Podiatrists Birmingham AL
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Put Your Best Foot Forward
By Jennifer Lang
When my third daughter was born with six digits on each foot, I knew I could never look at feet the same way again, especially my own. I might only have 10 toes (and so does my daughter after surgery), but my feet are fraught with problems. I have only the wryest of arches, two hammertoes, a growth on one nail that even pedicures can’t prettify, a bunion that rubs me wrong, and a bone spur that bedevils my ankle.
My only consolation? I’ve got plenty of company. According to a 2006 survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association, 50 percent of Americans have experienced a foot ailment at some point in their lives. “We put so much pressure on them every day but don’t take care of them like we do the rest of our bodies,” says Colleen Schwartz, DPM, a podiatrist and pilates instructor at Pilates on Spring in Pleasanton, California. But what does it mean to really take care of our feet?
Feet first into fitness
Heredity may be the root cause of some common foot complaints, but ill-fitting shoes, poor posture, sprains or an uneven gait also play an active role in miseries of the sole. “You have to know the cause to be able to treat the symptoms,” says Schwartz. “If the problems stem from the genetic structure of the foot and/or shoe gear, then orthotics and exercise can help reduce pain.” But if the foot pain has developed over time, then you have to look at function—how you walk, what muscles you use and don’t use, where you bear your weight. “We need to train that part of our bodies using disciplines like pilates and yoga to strengthen them.”
In Schwartz’s preventative and rehabilitative pilates-based practice, she firmly believes some foot problems can be avoided. She urges her patients to wear supportive shoes most of the time rather than going barefoot—even though she advocates barefoot exercising. “More importantly,” she says, “you should do foot strengthening and stretching exercises every day, as well as massage in the morning and evening.”
Genetics and function aren’t the only factors that affect our feet. Robert A. Kornfeld, DPM, who practices podiatric medicine in Lake Success, New York, thinks that most foot ailments relate to diet and lifestyle. “We look at the patient’s overall physiology to determine if there are deficiencies in the immune system that lock the body in a chronic inflammatory state,” he says. His advice: Everyone—even those who are symptom-free—should see a podiatrist for an evaluation every few years. That way, if you have an issue, you’ll know whether it is structural, functional, or metabolic.
Kornfeld recommends doing specific foot exercises and practicing yoga. “Yoga teaches us to create optimal alignment, both with muscular strength through muscular contraction and organic extension through maximizing flexibility and relaxation in the muscles.”
If the shoe fits
Many a sore foot would hurt a whole lot less if you simply wore shoes that provided better arch support and had a wider toe...
Author: Jennifer Lang
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