Thursday, 30 October 2014

How to Choose Athletic Shoes

Jogging and running are an integral part of many fitness regimens. It is a great way to lose weight and stay in shape and requires almost no special equipment. The one thing that is required is a good pair of athletic shoes. There are a huge number of well-known brands available and the quality is, by and large, outstanding. With an almost infinite range of colors and designs to choose from, finding a pair that suits your needs and your personality is not hard. What is often not so easy is ensuring that the shoes you buy fit well and meet any special needs you may have.  Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right athletic shoes.
  • Get the right shoes for the activity. Running shoes are for running and they will not give your feet the kind of comfort and support they need for other sports. You should not play tennis wearing soccer shoes or play basketball wearing tennis shoes. If you participate in a variety of sports, it is a good idea to have specific shoes for each one.
  • Go to a specialty sports shoe store. This is where you will find the widest range of athletic shoes to choose from. If you are a member of a club or team, ask other members about the shoes they use and the good and bad points of each one. This will make finding the pair that suits you easier.
  • Keep your specific needs in mind. Have you suffered from any injuries in the past which may require you to wear a specific type of shoe? What about your own experience with shoes in the past. Are there any brands or designs that caused you problems? If so avoid them in the future.
  • As we age, our foot size often changes. The shoes you bought a year or two ago may not be the right size for you now. Have your feet measured whenever you buy athletic shoes. Another point to keep in mind is that manufacturers often change the factories where their shoes are made.  Designs made in one factory may vary marginally from the same design made in another. Do not think that just because you are buying the same design, it will fit you exactly the same.
  • Both your feet are not exactly the same. Always try on both shoes of a pair and if one foot feels uncomfortable, try a different size. Remember that shoes will loosen a little after some use, so look for a firm fit that will be okay if it loosens up with wear and tear.
  • Make sure that there is enough gap between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. The thumb rule is that there should be a finger’s width between the end of the toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Check to see if the sole of the shoe bends at the ball of the foot, which is where your foot bends. If the bend is not correct, abnormal pressure could be placed on the foot as you move.
  • Make sure that the end of the shoe does not cramp your toes.
  • The heel of your foot should be firmly held in place and not move around or slide up and down in the shoe.
  • Always try on shoes while wearing the socks you wear for the sport you play. Trying on shoes wearing thin nylon socks when you wear thick cotton ones for playing will result in a bad fit.
  • Break into your new shoes gradually. Wear them for extended periods from the first day. Build up the time you wear them gradually so that there is no pressure on your feet as the shoes mold to them.
  • If you have problems finding the right shoe or feel that you need special shoes to cater for specific problems you have, consult a podiatrist who will be able to advise you on the athletic shoes that are right for you.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

What are Heel Spurs?

The heel bone is the largest bone in the foot and absorbs a great deal of shock and pressure that the foot is subjected to. A heel spur is a pointed bony growth on the heel bone. A spur forms when a bone responds to pressure, rubbing or stress that continues for an extended period of time. The aging process also contributes to the development of spurs. As we age the cartilage that covers the ends of bones wears away and this causes the bones to rub against each other resulting in pain and spurs forming along the edges of the joints. This is a very common cause for the formation of heel spurs. Heel spurs can be located at the back of the heel, under it and even beneath the sole of the foot. They often occur along with Planta Fasciitis, an inflammation of the cord like tissue that runs under the foot from the base of the heel to the base of the toes.

The Symptoms of Heel Spurs

Heel spurs, often along with Plantar Fasciitis, are often diagnosed when there is chronic and constant pain to the areas of the feet described above. In most cases the pain is exacerbated when the patient tries to walk barefoot, especially on tile or wooden floor.  If normal treatments like rest, massage and medication do not help in alleviating the symptoms, x-ray is used to determine if heel spurs exist. Based on an examination, a podiatrist may consider spurs as the first and primary cause of pain and go straight to an investigation of this problem.
Preventing the formation of heel spurs is a complex issue as these are the result of other underlying condition. It is only if the inflammatory conditions that caused the spurs are caught and treated early can the development of the spurs be prevented.

Treatment Options

The treatment options for heel spurs (and Plantar Fasciitis) range from the most simple to surgery. Among the most commonly used are:
  • The localized application of ice to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Physical therapy, including a variety of stretching exercises can be used to both treat the condition as well as to prevent recurrence in future.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication and injections are often used to provide immediate relief from pain and allow for increased mobility while other treatments are being applied.
  • Doughnut shaped shoe inserts can be used to relieve the pressure on the spurs when standing or walking.
  • Heel lifts can reduce the stress on the Achilles tendon and this in turn may reduce the amount of pain caused by spurs located at the back of the heel.
  • Wearing soft cushioned shoes, such a sports or running shoes, can reduce the pressure on the feet and so cause a reduction in the pain that the heel spurs may cause.
  • If none of these, or other treatments, provide any lasting relief from the pain, surgery is often the last resort and the best way to eliminate the pain permanently.
The Outlook

The outlook for those suffering from heel spurs is generally quite good. In most cases the condition responds well to medication and non-surgical treatments and exercise. Surgical intervention is often not necessary. As with all medical conditions, the earlier heel spurs are diagnosed and treatment begun, the better the chances of success and faster the recovery. If you have persistent symptoms like those described here, it will be wise to consult a podiatrist to begin treatment as soon as possible.