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Foot care health centre

The feet

Our feet are important for standing, walking, running and jumping.

Feet consist of bones, joints, muscles and soft tissues.

Many conditions can affect the feet, toes and toe nails, from injuries to fungal infections.

Picture of the feet

Human foot

There are 3 main parts to a foot:

  • Forefoot - with the toes (also called phalanges) and 5 longer bones (called metatarsals).
  • Midfoot - the bones forming arches of the feet - 3 cuneiform bones, the cuboid bone and the navicular bone.
  • Hindfoot - the heel and ankle - with the talus bone supporting the leg bones and the heel bone (calcaneus), which is the biggest of all the bones in the foot.

As well as the bones, there are tendons, ligaments and muscles used for walking, running and balance.

The Achilles tendon joins the heel to the calf muscle.

Feet conditions

Plantar fasciitis : This condition affects the plantar fascia ligament that runs along the bottom of the foot with inflammation causing pain in the foot's heel and arch.

Foot osteoarthritis: Caused by the wear and tear type of arthritis.

Gout: A painful condition caused by crystals building up in the foot that commonly affects the big toe.

Athlete's foot: Fungal foot infection.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Inflammation and joint damage caused by an autoimmune type of arthritis.

Bunions (hallux valgus): Bony lumps close to the base of the big toe.

Achilles tendon injury: Sports injuries are a common cause of this condition where pain is felt in the back of the heel.

Diabetes complications
: Complications of diabetes affecting the feet include injuries not being noticed due to a loss of feeling, leading to infections, and in severe cases amputation.

Swollen feet: Feet can swell after standing for long periods of time, or be caused by heart, kidney or liver problems.

Calluses: Hard patches of skin forming due to pressure or friction.

Corns: Hard cone-shaped skin patches building up due to pressure or friction.

Heel spurs: Abnormal bone growth in the heel that may cause pain.

Ingrown toenails: Sides of the toenail may grow into the skin causing pain and increasing the chances of infections.

Fallen arches (flat feet): The arches become flat when standing or walking, but orthotic shoe inserts may help.

Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis): This can cause discoloured or crumbling nails.

Hammer toe: The middle joint of a toe cannot be straightened meaning the toe always points down.

Metatarsalgia: The ball of the foot is affected by inflammation and pain.

Claw toes
: The toe joints become contracted making toes look like claws.

Fracture/broken bones: Common bone fractures include those affecting the metatarsal bones.

Verruca (plantar wart): Caused by a viral infection on the sole of the foot, often contracted in swimming pools or shared changing rooms.

Morton's neuroma: Irritation or compression of nerve tissue between toes.

Feet tests

Physical examination: A doctor may check the feet for a loss of feeling or sensation, swelling, deformity, pain, discolouration or skin changes to help diagnose problems.

Feet X-ray: X-rays may be arranged to help diagnose problems, including damage from arthritis.

MRI scan, CT scan: These give a more detailed image than an X-ray.

Feet treatments

Orthotics: Inserts put in shoes to help with various problems, either off the shelf or custom made.

Physiotherapy: Expert manipulation and exercises for flexibility, strength and support in feet and ankles.

Foot surgery: Operations, including after breaking bones in the foot.

Pain medication: Over-the-counter or prescription pain relief.

Antibiotics: To treat some bacterial infections of the feet.

Antifungal medication: For conditions including athlete's foot.

Cortisone injection: Steroid injections for pain and swelling.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 30, 2016

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