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Foot care health centre

Preventing foot pain

Foot pain isn't normal. Here are 8 ways to help prevent it.

Ball of the foot pain

Pain in the ball of the foot ( metatarsalgia) is often caused by excess pressure on this part of the foot, and footwear is often to blame. High heel shoes are the chief culprit. They tip the bodyweight onto a small area of the foot and, to make matters worse, they constrict the front of the foot so the weight can't spread evenly over the ball of the foot.

However, high heels aren't the only shoes that cause metatarsalgia, says podiatrist Colin Papworth. Steel toe-cap work shoes also stop the foot spreading out as much as it ought to.

Metatarsalgia is also quite common among athletes as it can be caused by high impact of the foot. "Sports people who have pain in the ball of the foot often, tend to rotate their foot in the push-off phase when running," says Mr Papworth. "Often, what we'll see on the bottom of the shoe are little swirl patterns and that rotational element will start to compress the nerves through the metatarsal heads."

In the short-term, paracetemol or ibuprofen can provide some relief, as can an ice pack but, in the long-term, better foot-wear is often the solution. Make sure your shoes have a wide toe-box, to allow your feet to spread naturally, and moderate heel height. If the cause of your metatarsalgia is high arched feet, you might want to invest in orthotic supports (special insoles).

For sports related metatarsalgia, it's better to see a foot specialist.

And not forgetting the toes

Toes can also be painful when the big toe joints stiffen or start to form a bunion (a protruding nub at the base of the big toe). "If you can get a support into the foot sooner rather than later it can be really beneficial to stop the progression of that," says Mr Papworth.

He says: "If the foot is pronating—rolling in too much—it affects the function of the big toe joint — it's not able to bend as effectively as it should do. And if you put pressure on the other side of your foot, then the big toe joint will gradually stiffen over time if it's not being used."

If this happens to your big toe, you might get a bunion or a nodule forming on the top of the joint, and it can be quite painful.

Lesser toes—any toe that isn't the big toe—are also susceptible to becoming bent out of shape. Common lesser toe conditions are claw toes, hammer toes, and mallet toes. Because the toe is not lying flat in the shoe, it rubs against the inside of the shoe and forms calluses, corns and blisters, which can be very painful.

Toe deformities aren't always preventable—our genes are often to blame — but good foot care can stop the problem from becoming worse.

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