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Five Common Foot Problems and What You Can Do About Them

Five Common Foot Problems and What You Can Do About Them

Photo credit: HeelThatPain.com

Plantar fasciitis1. Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis or heel spurs is a common foot problem, which presents as pain under the heel that is worse after periods of inactivity. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that starts at the bottom of the heel and finishes just behind the base of the toes. It used to be thought that plantar fasciitis was an inflammatory condition, but recent research has shown that it is not due to inflammation, but rather is caused micro-tears in the plantar fascia that leads to scar tissue deposits and thickening of the plantar fascia. People with certain foot types (e.g. flat feet) are predisposed to getting this condition, but it has a number of causes.

What your Podiatrist can do?

Your Podiatrist can give you advice regarding the cause of this condition, and use techniques to promote healing and reduce the load on the plantar fascia. This can be in the form of footwear advice, stretching and strengthening programs, taping, low-level laser therapy, ultrasound therapy, compression socks and long-term support with custom made orthotics.

What you can do at home?

You can use an ice and/or heat pack on the area in order to reduce some of the pain but promote healing at the same time. You can also use a tennis or golf ball to massage the area. Make sure that you wear a supportive shoe that has a little bit of heel height to help offload the plantar fascia.

bunions2. Bunions

Bunions are bony protuberances that form as a result of angular changes to your big toe joint. They can be formed due a number of factors including but not limited to: congenital deformities, arthritis, footwear, trauma and genetics. They can be unsightly, painful and make it difficult to find shoes that fit. In the elderly, bunions have been shown to increase the risk of falls.

What your Podiatrist can do?

Your Podiatrist will discuss treatment options for your bunion. Conservative treatment options can be in the form of wedges, cushioning and padding, and perhaps referral for specialised footwear and custom orthotics. Bunions can be treated successfully with surgery.

What you can do at home?

A good start is to change your footwear to something with a wider toe-box, which can relieve pressure and discomfort.

Calluses and corns3. Calluses and corns

Corns and calluses on your feet occur as a result of excessive pressure or shearing stress. They can be very painful. They can be caused by wearing ill-fitting footwear, having bony deformities on your feet, and sometimes due to the way you function when walking.

What your Podiatrist can do?

Your Podiatrist can remove the callus or corn using a scalpel blade, which provides prompt relief from discomfort. They can also advise you about techniques to offload the area to reduce the recurrence of corns or calluses. As calluses and corns develop due to excessive pressure, regular visits to the Podiatrist may be necessary to maintain your feet. If they are due to bony deformities, then fixing these surgically can prevent recurrence of calluses and corns

What you can do at home?

You can increase the length of time it takes for the callus to come back by using a pumice stone to file the area. Moreover, for corns you can use padding, toe-spacers or gel protectors to offload the area.

fungal nail infections4. Fungal nail infections

About 10% of adults (and more in the elderly) develop fungal nail infections, which are caused by a common type of fungus. Fungal infection of the nail can cause your nail to become thickened, crumbly and discolored. A fungal infection of the nails is always accompanied by a fungal infection (or colonisation) of the skin.

What your Podiatrist can do?

Your Podiatrist will discuss the condition with you and can give you advice on evidence-based treatment options including – topical medications, oral medications and laser therapy. They can also talk to you regarding hygiene and other techniques to help prevent the recurrence of fungal nail infections.

What you can do at home?

You can apply tea tree oil or tea tree solutions to your fungal nails, as tea-tree oil as antibacterial and mild anti-fungal properties. You should wash your socks in hot water (preferably 60 degrees centigrade or above) in order to kill any fungal spores. You should keep your feet dry and clean to help prevent fungal infections of the skin.

Ingrown Toenails5. Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail turns inwards and grows into the skin around the toe, which can also become inflamed and infected. They may occur after you have been picking your nails, but many people are susceptible to them, and can get recurrent ingrown toenails.

What your Podiatrist can do?

Your Podiatrist can remove the painful nail spicule, in a sterile manner, to relieve the pressure and thus the pain. In more severe cases, they can also surgically remove the sides of the nail in clinic surgery under local anesthesia to provide lasting relief from your ingrown toenail. The nail still looks normal after this, as only the part of the nail that goes down the side is removed.

What you can do at home?

Maintain good foot hygiene, don’t pick at your nails, and don’t clip your toenails too far down the sides of the nail. Leave a little border of the nail showing after you have clipped them.

Bunion Case

Bunion Case


The case histories and outcomes presented here are for general information only and do not replace the advice of a health professional. You should always consult a health professional who can take your own particular circumstances into account and advise you on that basis.


 A 75-year-old female presented to us with severe bunions and overlapping of her 2nd toes. She reported that feet have bothered her for many years and she is very restricted in footwear choices. Walking barefoot was “agony”, particularly the pressure under the ball of her foot.


 On examination, she had severe bunion (Hallux Abductovalgus) deformities, with severe overlapping 2nd toes. All remaining lesser toes (3rd-5th) had hammertoe deformities. There was pain when palpating the ball of her foot.


 Bilateral (left and right) Bunions with overlapping of her 2nd toes, and hammer toe deformities.


 After painful feet for so many years, she decided to have surgery to her left foot. This involved the surgical correction of her bunion and all hammertoes. A metatarsal osteotomy was performed on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, with joint reconstructions and fusions of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th toes. The 5th toe tendon was released (tenotomy). She recuperated well post-operatively and attended regular review appointments.


 This new ‘marvelous’ foot is pain free. She can comfortably walk wearing normal footwear. After the success of her left foot operation, she has now had her right foot operated. She is extremely pleased with the outcome of her surgeries and continues to progress well.