It probably won't come as a surprise to hear that women's feet are different from men's feet in a number of ways. Because of that, there are a number of foot issues that affect women more than men. In this guide, we'll cover common foot problems women (and some men) face and how to address them and the foot pain they cause.
Bunions are one of the most common foot issues. A bunion is a bony protrusion that develops along the outside of the big toe. The bone and tissue surrounding the joint (metatarsophalangeal, MTP) becomes misaligned due to undue pressure on the toes.
The main cause of bunions are improper biomechanics. If the foot puts too much stress on the MTP joint, bunions can form. People with flat feet and low or fallen arches are more susceptible to developing the condition. Other causes include:
While ice, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, and bunion pads can help alleviate pain, once a bunion forms, only surgery will truly fix the problem. That is why it is important to take care of your feet before bunions form.
Because biomechanical problems cause bunions, it is important to fix any irregularity in your stride. Insoles with superior arch support are key. Reduce the time spent in high heels and choose shoes with roomy toe boxes.
Corns and calluses are thickened areas of skin that develop on areas of the foot. They are caused by friction between your foot and your shoes. Calluses form on the skin of the bottom of the foot. Corns appear on the top or the side of the toes. There are three main causes of corns and calluses:
To prevent foot issues like corns and calluses, make sure you:
Many professional women struggle to balance comfort and fashion in their shoe choices. Conditions caused by high heels consistently rates as one of the most common foot pain problems for women. High heels can cause:
There are ways to wear high heels and avoid the most common foot pain conditions:
Ballet flats are also an option for women's professional wardrobe. Flats distribute weight more evenly over the entire foot, but their lack of support can lead to other problems, including overpronation.
The best way to provide extra structure in ballet flats to help prevent foot issues is by using arch support insoles.
Hammer toe is an unsightly and painful condition in which the toe bends abnormally at the first joint and ends up looking like an upside-down V. The condition most often occurs in your second to fifth toes.
Hammer toe is more common in women than men. High heels and shoes with tight toe boxes can cause the condition. Poor shoe choice is aggravated by underlying biomechanical irregularities including:
Flat feet –As your arch over flattens, your toes are forced to stabilize the foot. This causes increased pressure on the toe joints.
High arches – People with high arches often have imbalances in the different tendons in the toes (extensor and flexor), which can result in hammer toes.
Bunions – Bunions will push your big toe towards the littler ones. This can put undue stress on the smaller toe joints.
It is important to wear comfortable shoes with wide toe boxes. Supportive insoles can also help take the pressure off your hammer toe.
Morton’s Neuroma is an inflamed or enlarged nerve in the metatarsals (toes). It is more common among women than men. This is mainly due to overuse of high heels and tight shoes. It is important to choose proper footwear to prevent the condition.
Symptoms include pain, tingling, and swelling in the toes and ball of the foot. It can often feel like you have a pebble stuck in your shoe.
The main causes of Morton's Neuroma include:
Most foot specialists will recommend insoles to both treat and prevent the condition.
While foot issues may be inevitable during pregnancy, there are specific ways pregnant women can take care of their feet:
Runner’s knee (Pattellofemoral Pain Syndrome, PFPS) is a common injury among runners. The condition is more common in recreational runners than their elite counterparts. Women are twice as likely to develop runner’s knee than men.
PFPS is when the knee becomes irritated. Running often triggers the patella (kneecap) to rub the femur (thighbone).
Overtraining—or a sudden increase in training—can set off PFPS. But imbalance is the underlying cause of runner’s knee. There are two types of imbalance:
Because women tend to have wider hips, their thighbones often meet the knee at a greater angle. This puts the kneecap under more stress. Insoles can help support the particular issues women face with runner’s knee.
Stress fractures are high on the list of the most common foot issues. While both men and women can develop stress fractures in the feet and legs (an injury where the bone weakens to the point of developing small cracks), female athletes develop these injuries at a higher rate than male athletes. Moreover, older women who have gone through menopause also need to be careful about bone injuries including stress fractures. Estrogen helps your bones process the calcium it needs for optimal growth, and the reduced presence of this hormone in the body can lead to osteoporosis.
There are several causes of lower-extremity stress fractures:
If you eat healthy, train correctly, and wear proper footwear, you can greatly reduce the risk of stress fractures and other common foot problems. Wearing arch support insoles can correct biomechanical issues that lead to improper stride, uneven impact absorption, and most importantly, stress fractures.
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Pronation is the inward rolling of the foot as a step is taken. Over pronation occurs when the foot rolls too far inward before you push off to move forward. When this inward rolling motion goes too far, the alignment of the foot is compromised and there is a loss of efficiency in every step you take.
Flat feet occur when the entire bottom of your foot touches the ground when you’re standing. Flat feet can occur when your arches don’t develop properly during childhood or from environmental factors. Learn about your flat feet and what you can do to improve comfort and avoid injury.