in your area you can go to https://www.scpod.org/ but do stay in touch with me at Footlocker with great articles and free materials being launched over the next 12 months. Unfortunately, I cannot make recommendations directly.
Alternatively, ask your GP for a referral to a locally trusted podiatrist. All podiatrists have to be registered to use the name podiatry and actively practise podiatry and a register exists with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) that can be checked.