It can be easy to overlook a problem like foot pain. Especially after a long day, we tend to expect our feet to hurt. If the pain doesn’t prevent you from getting around or it isn’t consistent, you may write it off as no big deal—not something worth a doctor’s appointment or a lifestyle change. What you may not realize is that in some cases recurring foot pain can be indicative of larger health problems; in other cases, it can cause a “ripple effect” with greater consequences for your health. If you have recurring foot pain, you should be aware of some of the potential causes and consequences.
There’s a stronger link between foot and back health than many people may realize. This is because any change or injury to your back or feet can have a major impact on the way you stand and walk, meaning that a problem with one of these body parts can produce or exacerbate a problem with the other. If you imagine your body as a house, your feet are the floor, and your spine is the frame. When one of these fundamental parts of a house is damaged, there’s likely to be greater structural damage that impacts other areas. It’s the same way with your back and your feet.
For example, if you tend to slouch, you may walk differently while slouching than you would if you were upright. Over a long period of time, walking and standing in a slouched position puts added stress on your hips, legs, and feet, which can translate to pain in those body parts. In this case, a pain in your feet might indicate a problem that starts from your back, but it can work the other way, too. If you experience foot pain, you may change your gait and shift your back out of a neutral position. This kind of foot issue could cause back pain.
Many people tend to overlook the importance of good, sturdy footwear. This can be especially problematic for people who need to meet a certain dress code at work, or who love shoes as fashion accessories. Over time, poor footwear can add up to significant problems. One of the worst culprits is the high heel, which throws off proper balance and places extra strain on the toes and ball of the foot. This can change the alignment of your spine, which can produce back problems.
Other kinds of shoes can cause problems, too. The increasingly popular ballet flat can cause damage to the foot through lack of support and increased impact while walking or running. That can manifest as shooting or stinging pains along the arches of the foot. It’s not just women’s footwear, either. Many formal men’s shoes offer little support or padding. If you have foot pain, it’s a good idea to have your feet examined to understand what kind of shoes you should be wearing. That doesn’t necessarily mean what style, but what attributes a shoe should have—for example, arch support or a wider toe box. Insoles may be an option too, allowing you to modify shoes you already own to better support your foot health.
If you’ve ever had an injury to your foot, knee or ankle, you may recall how it changed the way you walked for a period of time—maybe you had a limp, or needed a supportive device like a “boot” or crutches. What you may not know is that even once that injury has healed, it can continue to alter the way you walk, stand, and run, even if you no longer notice the difference. One way you can test this out is by testing your balance. Stand next to a chair (in case you need to grab the back for support), and raise one leg at a time to balance on one foot. You may find that you’re not able to balance as easily on the side that sustained an injury in the past.
In some instances, foot pain can indicate larger medical problems (for example, nerve pain due to diabetes). But in many cases, even minor foot pain can indicate that you should make a change to improve your overall health and wellness. At the Spine Institute Northwest, we treat more than back pain. We also have a doctor of podiatry on our team who can address problems related to the feet and ankles. Call us at 206-496-0630 to learn more.