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The ‘What’ And ‘How’ Of Foot Conditions

We’re on our feet every day, if not for hours a day. Our daily habits shape how our body functions, and vice versa. Because of how interconnected our body is, small abnormalities and foot conditions can manifest into something much greater. All a small problem needs is time.

From what we wear to the anatomy of our body, there are many factors that contribute to potential injuries or foot conditions. Below we outline a possible scenario, like a daily habit, and what might come from it. Then, we outline fixes for various foot conditions might be.

The what: Ill-fitting shoes

May cause: Bunions, black toenails, blisters

The fix: 

  • Proper shoe-fitting session: we offer shoe fitting here at the clinic. Come visit us – no appointment required – to be properly fitted into a pair of shoes best suited for your feet.
  • Taping: if you experience blisters on a regular basis, consider using basic medical tape to provide protection, and to reduce friction that causes blisters.

The what: Flat feet

May cause: Plantar fasciitis

The fix:

  • Arch support: orthotics can help reduce the symptoms of flat feet as they act as a support under your arch.
  • Stretching exercises: stretch your Achilles tendon as that area often takes the brunt of the impact when walking and running with flat feet. This is because of your arch’s lower profile, and overpronation.
  • Supportive shoes: Since your arch collapses as a result of flat feet, you will likely overpronate. As such, supportive shoes can help correct your gait imbalance, and provide a solid foundation under your arch to keep your foot stable.
  • Physical therapy: the goal with physical therapy is to help reduce the muscle imbalances that naturally occur as a result of compensating with flat feet. Important exercises include strengthening the muscles along your arch, and your Achilles tendon. Read more about various exercises for flat feet in our daily foot exercises post.
  • Rest: According to the Mayo Clinic, “avoid activities that aggravate your condition. Participate in low-impact activities — such as walking, biking or swimming — rather than jumping and running activities.”

The what: Overpronation

May cause: Morton’s neuroma

The fix: 

  • Custom orthotics: as pronation lower the transverse arch of the foot, orthotics can help with stability and limiting the effects of overpronating.
  • Stability shoes: those who overpronate may benefit from stability shoes, which have a stiff medial post. This reduces the amount of overpronation as your foot no longer rolls inwards as much. Additionally, the support that is along the medial shoe of such a shoe can absorb some of the impact.

The what: Overtraining

May cause: Osteoarthritis, bone spurs, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis

The fix:

  • Overtraining is a surefire way to injure yourself, and to quicken the onset of progressive foot conditions like osteoarthritis.
  • Rest: no good comes from continuing to train through pain. Rest if you feel like muscle soreness is gets worse.
  • Stretching: maintaining flexibility in your lower limbs is key to staying healthy.
  • Increase load slowly: the human body can withstand an incredible amount of impact, but only if you train it to. Slowly ramp up the intensity of whatever exercise you’re doing to ensure you don’t do too much too soon. Sometimes, your aerobic fitness improves faster than your body’s adaption to an increase in training, so make sure to recognize the early warning signs like chronic pain, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) for a few days.

The what: Tight calves/Achilles

May cause: Metatarsalgia

The fix:

  • Tight calves can increase the weight applied onto the front of the foot, which can lead to metatarsalgia.
  • Stretching: loosen your Achilles tendon, and calf muscles as with tight muscles, your foot will compensate by bearing more load in the balls of your feet.
  • Orthotics: you can reduce forefoot pressures and improve biomechanical function to prevent further pain by investing in a pair of custom orthotics. Visit the clinic for an assessment and to be fitted with custom orthotics. Most extended health insurance plans cover the cost of orthotics in part or in a whole.

The what: Wearing high heels

May cause: Heel spurs/Haglund’s deformity, bunions

The fix: 

  • Reduce usage: high heels don’t necessarily cause bunions, but they do exacerbate the problem because the front of your foot bears more weight. Swap out high heels for more comfortable shoes, or, if your workplace is formal attire, try to reduce the amount of hours spent in them.
  • Orthotics: custom foot orthotics can reduce excessively high pressures at the forefoot, which can, in turn, aggravate and accelerate bunion formation
  • Haglund’s deformity on the heel is known as ‘pump bump’ because of its association with wearing high heels. Haglund’s deformity an abnormality of the foot bone and soft tissues characterized by a bony protrusion. Additionally, this condition develops when there is too much pressure on the heel, in part because of tight-fitting shoes.  To Haglund’s deformity:
    • Replace heels with open-heel shoes
    • Ice the bump
    • Soft tissue massage
    • Orthotics
    • Heel pads

As you can tell, small changes to your habits can make a significant difference in the long-term health of your feet. Habits in moderation, like wearing high heels, can lessen the impact on your legs versus say, wearing them each and every day.

If you continue to experience pain, and are looking to get to the root of the problem, feel free to visit the clinic. You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic. Schedule an appointment by using the Appointment Request form below or contact the clinic at 416-769-FEET(3338).

Are Those Aches in Your Legs Shin Splints?

Few lower leg injuries are as common as shin splints. In fact, between 30-70% of runners get injured each year, and about 35% of those injuries are attributed to shin splints.

Shin splints can be pesky injury as they can creep up fast, and often. Anyone that participates in high-impact sports like running, soccer, basketball, and the like are susceptible. Let’s get into shin splints 101 before outlining treatment and preventative measures.

What are shin splints?

Shin splints is a term generally used for any sort of lower limb pain associated with the tibia, the large bone in the front of your leg. Medial tibial stress syndrome is the proper term for the condition. It refers to stress on your shinbone and the connective tissues that attach muscles to your bones.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you might notice tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner side of your shinbone and mild swelling in your lower leg. At first, the pain might stop when you stop exercising.

Pain and severity varies. A stress reaction is irritation of the tibia while a stress fracture is a crack in the bone. If you ignore the early signs of shin splints, a reaction can turn into a fracture over time.

Causes of shin splints

There is rarely one single cause of shin splints. Rather, there may be a few factors that come into play including the following:

Overuse

No truer words have been said than “too much, too soon” to describe the onset of shin splints. Typically, runners experience shin splints when they ramp up either their intensity, or volume, too quickly. This is especially the case when coming back from injury as your body re-adjusts to the impact of running, and needs time to acclimate to the load running puts on the body.

Flat feet

People with flat feet may experience ongoing difficulties with shin splits. This is the case because those with flat feet have a collapsed arch during their normal gait. As such, your ankle rolls inward more so than it should, also known as overpronation – as your arch does not act as a governor.

Runners and walkers with flat feet may benefit from orthotics to artificially support their arch, and to prevent flat feet-induced injuries and conditions. Additionally, physical therapy including the taping of your arch may benefit you when struggling with flat feet and shin splints. See our blog post on Daily Feet Exercises for more information on exercises you can try to keep your feet strong and healthy.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this battle. About 30% of the population lives with flat feet.

Improper footwear

If you suffer from shin splints, the source could be your shoes. It may not even be your specific running footwear either. In fact, the shoes you wear when you’re not running could actually be the problem. Determining the right shoe for you, whether that’s an off-the-shelf running shoe, or the addition of orthotics comes down to a number of factors including weight, foot type, mileage, and much more. To learn more about proper running footwear, check out this handy resource, or visit us Feet First Clinic to speak with a professional.

Treatment

Although shin splints are common and can creep up quickly on you, fortunately, there are a number of treatment options that can have you feeling better quite quickly. Fortunately, shin splints can be managed and treated quite effectively.

Reduce load

First, reduce the activity which is causing the pain. Why? Shin splints is a repetitive injury and the condition is a stress reaction in the shin bone.

If that’s running, consider replacing that form of training with another, low-impact exercise like cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, or using the elliptical. Depending on the severity of shin splints, you may still be able to run. And oftentimes, complete rest may not even be the best form of treatment. Rather, a reduction, and physical therapy while maintaining some forms of exercise, may be the best defense.

Icing

As shin splints are caused by the body not being able to repair itself fast enough, icing can help reduce inflammation caused by the repetitive nature of running. Additionally, icing the area can provide pain relief. Fill a paper cup with water and freeze it. Then apply it to your shin bone for 5-10 minutes.

You can also supplement icing with anti-inflammatory to reduce pain and inflammation.

Prevention

Proper footwear

Prevention begins with proper footwear. Depending on whether you overpronate or supinate, you’ll need to find a pair of shoes that’s right for your body. This can be said for both your running footwear, as well as personal footwear. If you find yourself wearing flat-soled feet often casually, consider replacing them with more supportive shoes that support your arch, and put less pressure on your lower limbs.

We also know that there is a breakdown of running mechanics when wearing worn-out shoes. Replacing your footwear every 500 kilometres or so is beneficial.

Foot exercises

One of the most common exercises is the toe curl. Place a towel on the ground, and while keeping your heel on the floor, bring the towel towards you with your toes. Pretend you’re using your feet like your hands to bring the towel closer to your body.

Another exercise is the heel drop. With one foot on a step or a ledge, and the other heel raised up, lower the heel and raise it again until it’s parallel to the ground. Keep your leg straight. Repeat 10-15 times per leg, and you should feel the muscles in your calf and ankle.

Finally, you can foam roll your calves, and gently massage along the tibia to break up some of the scar tissue. This can be done both before exercise, as returning from shin splints can often be easier when doing a proper warmup, or after exercise. In general, tight calves and Achilles tendons can exacerbate shin splints, so stretching them out can be a source of relief, both in the short-term and long-term.

Training plan

When it comes to runners, many of us always want to do more. But, sometimes our aerobic fitness is ahead of where our bodies are at. It’s important to listen to your body and recognize the early signs of shin splints: dull pain along the inside of your tibia and aches after runs. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Running through pain is never a good idea, and shin splints rarely go away on their own.

Instead, if you feel as though you want to ramp up the intensity or volume of your training, consider following the 10% rule. In essence, the 10% rule recommends increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10% per week. So if you run 30 kilometres per week, aim to reduce your weekly mileage by no more than 3-4 kilometres. If you’re at 50 kilometres, ramp up your weekly mileage by about 5-6 kilometres.

Surface

Surface also matters. Harder surfaces like asphalt and concrete have a greater impact on your body while running on grass and trails softens the load. Opt for softer surfaces if you experience shin pain, and incorporate them within your routes as you return to running.

If you continue to experience shin splints, and are seeking professional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

You do not need a referral to become a patient at our Toronto Foot Clinic.

Schedule an appointment by using the appointment request form below or contact the clinic at 416-769-FEET(3338).

Possible Reasons Why Your Knee Hurts

Did you know that your knees absorb about one-and-a-half times your body weight every step?

As the largest joint in our body, our knees are essential to the overall health of our bodies. Knees act as a hinge joint and permits flexion and extension. Additionally, the knee allows for slight rotation both internally, and externally. Knees allow us to perform horizontal movements, like running or walking, and vertically, like jumping.

Because of our reliance on knees, and its complexity, they’re often the source of many foot conditions, either directly or indirectly. As the gateway between our thighs and lower legs, all muscles run through, or adjacent to the knee, meaning prevention is absolutely necessary for overall leg health.

If you do experience pain, below are four reasons for why your knee hurts:

Common conditions

Your Knee Hurts Because…Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, is the most common knee injury. Considering its nickname, it should come as no surprise that many runners and athletes experience patellofemoral pain syndrome.

Patellofemoral pain syndrome is a relatively broad term for any pain in the front of your knee. In particular, the following activities may trigger pain:

  • Walking up or downstairs
  • Kneeling or squatting
  • Sitting with a bent knee for long periods of time

There are a number of causes for patellofemoral pain syndrome including:

  • Overuse. Repetitive activity can cause irritation under the kneecap. Running for extended periods of time, or through pain, is one common cause, as are sports that involve a lot of jumping.
  • Muscle imbalances or weaknesses. Muscle imbalances can cause undue stress on your knees because of overcompensation. Additionally, weak hips can also cause your knees to taken additional loads off your body, which can increase the likelihood of injury.

Note that causes may also include acute injuries such as trauma or surgery.

Fortunately, treatment for runners knee can, for the most part, be done at home. Following the RICE method which includes rest, icing, compression, and elevation can be effective in keeping inflammation down and allowing your muscles to recover.

You can also try using a knee brace if you feel like your knee is not getting proper support.

In terms of prevention, there are a number of steps you can take:

  • Strength training. Keep your muscles that lead to your knees is crucial. Working on strong quadriceps and hip muscles keep your knees better aligned and balanced. Ensure you perform each strength exercise slowly, with an eye on form, as your knee will likely otherwise compensate, which can cause pain in and of itself.
  • Return from injury slowly. Now that you’ve rested, and iced, you’re ready to return to activity. But, your body may not be 100% ready to return to pre-injury form right away. Build up slowly, and make continuous checks of your knee to ensure you improve gradually. If you’re returning to running, follow the 10% rule which states that you should not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week.
  • Find the right shoes. Research the type of shoes you need for your foot type. You may be better off with motion control or stability shoes, or neutral cushioned shoes might be best. If you have any doubt, visit the clinic for a full gait analysis and we’ll put you into proper footwear.
  • Warm-up. Perform dynamic stretches and light exercises before you exercise so your muscles are warmed up, and firing properly. Cold muscles can lead to poor form, and compensating in areas.

Your Knee Hurts Because…Patellar tendonitis

Patellar tendonitis is a common injury for why your knee hurts that affects the patellar, the ligament that connects your kneecap to the shin bone. The tendon allows the knee to straighten and is crucial in the overall health of your knee.

As with many knee injuries, patellar tendonitis is often seen among runners, and pain can worsen when using stairs, excessive use, and sitting for long periods of time. Approximately 25% of knee injuries are diagnosed as patellar tendinitis.

The following symptoms can be a sign of patellar tendonitis:

  • Pain under the kneecap
  • Inflammation and tenderness in the front of the knee
  • Difficulty walking or doing sports activities
  • Difficulty climbing or descending stairs
  • Pain when bending the knee

Common causes of patellar tendonitis include:

  • Trauma
  • Increased training
  • Weak quadriceps muscles

To treat tendonitis:

  • Rest. If you’re a runner, cross-train by swimming, cycling, or using the elliptical to reduce the load on the tendon
  • Ice
  • Seek medical advice

Like many knee injuries, preventative methods include:

  • Strength training
  • Stretching your quads and hamstrings to reduce the pressure on the knee, and the patellar tendon
  • Foam rolling

Your Knee Hurts Because…IT Band Syndrome

IT Band syndrome (short for Illiotibial band syndrome) is a common knee injury characterized by inflammation and friction of the IT band. The IT band runs along the outside of the tight from the pelvis to the tibia and is crucial as a stabilizer for the knee.

IT band syndrome arises out of overuse as the band crosses back and forth. This injury is particularly prominent in:

  • Long-distance running
  • Those who have increased hip internal rotation and knee adduction
  • Cycling
  • Weight-lifting

Although the IT band extends the entirety of the leg, pain is typically felt most common on the outside of the knee, and around 30 degrees of knee flexion.

IT band syndrome, although one of the most common running injuries, can be treated with physical therapy, as well as RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation).

Try the following preventative and treatment methods to keep IT band syndrome at bay:

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • RICE: Rest, ice, compression, and elevation
  • Foam rolling: self-massage your IT band by applying pressure to it with foam rolling. Read more in our complete foam rolling guide.
  • Stretching: focus on stretching your hips to help reduce tight muscles
  • Strength training: focus on the gluteus maximus and hip external rotators. You can target these areas by using a resistance band and performing some of these daily foot exercises.

Your Knee Hurts Because…Osteoarthritis

Knees are susceptible to osteoarthritis, a type of joint disease that results from cartilage breakdown between bones. Osteoarthritis is often known as wear-and-tear arthritis since it’s commonly associated with overuse.

You may be at higher risk of osteoarthritis if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • Age: many people 70+ have osteoarthritis
  • Sex: women are more likely than men to suffer from OA, especially in the knees.
  • Previous trauma: joint injury can change joint alignment and cause more overuse in certain areas
  • Weight: increased weight will increase the load on the joints, causing the earlier onset of osteoarthritis.
  • Biomechanics: deviations in the knee joints can cause excess wear on certain joint areas, for example, genu valgum (knees come inwards).

As osteoarthritis is a progressive disease, the effects will likely worsen over the years. But, that doesn’t mean you cannot delay the onset of pain.

Some common treatment options include:

  • Physical activity: light activity keeps joints and muscles lubricated. If impact sports aggravates your injury, try swimming or another form of non-weight-bearing activity.
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Soft surfaces: running on grass or on the treadmill can lessen the load of sports

WebMD has a useful self-assessment tool that can offer a glimpse into why your knee may be hurting. Of course, use the tool only for reference, and do not take it as medical advice.

Morning Foot Exercises To Start Your Day Pain-Free

Waking up in the morning can be hard enough. Stiff and sore joints can make it even more difficult to get out of bed. Literally.

Although one might think that sore joints and muscles come only with ageing, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, old age alone does not cause morning joint stiffness. Rather, morning stiffness is typically an indication of wore joints, muscle tightness, or inflammation from arthritis, according to Harvard Medical School.

Worn joints are not just for the elderly. Younger people can wear down their joints, specifically the intermediary cartilage, through normal wear and tear.

As Harvard Medical School points out, there are a few reasons why your joints feel sore in the morning:

  • As your joints get older, the spongy cushion of cartilage begins to dry out and stiffen;
  • The joint lining produces less synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint;
  • Weak muscles and stiff tendons tighten during sleep;
  • Osteoarthritis, which can be caused by wear and tear, and rheumatoid arthritis both can trigger morning stiffness;
  • Too much – or too little – exercise.

To combat the problem, and to ensure your aches and pains don’t last more than 10-15 minutes in the morning, you can incorporate foot exercises into your morning routine. This will help warm up your muscles and increase blood flow. Movement helps lubricate joints, so by starting your day off with some simple exercises and stretches, you can combat the late-day tightness and soreness.

Start slow. When you wake up, begin by wiggling your toes and working your way up your legs to activate the muscles. Then, you can incorporate the following morning foot exercises to start the day off right.

Towel stretch

While still in bed, sit up and with your legs straight out in front of you, bring your toes towards your body, and then away. Use a towel to keep your foot stretched while your toes are towards you, and use the towel as a source of resistance when pointing your toes away from your body. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. Then, switch sides.

This activates the Achilles tendon, your hamstrings, as well as the plantar fascia.

Alternatively, you can skip using the towel and stretch your Achilles tendon and plantar fascia in the same way as you would with a towel.

Sitting stretch

While sitting on the edge of the bed, cross one leg over the other and stretch out your toes. Grasp them and stretch them upwards, and then down. You can do this for 20-30 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times before switching.

There is also additional benefit from increased flexibility in your toes through these stretches. Targeting your toes can be particularly beneficial for people with bone spurs and hallux rigidus who have little to no flexibility in their big toe.

Or, if you have trouble with your bunion, these five simple exercises may benefit you for the entire day let alone in the morning.

Rolling

Types of Foam Rolling

One great way to activate your feet in the morning is to use a foam roller or tennis ball.

Foam rolling involves using a foam roller as a method of release. By using your own body weight, the method is simple, effective, and low-cost. Foam rolling is a great injury prevention method and can leave your muscles feeling refreshed afterwards.

Specifically, foam rolling targets pain and discomfort that comes from the myofascial tissue—the tough, but thin membranes that cover and surround your muscles.

Foam rolling can be tricky at first, but you can get the hang of it pretty quickly. Using your body weight, position the foam roller about two-thirds to the bottom of your body, or to wherever on your legs you want to target. Then, roll slowly and gently back and forth and pause on particularly tight spots.

You can also roll with a tennis ball in a much easier way. While sitting on the edge of your bed, place a tennis ball (or lacrosse ball) under your foot and slowly roll the ball in various directions. Keep moderate pressure on the ball so you feel some massaging of your plantar, heel, and ball of your foot.

Read more about the techniques and 101 in our foam rolling 101 post.

Four-way ankle resistance band exercises

You can do this exercise sitting down, or standing up!

The sitting version involves wrapping one end of the resistance band around your foot, and holding the non-looped end with your hand. Pull to create some tension, and plant your heel into the ground. Then, move your foot outwards, inwards, away, and towards you while fighting the tension. Do this 5-10 times each way, and then move on to the other foot.

The standing version is more of a complete warm-up for many of the muscle groups in your legs. Wrap a resistance band around your knees and bend down into a quarter-squat. Then move side-to-side in a slow, smooth motion and repeat 5-10 times. Then, instead of moving side-to-side, move forward diagonally, and then to the side, and then backwards diagonally. You should be moving in an “X” shape. This morning foot exercise particularly activates your hips.

Remember, for all of these morning foot exercises, focus on slow, smooth movements as your body begins to wake up in the morning. The goal is to activate the muscles and to build strength through resistance. Never try to stretch through pain, or strengthen your way out of an injury.

If you have chronic aches and pains and want to see a Toronto foot specialist, book your appointment below or by calling us 416.769.3338(FEET).

What Is ‘Heel Whip’?

Have you ever completed a run and noticed dirt on the insides of your ankles? You may be experiencing heel whip.

Often times, you may not notice a few clips of your calf or ankle with your opposite foot as you run. It’s quite common and can begin after a period of exercise when your muscles fatigue. It’s not a widely-discussed topic, and it sounds more like a skateboard move than anything. But ask any runner and they likely know the feeling of heel whip.

Isolated, it’s not an issue. But, if it’s repetitive, whip may be a sign of a greater underlying problem.

Let’s get into what it actually is, why it happens, and what you can do to fix it.

What Is Heel Whip?

Heel whip is when your heel whips outwards (lateral), or inwards (medial) while you run. The most common form of heel whip is medial, which means your heel moves inwards and brushes your opposite leg. As a result, you may experience irritation, or even cuts, on the inner portion of your leg, whether it’s the ankle or calf. For the most part, heel whip is subtle and happens only a few times throughout the course of a run.

However, depending on the severity and repetitiveness, an excessive heel whip can be cause for concern. The treads of your shoes can also have an impact. If you’re wearing aggressive trail shoes with large rubber lugs, you may have more irritation.

Heel Whip
Aggressive lugs on your shoes can scrape your inner legs if you heel whip.

If you hear a runner say they kick their feet inward or outward when running, they’re referring to heel whip.

Based on a 2015 study to investigate the prevalence and characteristics of recreational runners with medial and lateral heel whips, half of the study’s participants were observed to heel whip. In that same study, there were twice as many medial (inward) heel whips as there were lateral, showing the prevalence of an inward whip.

Unfortunately, not all runners have access to a gait analysis, which is the best way to determine the severity of the issue. But, signs like scuffed calves and ankles are some clues to suggest you may be heel whipping.

Heel Whip
Inner legs scuffed with dirt from heel whip.

Video Gait Analysis

If you experience heel whip and want to have a professional analyze your gait, we offer 3D video in order to further analyze gait. Video gait analysis involves being recorded while walking or running on a treadmill. The video software allows us to slow and stop and zoom in on specific areas during your gait in order to educate you about your foot type and gait pattern. Following the biomechanical assessment and gait analysis, you may be recommended certain devices, shoes and/or exercises to assist with obtaining your optimal biomechanics.

Speaking about gait analysis, Dr. Andrew Miner appropriately told the National Post, “The runner who wins is the one whose form deteriorates the least.” This sentiment is particularly true for heel whip since it can occur during the latter stages of a run when the body is fatigued.

Because of its repeated nature, a minor issue in one’s form can manifest itself to become a significant problem over time. Thus, finding the root of the problem is essential, and video gait analysis may provide a glimpse.

Why Does It Happen?

Whip is not necessarily the issue, but rather the result of an underlying foot condition or muscle imbalance that should be addressed.

Heel whip does not necessarily result in injury. However, repeated movement with muscle imbalances may put you at greater risk if they go unaddressed.

Not running in proper shoes may also cause you to compensate which may lead to heel whip. Being properly fitted is a crucial step in choosing the right shoe as is determining the type of shoe you need.

In fact, any number of underlying issues could contribute to heel whip including:

  • Hallux limitus
  • Weak tib anterior and extensor toe muscles
  • Foot Baller’s ankle
  • Limited/impaired hip extension
  • Weak glutes (which minimizes hip extension range)
  • Sway back
  • Short quadriceps
  • Excessive flip flop use
  • Excessive pronation
  • Impaired foot tripod mechanics

How To Fix Heel Whip

With so many different possibilities of where the underlying condition may lie, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact fix that will work for you.

Foam Roll

In general, mobility issues often stem from the hips. For example, if you sit at work for extended hours, hip tightness would be no surprise. This is where foam rolling can come in. Spend 10-15 minutes a few days a week foam rolling your lower body. You may not see immediate effects, but the habit of foam rolling will be one that pays off greatly in the long run.

For further reading, read our complete guide on foam rolling 101.

Strengthen

Another fix can be lower body strength via a resistance band. With a band wrapped around your ankles and your legs in a quarter squat position, walk side to side in what is known as lateral band walks. Perform 10-15 lateral walks, and repeat 2-3 times with a break in between. With the band in the same position, you can also do step-ups to target your glutes.

Read about a complete list of daily foot exercises.

Shoes

Getting fitted with the proper shoes – like footwear with a rocker sole for example – can also provide relief for heel whip. For more on the different types of shoes, and how to determine your foot type, check out the three primary types of running shoes.

For all of your shoe needs, we offer many leading brands at the clinic.

To better identify the cause of your foot pain or discomfort and get immediate care, visit us at our Toronto foot clinic. Book an appointment that works best with your schedule through our contact page.

You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic.

Cold or Warm Therapy: What’s Better For Your Feet?

What’s hotter right now? Warm or cold therapy.

Each of the two methods have their places in treating foot pain and conditions, although the two serve different purposes. By cold therapy, we mean applying something cold – an ice pack, for example – to an area. Similarly, using warm therapy means applying heat to an area through a towel or a hot tub.

Generally, cold therapy should be used for acute injuries and foot pain as ice constricts blood vessels and swelling. Heat has the opposite effect. Applying heat to an area increases blood flow and relaxes the muscles and encourages an extended range of motion. As such, muscle soreness or tightness may benefit from warmth, rather than cold therapy.

Cold therapy

Person holding gel ice pack to ankle

Cold therapy works best on acute injuries and intense foot pain. Why? Because cold therapy helps restrict blood flow to the area, thus reducing swelling which can aid in normal mobility and joint motion. Additionally, cold therapy numbs sensory fibres which reduces the immediate pain and offers you relief. Finally, restricting blood flow to the area means reduced blood loss after an acute injury, such as a twisted ankle.

Apply cold therapy by doing one of the following:

As a general rule of thumb, you should never apply heat or cold directly to the skin. Instead, use a towel or an intermediary to protect your skin. For example, freezing a water bottle and using that on your feet is better than applying ice directly to your skin.

Use ice packs for 5-10 minutes, or however long you see fit depending on feel. Other methods, like a cold shower, can be used for more minor pain, and can be shorter.

Let’s use a case example to illustrate how cold therapy can help keep your feet feeling their best. Many people are diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, which is characterized by inflammation of a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot and connects your heel bone to your toes. This often causes intense pain, especially early in the morning when muscles are tense. The inflammation may be the result of overuse – as is the case with runners – or because your overweight, or over-stretched the area causing micro-tears in the tissue.

As a form of treatment, you can use a frozen water bottle as a form of cold therapy for plantar fasciitis. Icing the area this way reduces pain because it numbs the area, and helps in recovery because ice reduces swelling. However, icing can be part of a greater treatment plan known as RICE – recovery, icing, compression, and elevation.

Those who suffer from metatarsalgia, which refers to any pain found in the ball of the foot, where the metatarsals of the foot lie, may also benefit from cold therapy for the same reasons. Interestingly, both warm and cold therapy

Warm therapy

Woman with legs in hot tub

Warm therapy is best for chronic injuries characterized by soreness, tension, and dull pain. Why? Heat therapy improves blood circulation, as it expands blood vessels. Heat therapy also relaxes muscle fibres, increasing mobility. That’s why, for example, when you do hot yoga, you may feel more flexible than a regular session.

Additionally, warm therapy encourages the healing of damaged tissue as blood vessels of the muscles to dilate, which increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

So, heat therapy is particularly useful for people suffering from arthritis, muscle stiffness and soreness, and chronic aches and pain.

A variety of methods encompass warm therapy including:

  • Hot tub/bath
  • Hot towel
  • Sauna

Heat therapy has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially among athletes. Author Alex Hutchinson has written extensively about the benefits of both heat and cold therapy for Outside. In one research-backed article, Hutchinson notes that “eight weeks of hot-tubbing produces really profound changes in markers of cardiovascular health like blood pressure and artery stiffness, perhaps due to increased blood flow when you’re hot.”

Warm + cold therapy together

There is also a warm-cold method that has been popularized in recent years, although evidence of its effectiveness is relatively unknown. According to the University of Michigan Medicine Department, alternating between warm and cold therapy creates a kind of pump. “Heat causes blood vessels to get bigger and cold causes them to get smaller,” they write. “Alternating between heat and cold means the blood vessels alternate between bigger and smaller. This change in blood movement could help reduce inflammation and swelling, and that could improve range of motion in the joint.”

To alternate between warm and cold, you can try contrast baths. This is how to do it:

  • Submerge your limb in a bucket of ice-cold water (as cold as can be tolerated) for about two minutes.
  • The limb is then moved into a second bucket filled with lukewarm (not hot) water, around (40°C), for 30 seconds.

Beyond basic, do-it-at-home treatment, if you continue to experience pain in your feet, book an appointment to see a licensed chiropodist. You can book an appointment below or by calling us at 416.769.3338(FEET).

How To Protect Your Feet This Winter

Winter can be the time of year when your feet are hit hardest. Dry skin, wet shoes, frostbite, sweaty feet: all foot issues and conditions that seem synonymous with winter.

As temperatures drop and we head into cold(er) conditions, you’ll want to know how to protect your feet this winter.

Below, we break down some of the most important areas in this winter foot guide.

Keep Your Feet Warm

This tip is no surprise. Frigid temperatures mean a frostbite factor.

Frostbite is an injury caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. Your toes are particularly susceptible to frostbite, which begins when your skin becomes cold and red, then numb, then hard and pale.

The numbness stage can be of particular concern, because you may not know the severity of the frostbite. The injury starts out as frostnip, followed by superficial frostbite, and then deep frostbite, the most severe of the three stages.

To prevent frostbite from occurring, taking the following precautions:

  • Wear moisture-wicking socks that fit correctly, and have insulation
  • Change out wet socks as soon as possible
  • Watch for signs of frostbite like red skin, or numbness
  • Keep moving: encourage blood flow to the area

For more on frostbite prevention, and to ensure your feet are warm this winter, check out our complete winter foot guide.

Dry Your Shoes To Protect Your Feet This Winter

Do yourself a favour and ensure your shoes are dry before each use.

Not only will it extend the life of your shoes, you’ll be less prone to the foot conditions that come with wet feet. Plus, wearing wet shoes for extended periods of time can permanently alter the sizing of the shoe, making them bigger than intended.

If your shoes do become wet, remove the insoles and leave them in a well-ventilated area. Keeping your shoes in your bag, closet, or in dark, moist areas will mean a longer drying time. There are also heated shoe racks that quicken the drying process; they can be a great investment if you consistently find your shoes don’t have adequate time between use.

Keep Your Feet (Not Skin) Dry

Did you know that sweat glands are more concentrated on your feet than in any other part of the body? On a given day, thanks to the roughly 250,000 sweat glands, your feet can produce up to one cup of sweat. No wonder moisture can linger.

Even in the winter, your feet sweat. To keep your feet dry, invest in moisture-wicking socks. In essence, these type of socks absorb and bring moisture away from your feet. For a complete list of recommendations, check out our list of best socks for your feet that won’t break the bank.

Socks are only part of the equation in the battle against winter elements. Your primary source of defence is your footwear. And not all shoes are designed for winter. Avoid breathable shoes as they won’t be able to protect your feet from the wind. Plus, slush, ice and snow can more easily penetrate your shoe’s outer material and waterlog your socks.

For a full list of brands we carry in-store for your footwear needs, read about the products we offer.

Soften Your Skin

Winter is prime time for dry skin, which occurs when your feet aren’t retaining enough moisture.

According to Harvard Medical School, winter poses a special problem because humidity is low both outdoors and indoors, and the water content of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) tends to reflect the level of humidity around it. Further, dry skin becomes much more common with age.

By moisturizing your skin, you can help prevent calluses, blisters, and cracked heels. Skin moisturizers – mixed with other preventative measures like reducing the temperature of the water you bathe in, reducing showers to once daily, and use a humidifier in the winter – is a good start. You can use petroleum jelly or mainstream brands.

Fend Off Feisty Fungus

With harsh winter elements comes added exposure to moisture.

Certain fungi thrive in dark, moist places, making your feet a prime area. You could be at an increased risk of:

As we’ve previously written, dermatophyte fungi thrive in dark, moist areas and feed on keratin – a primary component of the epidermis (the outer layer of human skin). This means that our feet, which spend most of the day bound up in socks and shoes, present an ideal environment for the proliferation of a fungal infection. Consequently, one in 10 people have athlete’s foot.

In order to help prevent these types of foot conditions and protect your feet this winter, swap out wet socks for dry ones – remember that fungi thrive in moist areas – and wear winter-tough boots – like Sorels – when possible in the winter. Other common preventative measures include trimming your toenails, thoroughly drying your feet, and wearing shoes when in common areas like the gym.

For proper winter footwear and socks, visit our Toronto Foot Clinic on Monday-Friday between 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Get Your Feet Measured This Winter

There are a slew of problems that arise from ill-fitting shoes. For example, black toenails, pinched-nerve pain, bunions, blisters, corns and calluses can all of a result of shoes that are either too big or too small.

Addressing problems with your feet is essential for your entire body. In fact, the health of your feet can directly affect your posture.

In fact, eight out of 10 people have ill-fitting shoes. At Feet First Clinic, we offer every customer a comprehensive footwear assessment free of charge to ensure that you invest in the healthiest footwear for your unique feet.

Our footwear specialists and chiropodists will help match your foot shape, structure, and alignment to specific shoes and footwear features that answer to your corrective, supportive, or accommodative needs.

If you’re in Toronto, come on in and visit us for an in-person assessment.

Here’s a complete guide to picking the correct footwear to better protect your feet this winter.

Visit a Professional

Feet First Clinic has some of the best chiropodists in Toronto — we specialize in foot care treatments and products like custom made orthotics, orthopedic footwear, accessories and much more.

Read about what you can expect from your first visit to Feet First Clinic.

Best Gifts for Your Feet

For how reliant we are on our feet, they’re often neglected. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not treat yourself, or someone else, with gifts for your feet?

You can treat your feet right with the proper care, whether that’s through investing in quality footwear, preventative measures, or just overall good habits. For Christmas, as well as for any other time of year when you’re gifting, consider these gifts for your feet.

Body Glide

One of the keys to healthy feet is acting on and taking certain preventative measures to reduce problems in the first place. One such example is the use of Body Glide, which can help reduce the chance of blisters. The two core reasons for why you might experience blisters are friction and moisture.

Most blisters on your feet are friction blisters, which result from socks or shoes excessively rubbing against the skin of your feet. The bubbles that form are natural cushions that your body produces in order to create a protective barrier between the irritated area of skin and friction-causing object.

Body Glide repels water and moisture, as well as provides a lubricant for your skin to reduce friction.

By applying Body Glide to your feet, you can keep blisters at bay.

Saucony Ride ISO 2

The Ride ISO 2 is Saucony’s most plush and cushioned running shoe making it ideal for running on asphalt and concrete sidewalks. That’s a reality for us Canadians in the wintertime as softer surfaces are hard to come by.

To protect your feet from common injuries, it’s vital to choose a running shoe that’s right for your body and gait. The Ride ISO 2 is great for runners who underpronate (known as supination). This is because the brunt of the impact is borne by the outer edge of your shoe. So, the Ride ISO 2 has lots of foam underfoot to reduce impact. In turn, that means less soreness in your knees, shins, and feet.

Asics Gel-Kayano 26

The Asics Gel-Kayano 26 is the brand’s most supportive and responsive. The Gel-Kayano 26 is a stability shoe so it’s best for overpronators and those who require significant support.

With adjusted heel geometry and cushioning sculpted at an incline, the Gel-Kayano 26 puts less stress on your feet when you pronate. Asics says that its midsole technology combines two different density materials to reduce the risk of flat feet and bunions.

For a complete lineup of Asics and Saucony running shoes, come visit the clinic to get your shoes properly fitted.

Blister Medical Kit

For those in your circle who consistently get blisters, consider gifting them a kit to combat the problem. Most blister medical kits contain moleskins, alcohol pads and antiseptic wipes to treat the area and provide protection from further chafing while the blister heals.

To avoid additional friction that may further aggravate the inflamed area, use an adhesive bandage or blister pad, which is available at our Toronto foot clinic. Read more about how to properly treat blisters.

Sorel Men’s Caribou Men’s Boot

Winter is upon us and conditions in Canada can be brutal between December-February. With snow accumulating, temperatures dropping, and conditions being volatile, it’s essential to have footwear fit for the season, and for your feet. The Sorel Men’s Caribou Boot is best for heavy snow and features a waterproof upper, keeping moisture away from your feet and reducing the risk of foot problems.

The boot also features a removable liner so you can wash and reduce the build-up of sweat and bacteria over time. The Caribou Boot is rated to a bone-chilling -40 C.

In order to pick the correct footwear this winter, read our tips on how to find the pair that’s right for you.

Sorel Joan of Arctic NEXT Women’s Boot

While men have the Sorel Caribou Boot, women can turn to the Sorel Joan of Arctic Next Women’s Boot. The Joan of Arctic Next Boot is great for heavy rain, light snow, and heavy snow as it’s made for the harsh Canadian winters.

One of the worst feelings is having water-logged boots, especially when your feet get wet and temperatures drop. Fortunately, with a microfleece lining and sealed waterproof seams, your feet will stay dry and healthy this winter with these boots.

Visit our clinic for a full lineup of Sorel products and ensure you choose boots with the proper fit by trying them on in-person with the help of one of our professionals.

Darn Tough Vertex 1/4 Ultra-Light socks

Socks are absolutely crucial for the health of your feet. It’s important to find the right pair to reduce the risk of blisters, odour, and other foot problems.

Darn Tough are some of the longest-lasting and most durable socks on the market. The ¼ Ultra-Light socks are an ideal length to cover any exposed areas during the winter between your shoes and your pants if you exercise outdoors. Best of all, these socks are tough enough for winters and because of its mix of merino wool, nylon and lycra, they’re cool enough to wear in the summer too.

For more on socks that won’t break the bank, check out a complete rundown of some options from an earlier blog post.

Roll Recovery R8 Roller

The Roll Recovery R8 Roller puts what you thought of traditional massage rollers to the side with its unique design.

The deep tissue massage tool is a handheld device that you can use to roll out your muscles. Best of all, there’s no having to get onto the ground like with a traditional foam roller. Traditionally, people have had to use their own force – using bodyweight – to foam roll their muscles. With the Roll Recovery R8 Roller, the force is built into the product itself. With the R8 Roller, you roll out your muscles by placing the devices onto your legs (the pressure will automatically be applied) and moving back and forth over hot spots or trouble areas. This can be done while lying down, sitting, or even standing.

Foam rolling is particularly vital in reducing foot problems. You can address soreness and tightness in areas that may ultimately lead to lower leg problems. Generally, foam rolling can be beneficial because it improves blood flow, reduces inflammation and breaks up muscle adhesions.

For more information, and for a selection of these products and other gifts for your feet, book an appointment at Feet First Clinic or stop by in-person.

We’re open six days a week and you do not need a referral to visit the clinic.

Foam Rolling 101: Why And How To Do It

Foam rolling is one of the easiest ways to keep your legs at their best.

Foam rolling is a self-therapy method used to eliminate general fascia restrictions. Think of foam rolling as your own personal massage therapist.

What is foam rolling?

Foam rolling involves using a foam roller as a method of release. By using your own body weight, the method is simple, effective and low-cost. Foam rolling is a great injury prevention method and can leave your muscles feeling refreshed afterwards.

Some people who foam roll do it as a warm-up to exercise, as it gets the muscles firing and activated. For example, some runners foam roll before activity to ensure their muscles aren’t cold when heading out the door.

Alternatively, foam rolling can be done after exercise, to break up the fascia, and knots that develop in the muscles.

What type of foam roller to buy

There are a number of different types of foam rollers on the market, from simple to premium.

Foam Rolling

Basic foam rollers can be found at most sporting goods stores for approximately $30.

Depending on your needs, a basic foam roller may do just fine. On the other end of the spectrum are more premium options, including Hyperice and Trigger point. These products are meant more for deep tissue massages and have additional features like vibration. Typically, the foundation of these rollers are made of stiff plastic with a foam outer layer, so they will last longer than a purely foam product. As their cores are also plastic, they also have a lot less ‘give.’

Foam rollers also come in various sizes. You can find travel sizes so they fit in your luggage if you’re a frequent traveller, Or, there are standard versions which cover a greater surface area of your leg and are often less painful because weight is dispersed more evenly across where you’re rolling. Fortunately, because they’re largely inexpensive, owning more than one won’t break the bank.

It should be noted that there are alternative ways to roll, including using tennis or lacrosse balls. The smaller the object, the more precise you can be with targeting trouble spots, or ‘trigger points.’

Foam Rolling

According to the American Council on Exercise, foam rolling  “focuses on reducing pain or the discomfort that comes from the myofascial tissue—the tough, but thin membranes that cover and surround your muscles.”

How to do it

Foam rolling can be tricky at first, but you can get the hang of it pretty quickly. Using your body weight, position the foam roller about two-thirds to the bottom of your body, or to wherever on your legs you want to target. Then, roll slowly and gently back and forth and pause on particularly tight spots.

You can reduce the pressure by bearing more weight on your upper body, or when you’re on your side, by having your torso on the ground. There should be some discomfort, but don’t go as far as feeling intense pain.

You’ll want to avoid bones, and focus on the muscles, specifically trigger points. These refer to specific knots that form in the muscles, that will benefit from being rolled out, which increases blood flow to the area.

Typically, anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes is appropriate for an area before moving on. In total, spend 10-15 minutes rolling various parts of your legs, even if they’re not particularly sore. Remember, sore muscles in one spot may mean the problem is actually somewhere else, so distribute the rolling appropriately.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling doesn’t just have to be on your legs either. You can do your back, hips, arms, shoulders, and whatever else is sore.

Benefits

There are a number of benefits to foam rolling, both as an injury treatment, as well as for injury prevention. Best of all, it’s one of the most affordable methods of self-treatment needing little more than a $30-40 product, that lasts quite a few years too.

According to the American Council on Exercise, foam rolling has been shown to help the following conditions: 

  • IT band syndrome
  • Patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee)
  • Shin splints
  • Lower-back pain
  • Infrapatellar tendinitis (jumper’s knee)
  • Blood flow, overall soreness
  • Joint range of motion

If pain continues to persist, and foam rolling doesn’t seem to be helping, your injury may be more serious.

For all of your foot treatment needs, schedule an appointment, or contact Feet First Clinic at 416-769-FEET(3338).

Shoes With Zero Drop, High Drop, And Everything In Between

What’s the deal with a shoe’s drop?

Drop is the height of a shoe’s heel minus the height of a shoe’s toe. If they’re the same, it’s zero. If there’s a difference, the shoe has at least some drop. This measurement is in millimetres, so even if there is a difference, we’re not talking about anything major. However, when you’re running and landing on the ground over and over, a small difference can have a big effect.

The point of a shoe’s drop is to reduce stress on certain parts of your body. By artificially keeping your foot in a certain position, a shoe’s drop can reduce pressure on the Achilles and calves.

Drop shouldn’t be the only consideration when choosing shoes, because it’s just one metric. For example, two shoes with a 4 mm can feel completely different. The amount of cushioning, firmness, structure of the shoe, as well as the intended purpose all play factors.

That said, this guide will help you choose shoes within the same category of drop. Within each range, we provide a few examples of shoes that fall within the given category.

Zero drop

Zero drop refers to no difference between the heel and toe height on your shoes. However, note that there can be varying degrees of heights depending on the shoe, like cushioned or minimal, for example, the offset refers to the height of the heel minus the height of the toe.

Zero drop running shoes mimic how your foot sits on the ground, as naturally, it lies flat. These types of shoes are best for those who forefoot or midfoot strike. By strike, we mean the first point of contact with the ground when landing.

In theory, zero-drop running shoes promote shorter strides, and a more efficient running economy since you’ll be running like you’re barefoot. They allow the foot to operate more naturally, and can prevent overstriding because there’s no artificial support in place like higher-drop shoes.

Note that zero drop running shoes are arguably the most difficult shoes to transition into because of their scarcity in the market. Traditionally, most people wear shoes with at least some drop. Any inefficiencies in your stride will be exacerbated with zero drop running shoes, so only use them if you’re comfortable going with a more natural, less structured shoe.

The most popular brands that manufacture zero drop running shoes include Altra, Topo and Merrell. Altra is by far the most well-known zero drop running shoe brand and the Escalante and Torin are two of their top sellers. Although they’re known among trail runners and ultrarunners, they make road running shoes too.

Low drop (1 to 4 mm)

Low drop running shoes are quite similar to zero drop running shoes as they still provide a relatively natural feel, with a bit more structure.

With low drop running shoes, there’s a slight difference in stack heights. The heel is between 1-4 mm higher than the toe, providing a slight forward momentum. Low drop running shoes are great for midfoot strikers because the drop is usually small enough to encourage a natural stride, with just a bit more cushioning around the heel.

The 1-4 mm drop range is the bread and butter of many brands, including Hoka One One, Saucony, and Asics. You’ll find that many workout and racing shoes are in this range as well.

Medium drop (5 – 8 mm)

Medium drop running shoes are like low drop running shoes. This category would fall in the middle of the spectrum. Unlike low drop shoes, medium drop are better suited for heel strikers and those who want to alleviate stress to their Achilles and calf muscles.

High drop (9+ mm)

Shoes with high drop typically fall under the stability category of running shoes. Generally, if you have inefficiencies in your stride, or are an overpronator, shoes with higher drop have more corrective features to limit the damage running does to your body. High drop shoes are also ideal for those with notoriously tight calves, and for heel strikers.

Alternatively, high drop shoes – a greater amount of cushioning in the heel than the toe – are shoes with a lot of padding underfoot. Like we mentioned, highly-cushioned shoes with significant drop are ideal for heel strikers. This is because with extra padding at the heel, the shoe won’t break down as quickly. So, you’ll have support where you need it for longer.

Check out a wide variety of shoes that we carry in-person at Feet First Clinic. Stop by Monday-Friday between 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. or make an appointment today.