Common Foot Conditions

Heel Pain

One of the most common conditions seen by podiatrists. Heel pain is usually caused by biomechanics, which is how your feet work while you are moving. Many people have heard of 'heel spurs'; however this is not the only cause of heel pain, so it is important to get your feet assessed by a podiatrist. They can diagnose the problem, and provide a treatment regime suitable to your foot. It is important to note, the longer you put up with the pain, the more difficult it can be to relieve.
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Aching Feet

Deep muscle aches are common in the heels, and ball of the foot. They can often be related to previous injury, or biomechanics (the way your feet walk), and your foot posture. Individual assessment and advice by a podiatrist is recommended.
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Bunions

Many of us have heard of bunions, but it is not always clear what a bunion is. This is when the big toe moves towards the little toes, causing the joint at the base of the big toe to jut outwards. Bunions themselves are not always a problem. But this change in foot shape means that a wider shoe fit is required to accommodate the bunion. If shoes are too tight, this can cause calluses, corns, or even ulcers to form on the bunion. If this occurs it is important to see a podiatrist for expert treatment and advice. They may recommend more suitable footwear, a protective device to go over the bunion, or in extreme cases, surgery.
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Flat Feet

Many people present to our clinic concerned about their own, or their child's 'flat feet'. Flat feet themselves are not always a problem, but can often lead to problems such as heel pain, shin splints, bunions and arthritis. If you have flat feet, with associated pain, whether it is foot, leg, knee, or back pain, it is advisable to see a podiatrist for a full assessment and advice. If you are simply concerned about your flat feet, it is always a good idea to see a podiatrist, even if it is just to prevent future problems such as arthritis.
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High Arched Feet

You always hear people condemning flat feet, but never saying anything about high arched feet. Neither are problems by themselves, unless if they are extreme, or associated with pain. Like flat feet, high arched feet can also be associated with heel pain and shin splints. If concerned, it is wise to see a podiatrist for assessment and advice.
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Shin Splints

This is pain through the shin, which can occur in the bone, muscle, or tendon. This can be caused by many different things including flat feet, high arched feet, exercise on very hard, or very soft surfaces, and inappropriate footwear. It is important to see a podiatrist for diagnosis and advice.
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Lesser Digit Deformities

This broad term covers what people commonly refer to as claw and hammer toes. Claw and hammer toes can expose skin to increased pressure leading to corn and callus formation and in very extreme cases ulceration. Podiatrists can remove corns and callus, and also make devices to go in or around toes to reduce the problems caused by these deformities. In some cases corrective surgery may be considered, your podiatrist can discuss this possibility with you.
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Nail Problems

Ingrown Toenails

Is when your toenails grow into the skin. They can get inflamed and infected. Ingrown toenails have many different causes including: nail shape, picking at the toenails, cutting them too short, tight footwear or hosiery, trauma (such as stubbing the toe, or sports injuries). Ingrown toenails require expert attention by a podiatrist. They can use specialised instruments to treat the problem; but also investigate possible causes, and therefore prevention. Treatment ranges from conservative treatment such as clearing the area, to nail surgery to remove the offending part of the nail. This can be carried out by a podiatrist in the clinic, but will not be done without a thorough assessment.
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Thickened or Brittle Nails

There are many different causes of thickened nails, which can range from a fungal infection to previous trauma. This trauma can vary from macro-trauma such as a horse stepping on a toe, to micro-trauma from shoes repetitively pressing on the toenails. If you are worried about a particular toenail, you should see a podiatrist for examination and advice.
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Fungal or Other Infections

You can get infections in your toenails. The most common of these, is a fungal infection. They have different presentations, but are usually thickened and discoloured. There are different treatments available for these, but you would be best to see a podiatrist before trying any, in case they aren't relevant for your toenail condition.
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Skin Complaints

Dry Skin

Can be caused by different things including: a natural process of ageing and diabetes, wearing open shoes, and other medical conditions. Dry skin can be prone to crack, so it is important to keep the skin moisturised to prevent this. Basic water based creams such as sorbolene are a great starting point. Ointments with fatty bases, such as lanolin form a good barrier against water loss.
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Callus

Is thick hard skin, which usually occurs as your skin's protective response to pressure or friction. It often builds up on feet from rubbing on shoes. It is also very common in open shoes, as your feet slide around in them, and the friction causes the callus. Because callus isn't as stretchy as your normal skin, it is more prone to cracks. Therefore it is important to manage your skin to prevent callus and cracks. Podiatrists can remove your calluses, and teach you how to prevent them. Cracks in your skin require expert attention by a podiatrist.
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Corns

Corns are centralised areas of thick hard skin that are almost like a cone shape pointing into your skin. Although they often have a raised area, most of the corn is digging into your foot. That is why it is so painful, and also why they require expert treatment by a podiatrist. They have specialised equipment to dig the corn out. It is not recommended doing this at home. The most common cause of corns is footwear, so first of all, have a look at your shoes and ask yourself if they are wide and deep enough for your foot. You may have seen corn pads in chemists. These are not for everyone, and should never be used on people with diabetes. Please ask professional advice before use. Also note that corns are also usually caused by pressure, so a podiatrist will be able to assess your feet and provide advice on prevention.
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Sweaty Feet

People's feet sweat approximately 500ml a day. Hard to imagine? That's why it is so important to wear the right shoes and socks. It is best to wear natural fibre socks such as cotton or wool, as they wick the moisture away from the feet. They should not be more than 40% synthetic material. It is also best to have leather shoes, as your feet cannot breathe in synthetic materials. Charcoal insoles can be great, as they absorb moisture. Although everyone's feet sweat, smelly or itchy feet are usually signs of an underlying condition such as tinea, or a bacterial infection. If you are concerned, please see a podiatrist, and they can assess your feet and provide some recommendations.
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Children's Feet

  • Children's feet are different from adults. They are very soft and pliable, therefore susceptible to damage. This can also lead to problems elsewhere, such as the legs and back. We see a lot of children, with parents' concerns ranging from the way the child walks, to treatment of warts on the feet.
  • It is recommended you take your child to see a podiatrist if you notice:
    • Uneven shoe wear
    • Different skin conditions, lumps or bumps
    • Your child complaining of recurrent pain in the feet or legs
    • Your child is regularly tripping, falling, toe-walking, or limping
    • or if you have any other concerns about your childrens' feet

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How Diabetes Affects Your Feet

  • People with diabetes have a much higher risk of foot complication than others.
  • Diabetes can affect foot health by:
    • Reduced blood supply - leads to impaired healing ability and increased healing time
    • Nerve damage - can mean that people are unable to feel if they step on something such as a rock and injure their foot
    • Increased risk of infection – from reduced blood supply
    • Affecting joints – making them tight and painful
    • Impaired vision – people may no longer be able to see their feet clearly, therefore may not be able to look after their feet properly
  • It is for these reasons, that people with diabetes are recommended to see a podiatrist for a foot health check at least once a year
  • Prevention strategies for people with diabetes:
    • Wash your feet daily, drying thoroughly, especially between the toes
    • Protect your feet from injury by wearing comfortable, sensible shoes
    • Inspect your feet daily, looking for any changes, or skin breaks – use a mirror if you cannot see under your foot
    • If you suspect a foot problem, or something is not healing, contact a GP or podiatrist as soon as possible
    • Avoid walking barefoot, even in your own home
    • Cut nails straight across and never cut down the sides – see a podiatrist if you are having difficulty
    • See a podiatrist for treatment of corns, calluses, and other foot problems – never use a commercial corn treatment
    • Maintain healthy blood glucose levels (BGLs), and look after your diabetes by exercising regularly, quitting smoking, reducing alchohol intake, and by following the advice of your GP and diabetes educator
    • If you require any help or advice with the above, please contact a podiatrist

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When to See a Podiatrist

  • For education and advice
  • For management of skin and nail conditions
  • When you have diabetes, for an annual foot health check
  • If you have difficulty reaching, seeing or caring for your feet
  • When you notice something abnormal or concerning
  • If you have foot pain or difficulty walking

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