The foot and ankle contain 26 bones (One-quarter of the bones in the human body are in the feet.); 33 joints; more than 100 muscles, tendons (fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones) and ligaments (fibrous tissues that connect bones to other bones); and a network of blood vessels, nerves, skin and soft tissue. These components work together to provide the body with support, balance, and mobility. A structural flaw or malfunction in any one part can result in the development of problems elsewhere in the body. Conversely, abnormalities in other parts of the body can lead to problems in the feet.
In accordance with the American Podiatric Medical Association, Cooper University Hospital’s Division of Podiatry offers these tips on the signs and possible causes of some the most common foot conditions:
CALLUSES/CORNS: Painful thickening and build up of skin that forms at points of pressure over bony prominences, or on the bottom side of the foot. Possible causes: Repeated friction and pressure from skin rubbing against bony areas or against an irregularity in a shoe; heredity.
NEUROMA: Pain, burning, tingling numbness between the toes or in the ball of the foot. Possible causes: Benign growth of nerve tissue frequently found between the third and fourth toes; improper or ill-fitting shoes; high-heeled shoes; nerve damage; trauma; heredity.
FUNGAL NAIL: Thickened, discolored, loose or deformed toenail. Often, the infection starts in the skin as athlete’s foot, which may spread to the nails. Possible causes: Could be an indication of other medical conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and psoriasis; trauma; shoes and socks create a warm, dark and humid environment which encourages fungal growth; heredity.
PLANTAR FASCIITIS, HEEL PAIN, SPUR SYNDROME: Bottom of the heel and arch are painful. Possible causes: Weight gain; stretching and inflammation of fascia, the long band of connective tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot; bony overgrowth of the heel bone; muscle imbalance; high- or low-arched foot; improper shoe gear; excessive activity; trauma; tightness of the muscles on the back of the leg.
BUNIONS: Enlargement (bump) or deformity at the base of the big toe. It may be swollen, tender and painful with the wearing of shoes. Possible causes: Misalignment of the joint; heredity; trauma; biomedical abnormalities; neuro-medical disorders; inflammatory joint disease; congenital deformities; arthritis.
INGROWN TOENAILS, INFECTED TOENAILS, INJURY TO TOENAILS: Redness, pain and swelling around the nail. Possible causes: Shoe pressure; poor foot structure; heredity; improper nail trimming; trauma; foot deformities.
WARTS: Painful thickening of the skin. The development of a hard and flat, elevated surface most often on the sole of the foot. Possible causes: A virus, which typically invades the skin through small cuts and abrasions.
HAMMERTOES: Bony prominence on the toes appearing contracted or bent.
Often times a corn develops on the top of the toe. Possible causes: Heredity; ill-fitting shoes; muscle imbalance; arthritis.
ATHLETE’S FOOT: Flaky, dry, cracked, itchy skin; smelly feet sometimes appear red, moist, or with blisters. Possible causes: The feet are vulnerable because shoes commonly create a warm, dark and humid environment that encourages fungal growth. Athlete’s foot can be contracted in dressing rooms, locker room showers, hotel rooms, and swimming pool locker rooms.
BLISTERS: A painful, fluid-filled lesion. Possible causes: Ill-fitting shoes; stiff shoes; wrinkled socks against the skin; excessive moisture; foot deformities.
BROMOHIDROSIS (Foot Odor): Sweaty, smelly feet that do not itch or appear to have a rash. Possible causes: Increase of perspiration from the more than 250,000 sweat glands in the foot. Closed shoes aggravate sweaty feet and set up the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, leading to more odor and more sweat.