Posts for: October, 2016
Foot care advice for new moms and babies
Few things in life are as darling as a newborn’s little feet, and most new moms take great joy in counting 10 tiny, perfect toes. But foot health can be a source of anxiety for both new and expectant mothers, who may wonder about the best ways to care for their baby’s feet, and how to cope with changes in their own feet.
“Pregnancy creates many changes in the body and can even affect the size of a woman’s feet,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers, and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “And even though newborns aren’t walking yet, it’s understandable that mothers may have some concerns about how to best take care of their baby’s feet.”
The discomforts of pregnancy are common and well-known, ranging from back pain and frequent bathroom trips to feet that are swollen and sore.
“It’s not at all unusual for a woman to gain a shoe size while pregnant,” Dr. Gordon says. “Increased weight puts more pressure on the foot, the arch flattens a bit, and the foot elongates. Just a quarter-inch increase in foot length is enough to prompt a change in shoe size.”
While it’s probably impossible to completely avoid foot challenges during pregnancy, moms-to-be can take steps to minimize them:
- Control weight gain. Added weight is the most likely cause of foot expansion. Do your best to follow your obstetrician’s guidelines for how much weight you should gain throughout the pregnancy.
- Avoid high heels. Sure, you see celebrities accessorizing their baby bumps with stilettos, but a lower heel during pregnancy will relieve pressure on the foot. Also, lower heels will provide you with greater stability during a time when newly gained weight might throw off your balance. It’s easy to find plenty of pretty, stylish lower heels—1 to 2 inches in height—that will look and feel great while you’re pregnant.
- Comfort and support should be key considerations any time you choose footwear, but they are even more important for pregnant women. With extra weight and pressure on your feet for nine months, you need a shoe that provides support and cushioning. Avoid thin-soled shoes (including flip-flops and ballet flats); look for shoes with thicker soles and plenty of cushioning inside the shoes. Whatever shoe you choose, it should bend only at the ball of the foot, and you should never be able to twist the sole or bend it anywhere else.
While it’s common for women’s feet to enlarge during pregnancy—and remain that size even after delivery—generally that size increase occurs only with a first pregnancy. So you shouldn’t worry that your feet will continue to grow with subsequent pregnancies. Instead, many new moms will worry about their new baby’s feet.
“The good news is, as long as the baby’s feet are healthy at birth, most newborns won’t require special care for their feet,” Dr. Gordon says. “Caring for your baby’s feet is much like caring for the rest of his or her body.”
Don’t worry if your baby’s feet look discolored or wrinkled or even have flaky, peeling skin when he or she is born. After nine months in protective fluid within the womb, they’re bound to look a bit different from yours. Your pediatrician will look for any obvious abnormalities of your baby’s feet and legs and will let you know what to do if he or she finds any cause for concern.
Use baby nail clippers to keep your child’s toenails trimmed, cutting straight across to prevent ingrown toenails. Be sure to thoroughly dry baby’s feet after a bath, and choose soft, anti-microbial socks that don’t wrinkle or bunch to keep those little feet warm and protected.
When your baby starts to walk, bare feet are best inside the house as he or she learns the finer points of getting around. Outside, put him or her in a lightweight, flexible shoe made of natural materials.
If foot problems run in your family, have your child examined by a podiatrist when he or she begins to walk. Your podiatrist can inspect your child’s feet to ensure they’re growing normally.
How to keep your morning run healthy—for your feet
Love isn’t the only human experience that may make you wonder, “How can something so good hurt so bad?” You might find yourself asking that question after your morning run, afternoon power walk, or other physical activity that demands a lot from your feet. Physical activities like running, brisk walking, and playing sports can be great for your body; exercise improves cardiovascular health, burns calories, and builds muscle strength. Summer is a great time to stay—or get—active, but you still need to take precautions to ensure your exercise routine is also healthy for your feet.
“Let’s face it—we all have a lot riding on our feet, and we demand a great deal from them, especially when we’re engaging in strenuous exercise,” says Shaun Hafner, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Foot health is a key component of overall health and well-being. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to take the right steps toward protecting your feet when you run, jog, power walk, or engage in other exercise.
“Be aware of common ailments of the season like athlete’s foot, blisters, nail fungus, foot odor, and warts, and the summer foot fixes that can help cure them,” says Dr. Hafner.
You can also take these steps to minimize the risk of injury or other problems when running or exercising:
- Stretch before and after activity. Lactic acid is the chemical by-product of exercise that causes muscles to ache after a workout. Stretching improves your circulation and decreases the buildup of lactic acid; it can also help relieve stiffness and prevent strain. Simply flexing the hamstrings and stretching calves, Achilles tendons, and shins can help ensure your workout is safe.
- Choose an appropriate running shoe. The only real expense of running or walking is buying shoes, so it pays to invest in a good pair that will provide the support you need to have a safe, successful workout. If you’re prone to swollen feet later in the day, try on athletic shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are most swollen, to ensure a proper fit. Shoes should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned but with enough room to wiggle your toes, and snug to the heel. You can find a list of healthy footwear that carries APMA’s Seal of Acceptance on the organization’s website, www.apma.org/seal.
- Be aware of the surface. The surface you’re running on makes a difference in how hard the activity is on your feet. Hard, uneven ground can lead to stress fractures, slips, and falls. Softer ground is more foot-friendly and causes less shock than harder surfaces. If possible, run or walk on grass or dirt paths that are flat, even, and well-manicured.
- Think twice about running in inclement weather. If your feet are wet and cold, the ground will feel harder, and you’ll be more prone to slipping.
- Listen to your feet. It’s not normal to experience pain or changes in the feet and ankles. If you experience foot pain that lasts for more than a few days, see a podiatrist for evaluation. He or she can tell you if the pain is a minor, passing problem or a symptom of something more serious such as injury or disease.
“With some simple precautions, you can ensure your walking and running activities remain healthy and enjoyable for your entire body, especially your hardworking feet,” Dr. Hafner says.
Well-heeled: Tips for picking high heels that are better for your feet
Few relationships in a woman’s life are as love-hate as the one she has with her high heels. We love them because they look great and make legs appear longer and leaner, helping petite women appear taller and tall women statuesque. The hate, however, comes when the pain begins.
High heels are the No. 1 culprit of foot pain for women, according to an American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) survey. Nearly half of all women wear heels, and 71 percent of heel-wearers say those shoes hurt their feet, APMA reports.
“With many types of heels, like very high stilettos, foot pain is hard to avoid,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and APMA member. “But it is possible for women to find a happy mid-point between great looks and great pain.”
APMA offers some basic guidelines for choosing better-for-you heels:
Nearly half of heel-owners admit to wearing heels three inches or higher. That height, however, shifts body weight forward and puts great pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes. Avoid heels higher than two inches.
A high stiletto with a pointy, closed toe is the worst type of shoe for your feet. Instead, choose heels with a generous toe box area and extra cushioning at the front of the shoe. “A slight heel or wedge encourages your arch to lift,” Gordon adds.
Consider wearing supportive shoes during your commute and changing into high heels after you arrive at the office. This simple step will help minimize the time your feet spend in heels.
Kitten heels are a good-looking, foot-friendly option for heel wearers. With a heel height typically less than one inch, kitten heels deliver a bit of height without the pressure that higher heels can cause.
Be extra careful when wearing platforms or wedges, as these styles can compromise your balance and stability. Very high shoes may lead to ankle rolls and falls. Choose lower platforms and wedges that secure with ankle straps.
During warm weather, peep toes tempt women to show off pretty pedicures. Be aware, however, that peep toes can cause toes to slip forward or overlap, and may even push nail edges into skin, causing an ingrown toenail.
Review a list of podiatrist-approved women’s footwear that has earned APMA’s Seal of Acceptance at www.apma.org/seal.
Finally, even if you’re like the average American woman and own nine pairs of high heels, don’t wear them every day. Daily heel-wearing can cause the Achilles tendon (the strong tendon at the back of your ankle) to shrink, increasing your risk of an injury while doing activities in flat shoes, including exercise.
“Treat heels like dessert,” Dr. Gordon says. “Don’t wear them all the time, just on special occasions.”
If you experience persistent foot pain, see a podiatrist. Feet shouldn’t hurt all the time, and if they do, it may indicate injury, irritation, or illness.
Shoe shopping with teens? Sanity-saving tips for parents
Many parents agonize over making just the right choice for their baby’s first pair of shoes. In one important way, however, picking infant shoes is easier than choosing for an older child: Babies have nothing to say about what style or brand you put on their feet. Teens, however, have strong opinions about fashion—opinions that extend all the way to their toes. That could be why six out of 10 teens today experience foot pain, and two out of every 10 who suffer from foot pain experience it because they’re wearing high heels or other uncomfortable footwear, according to a 2012 survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
“Foot health is incredibly important to a person’s overall health and well-being, especially in the teen years when feet are still growing,” says Shaun Hafner, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Center and APMA member. “While our survey found that half of teens see feet as important to their overall health, many are still living with foot pain. It’s vital that we educate teens and their parents on how to properly care for their feet.”
With kids of all ages—including teens—heading back to school, parents will be buying a lot of shoes in the coming weeks. APMA offers these tips for choosing teen-friendly footwear that is good looking, stylish, comfortable, and smart:
- Sports are the top cause of foot pain in teenagers, APMA’s survey found. Seventy-five percent of high school students play a school or recreational sport, and nearly 40 percent of that group has injured their feet while playing, according to the survey.
- When buying an athletic shoe, parents should consider what activity the teen will use the shoe for. Different sports require different shoes, and choosing one made specifically for that sport can help prevent injury. Shop at a store that specializes in athletic footwear and have the shoe fitted professionally.
- Price is not indicative of quality, but all good athletic shoes need to offer plenty of support and cushioning. Shoes should be stiff across the middle, but bend at the ball of the foot. Like all shoes, athletic shoes should be comfortable right away, without any “breaking-in” period required for comfort.
- Because they’re still growing, teens should always get their feet measured before buying new shoes. Feet are usually not the same size, so buy for the larger foot. Because feet expand throughout the day, shop later in the afternoon, when feet are at their largest.
- While many teen boys virtually live in athletic shoes, girls may be more inclined to vary their wardrobe and wear dressy shoes, including high heels. More girls than boys suffer from pain due to uncomfortable shoes, and high heels are the most painful, with 64 percent of girls surveyed reporting they’ve experienced pain from high heels.
- Good shoes support both the front and back of the foot. While high heels are okay for special occasions, teenage girls probably shouldn’t be wearing them all day long. Instead of a high heel, consider flats, or—if a teen simply must have the added height—platform or wedge heels. Keep in mind if a heeled shoe is uncomfortable when the wearer is just standing in it, it’s not likely to feel any better when she’s walking in it.
- For both boys and girls, choose dress shoes that offer plenty of support and cushioning. Opt for breathable materials, like leather or canvas. Shoes should only bend at the ball of the foot; the sole should never be twistable or bend anywhere else. Look for plenty of room for toes and opt for shoes with wide, round, or square toe boxes. Pointed shoes can pinch toes, leading to a host of foot problems.
Teens who experience foot pain shouldn’t ignore it, Dr. Hafner warns.
“Fewer than two out of 10 teens have ever seen a podiatrist to treat foot problems,” he says. “Any kind of foot pain is not normal. Teens experiencing foot pain should visit a podiatrist who can help diagnose and treat their problem.”
6 tips to protect Northern Virginia kids in fall sports
Back-to-school sports season linked to ankle injuries
Manassas, VA October 3, 2016 If your children are playing sports this fall, pay attention to six tips that could protect them from serious ankle injuries.
Every fall, Northern Virginia foot and ankle surgeon Steven Gordon, DPM, FACFAS notices an increase in ankle injuries among young athletes. Football, soccer and basketball are the sports most likely to lead to sprains, broken bones and other problems, he says. Dr. Gordon has offices in Reston, Manassas, Leesburg
Dr. Gordon's top recommendation is for parents is to get ankle injuries treated right away.
"What seems like a sprain is not always a sprain; in addition to cartilage injuries, your son or daughter might have injured other bones in the foot without knowing it. Have a qualified doctor examine the injury," says Dr. Gordon. "The sooner rehabilitation starts, the sooner we can prevent long-term problems like instability or arthritis, and the sooner your child can get back into competition."
Dr. Gordon says parents should also follow these additional tips from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons' Web site, FootHealthFacts.org:
--Have old sprains checked by a doctor before the season starts. A medical check-up can reveal whether your child's previously injured ankle might be vulnerable to sprains, and could possibly benefit from wearing a supportive ankle brace during competition.
--Buy the right shoe for the sport. Different sports require different shoe gear. Players shouldn't mix baseball cleats with football shoes.
--Children should start the season with new shoes. Old shoes can wear down like a car tire and become uneven on the bottom, causing the ankle to tilt because the foot can't lie flat.
--Check playing fields for dips, divots and holes. Most sports-related ankle sprains are caused by jumping and running on uneven surfaces. That's why some surgeons recommend parents walk the field, especially when children compete in non-professional settings like public parks, for spots that could catch a player's foot and throw them to the ground. Alert coaching officials to any irregularities.
--Encourage stretching and warm-up exercises. Calf stretches and light jogging before competition helps warm up ligaments and blood vessels, reducing the risk for ankle injuries.
Dr. Gordon can be contacted at (703) 368-7166