Foot health isn’t just important because it keeps the foundation of your body in good condition. There is also a direct link between foot health and overall wellness!
Forgetting to practice foot care and foot pain management can trigger a domino effect that leads to other health problems. If you have a nagging sense that your body and mind feel generally “unwell,” it could all stem from neglecting to take care of your body’s foundation and lower extremities.
Here are some of the most common problems associated with poor foot health that we’ll discuss today:
- Back, hip and knee pain
- Posture and balance
- Heart health and diabetes
- Mental health
Back, Hip and Knee Pain
Our body’s joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves need our feet to be in good shape. If they aren’t, it can lead to a concerning trickle-down (or trickle-up!) effect that jeopardizes the rest of our body. The most common symptoms of this effect are back pain, hip pain and knee pain.
First, your lower back will take a hit if you don’t wear shoes with proper shock absorption and arch support. The effects will transfer upwards, resulting in low back pain. People who work long hours without the right footwear often notice this and not know the reason why.
Furthermore, if you have frequent foot pain, it will alter your gait. This means you adopt abnormal walking patterns to navigate life with chronic pain, such as using your tip-toes or the outside of the feet to bear weight. The unusual walking pattern causes extra strain on the joints and muscles in your lower body from having to move in ways they weren’t designed to move. This kickstarts feelings of pain and tightness in the lower back and knees. Your ankles may also roll slightly inwards or outward while walking. People with flat feet or high arches are at risk of experiencing gait-related back and knee pain.
Plantar fasciitis and bunions can also trigger back pain. If you neglect to treat plantar fasciitis, the plantar fascia ligament can become so inflamed that other muscles have to compensate in order to support your weight. This ultimately affects your back. Likewise, bunions cause a misshapen structure in the feet, which can alter your posture and make it difficult to fit into supportive shoes.
Modifying movements due to foot pain also takes a toll on your hips. Bilateral foot pain can lead to pain in the corresponding hips, often due to multi-joint arthritis.
Heart Health and Diabetes
These connections aren’t as farfetched as you think!
Your heart is responsible for transferring oxygen-enriched blood and nutrients to your lower extremities, so if the heart cannot do this for any reason, your feet can mirror your general heart health and wellness. For example, illnesses like diabetes can be a major sign of extremely restricted blood circulation; foot swelling and numbness can be symptoms of this.
Your feet can also show signs of serious heart issues, like heart disease and peripheral artery disease. You may not be able to feel a pulse in your feet, or you may notice excessively shiny skin or hair loss on your toes. Heart failure can also cause foot swelling due to excessive fluid build-up. Plaque accumulation in the arteries can also lead to foot numbness and pain, warning you of peripheral artery disease.
Posture and Balance
There is a direct correlation between foot and ankle health and posture and balance. According to a study on gait posture published by the National Library of Medicine, poor postural balance in the upright position can pose a greater risk of sudden falls and resulting foot injuries in older people. The study found that improving toe flexor strength via foot stretches and exercises contributes to overall improved postural balance in people over 60.
But it could also be the shape of your foot that lets you down. For instance, people with flat feet risk experiencing muscular imbalances in the legs, ankles and hips. Luckily, simple and non-invasive foot clinic services can help people with flat feet curb this problem, such as wearing custom orthotics or shoes that support a flat arch.
Can’t hike on your favourite trails due to foot pain? Or perhaps you simply struggle to get out of the house due to mobility issues.
Since our feet keep us moving, there is a clear link between mental and foot health. Time and time again, fitness proves to be helpful to those struggling with mental illness. But without cooperative feet, it can feel impossible to be physically fit, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle. Feeling stuck inside too often can also cause psychological stress and loneliness. Furthermore, the feeling of consistent pain can cause anxiety and depression.
It can also work both ways. According to a study in Arthritis Care and Research Vol. 66, chronic foot pain can also be a symptom, or manifestation, of major depression.