The Body’s Foundation: Feet

October 30, 2019

The feet are the foundation of the body and when there is a problem there it extends upward, impacting knees, hips and back, said Dr. James Robinson, endowed chair of sports medicine at the College of Community Health Sciences. He said keeping the feet healthy is crucial to having a high quality of life.

Robinson is also a professor of family medicine and director of the sports medicine fellowship at CCHS. He spoke to Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) Mini-Medical School participants on October 23. CCHS operates UMC.Doctor testing a patients foot.

When the feet are affected by maladies such as gout, plantar fasciitis, hammer or claw toes, plantar warts, toenail fungus and athlete’s foot, balance and mobility can be affected. When the feet are too painful to walk on, a patient can lose their independence or be more at risk for a fall.

It is especially important for the geriatric community to maintain proper foot care, Robinson said. With age the ligaments lag, tendons tighten, arches fall, padding thins, the foot widens and there is less moisture and oil in the skin making it prone to cracking. Additionally, these problems are exacerbated when an accompanying condition is present, such as diabetes, obesity or arthritis.

Women are more prone to foot problems as they age because of the shoes they wear earlier in life.

“Women’s shoes are basically earrings for the feet,” Robinson explained. “They have none of the things we look for in a good shoe and can only be called a shoe because they go on the foot.”

A well-fitting shoe needs to have a wide toe box, support for weak arches and fit snuggly at the heel to avoid twisting an ankle. Robinson said to avoid shoes that are too narrow, too short or that are elevated. Shoes that come to a point or press the feet into the front of the shoes can cause hammer or claw toes as well as bunions and corns.

Robinson said it doesn’t stop there. Once a good pair of shoes is found, it should be rotated with another pair daily, so the shoes have a chance to dry out completely before being worn again. This lessens the chance of fungus or athlete’s foot developing.

It is also important to clean the feet thoroughly using a handle scrub brush if necessary, to compensate for mobility issues. A mirror should also be used to check the bottoms of the feet for any warts, cuts, lesions or other abnormalities.

“We often overlook our feet until there is something wrong,” Robinson said. “Taking care of our feet and catching issues before they start is the best way to care for our foundation.”

The Mini Medical School Program, a partnership of the College and UA’s OLLI Program, features lectures provided by College faculty physicians about current topics, issues and advances in medicine and health. OLLI is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 and older.