At a casual glance, footwear and foot health terminology can seem rather difficult to comprehend.
In fact, many of the terms that are used for the complex collection of bones, tendons and ligaments in our feet are for the most part difficult to pronounce – let alone understand their exact function. And then on top of that, you have the plethora of foot ailment terms, which at times, even the best of us have trouble comprehending. Some foot ailments even have slightly worrying names like Plantar Fasciitis or Claw Toe.
I mean you have to ask yourself: What is claw toe? Have I already got it? Am I likely to get it later in life? Can you cure it? And of course, the big one – is claw toe one of those things you can easily catch at the gym?
Well, the answers to these particular questions along with many more foot related queries are now going to be revealed, as we carefully unravel the many mysteries of modern footwear and foot health terminology.
First off, we will look at foot arch terminology. We all have three arches in our feet: the Lateral Longitudinal Arch which runs along the outer edge of your foot, the Transverse Arch which runs across your foot from inner to outer, and the Medial Arch, which runs from your heel to the ball of your foot.
Although all three of these arches have their part to play in the way you move, the medial arch plays the most important role in both bearing your weight and measuring your movement. In general health terms, the Medial Arch is broken down into three main arch types: low, medium and high. If you have very high arches or very low arches you may experience pain or discomfort when standing, walking or running for extended periods of time. The good news is generally foot arch complaints are not something you need to worry about too much as supportive insoles or specific footwear can usually remedy the situation.
The term flat feet or fallen arches means unusually low medial arches. This is usually caused when tendons have been damaged or are not pulling together correctly. Many people who have flat feet don’t actually experience any problems whatsoever, but some may suffer from pain emanating from the medial arch and heel area. Unusually low medial arches can also cause discomfort when standing on your toes, lower back and leg pain, and even swollen soles of the feet. To treat flat feet, most doctors recommend support insoles, foot stretches and exercises, and if necessary pain killers.
Plantar fasciitis is a very common condition that causes pain in your heels. It starts when your plantar fascia ligament, which is a band of tissue connecting your heel bone to your toes, becomes inflamed. Usually plantar fasciitis manifests as a sharp early morning heel pain, which gradually eases throughout the day. Long distance runners, people that spend a lot of time on their feet at work, and people that are overweight are most prone to this particular foot problem. Plantar fasciitis is usually caused by a plantar fascia strain that causes micro tears in the actual ligament itself. Generally it is easily cured though with plenty of rest and some good quality supportive shoes.
Pronation is a term used to describe the movement of your foot when it lands on the ground when walking or running. The movement is described as a sideways roll as your medial arch flattens on impact with the ground; a bit like a shock absorber of a vehicle.
Like arch types, there are various degrees of pronation in different people’s feet. If you have overpronation in your feet, your medial arch will flatten excessively on impact with the ground. This can cause certain impact injuries especially with runners and those who need to stay on their feet all day. Injuries and discomfort stemming from overpronation can be felt in the ankles, shins, Achilles tendons, arches, heels, outer knees and even outer hips.
Underpronation Or Supination
As you can probably guess, underpronation is the opposite of overpronation. With this particular issue, the medial arch does not flatten out enough on impact with the ground. This again can cause impact related injuries in people who are on their feet all day or enjoy running. You may also come across the term supination – this is just another word for underpronation.
Dealing With Pronation Issues
As with many foot conditions, both overpronation and supination/underpronation can be countered by specific supportive shoes or insoles. In fact, many people can completely eliminate impact related injuries stemming form these conditions by wearing high quality, supportive footwear with specific insoles.
By footwear and foot health terminology standards, the term wide feet is a fairly self-explanatory one. However, there is a bit more to the term wide feet than just having a broad foot. Yes, your feet can actually become wider if you have certain underlying conditions or if you wear poor quality shoes. Overly low medial arches (flat feet) are another common contributor to wide feet. This is due to the foot being continually pressed flatter to the ground, causing it to broaden out. A poorly fitting shoe can also cause inflammation, which in turn can result in the widening of the foot – this will also result in pain and discomfort whilst standing or walking.
Dealing With Wide Feet
Like many other foot irregularities, wide feet can be easily dealt with by wearing specific footwear. In the case of genetic wide feet, wider shoes can be easily sourced from any good shoe retailer. These will give that little extra room in the shoe to stop pain, discomfort and possible inflammation. For people with wide feet and a low medial arch, specific wide footwear with supportive insoles is the way to deal with the issue.
What Is A Podiatrist?
Another term you may come across whilst perusing a footwear and foot health terminology glossary is a podiatrist. This term just describes a doctor who specialises in conditions of the feet, ankles and lower extremities. These are definitely the people to see if you are experiencing pain or discomfort in your feet. A podiatrist can offer advice on footwear, instruct you in specific foot and ankle exercises, and generally keep your feet in tiptop condition.
Claw Toe – A Nasty Business
Yes, and finally we get to the scariest sounding of all foot conditions, the claw toe – also known as the slightly less scary but still worrying hammertoe. It sounds nasty, and it is – but nothing to worry about too much as the condition is generally genetic, and can’t be picked up at your local gym. Really though, claw toe is a serious condition that requires corrective footwear, toe strapping and sometimes even surgery. Claw toe arises when the tendons, which move your toes, become too tight or out of balance. The resulting condition sees toes that claw downwards, causing pain, discomfort and eventually walking difficulties. If you have pain in your toes and think it could be claw toe, it’s worth checking in with your local podiatrist.
The bunion may have a fairly innocuous name, but don’t be fooled – it can give you untold amounts of foot grief. In fact, people that suffer from bunions nearly always need to resort to surgery to remove them. So what is a bunion? Well, a bunion is a bony spur that sticks out from the first joint of your big toe. In severe cases, the bony lump can get so pronounced; a person can’t even wear normal shoes and must resort to wearing sandals or other types of open footwear. Unfortunately, the cause of bunions is still unknown but if you suffer from pain and swelling on the outer side of your first big toe joint it’s worth visiting your podiatrist to get it checked out.
Corns And Calluses
If you had to choose a foot ailment, corns, which are often referred to as calluses, would probably be the one to go for. Whys that? Well, corns are essentially the least serious condition in a very long list of foot complaints. Essentially corns are just callouses that build up on your toes and sometimes the outer part of the ball of your foot. Corns arise when there is continual pressure or rubbing of your toes and feet inside your shoes. They may look unsightly, but they can be easily be remedied by the use of thicker socks and well fitting, high quality footwear.
Another common ankle and foot complaint for runners is Achilles tendinitis. This particular ailment is generally seen in runners who considerably up their game in duration and intensity. An Achilles tendon injury tends to cause pain in the back of the lower leg that can transmit down into your heel. Regular stretching and the strengthening of your calf muscles can help to reduce the chances of Achilles tendinitis. If you do find yourself with Achilles tendinitis, plenty of rest and the lowering of your exercise intensity is the best way to relieve the symptoms. For more serious Achilles tendon tears, surgical repair may be the only option.
Regardless of the name, athlete’s foot is not solely a complaint of the more energetic individuals among us. In fact, athlete’s foot is an incredibly common foot complaint that affects people from a across a broad spectrum. The condition is a fungal one, generally starting as an itchy rash in-between the toes, often spreading outwards to the tops of the toes and even the upper side of the feet. The rash can become sore when rubbed and even tend to have rawness around the effected area. And just to add to that, athlete’s foot is also highly contagious and is definitely one of those things that you can easily catch at your local gym. The good news is it can be quickly cleared up with anti-fungal creams and an upping of your general foot hygiene regime.
Onychocryptosis or as it’s more commonly known, an ingrown toenail, is certainly nothing to sniff at. Incredibly painful and equally unsightly, the ingrown toenail is something we should all learn to fear. It starts its painful lifecycle simply enough when the nail starts to grow into the nail fold of the surrounding skin. What happens next, is a downward spiral in the world of toe health; the area often becomes infected, leading to pain, swelling and discharges of pus. There is some good news though, as ingrown toenails are generally easy to treat if you catch them at an early stage. If you do catch them early, just an improved foot hygiene regime and a little pushing to gently move the nail back to its correct position can have the desired results. If you let them get out of hand, you’ll definitely have to visit your local podiatrist. Ingrown toenails are usually caused by poorly fitting footwear and toe trauma injuries.
Fungal Nail Infections
And last but not least is the fungal nail infection. Yes, does sound a bit nasty, but in fact absolutely nothing to worry about. A very common cause of fungal nail infections is untreated athlete’s foot. The fungal infection simply spreads from the infected area to the toenail. Another common cause is age: as the nail become more brittle, tiny micro cracks appear on the surface of the nail – these cracks are where fungal bacteria get their toehold, before spreading out over the nail. They may be unsightly, but fungal nail infections can be easily cleared up with anti-fungal creams and improved foot hygiene.
So there you have it, a complete guide to footwear and foot health terminology. But all you really need to remember is that despite your foot’s delicate anatomy, and the many conditions that are lurking out there – some high quality footwear, and a good foot hygiene regime will always enable your feet to go that extra mile.