Your foot hurts. What do you do now?

As the foundation for our bodies, feet are pretty important. But a 2014 survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association found that most Americans don’t care about their feet that much.

Once a foot starts hurting, it can be difficult, and dangerous, to ignore.

Baylor College of Medicine’s Dr. Bill Granberry said most foot problems happen because of overuse or improper use.

If a foot starts hurting, he recommends resting it for a few days and taking an anti-inflammatory drug, like ibuprofen or aspirin. If it worsens, develops a callus or starts to swell, it’s time to seek a doctor’s opinion.

If a person is diabetic, they should have regular foot exams as the disease can affect and damage their feet, he said.

A pair of human feet from the ankle down, standing on top of a blue pad.How much do shoes matter?

Granberry, an orthopedic surgeon and associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor, said shoes are an important factor in foot health and general pain.

“Shoes are important for people with high or low arches, but for the average foot, what kind of shoe you wear doesn’t matter much,” Granberry said. “You won’t find an orthopedist who would recommend wearing high-heel shoes or narrow toe-boxed shoes that cram your toes together – that creates deformities, hammertoes and bunions.”

How do I find my correct shoe size?

A Brannock device, usually found in shoe and running stores, will measure the length and width of a person’s foot, as well as where the arch falls.

Like clothing brands, every shoe brand can be sized a little differently, Granberry said, which is why it is important to try on the shoe.

The most space you want to have between the big toe and top of the shoe is a thumb’s width, he said. A person should have a shoe that is not too tight with wiggle room, but not so loose that it will move and rub a blister or irritate a toenail.

“For people who wear hiking boots, they like to wear them snug so their foot doesn’t slip around too much,” he said. “(Especially when hiking) down, the foot will shift forward in the shoe.”

Is it OK to go barefoot?

As far as foot health is concerned, it is safe to walk barefoot anywhere; Granberry recommends looking down to avoid stepping on glass or a sharp rock.

“Wearing a sandal is basically going barefoot as most are flat – it’s the same thing really,” he said.

Around 2010, a “barefoot movement” swept the orthopedic world, especially among runners. The idea was that by wearing shoes all the time, humans are weakening their feet, he said.

Like wearing a cast on an injured elbow will weaken the arm, some orthopedists warn that never going barefoot will lead to stiffer, weaker feet and even atrophy.

“A lot of people believe you shouldn’t wear shoes, but if you’ve had (foot) issues or have a deformity, it can be hard to walk barefoot,” Granberry said. “Some people are better off wearing shoes all the time.”

Learn more about foot and ankle care at Baylor Medicine

By Julie Garcia

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