Oh, My Aching Feet

Constant sitting behind the wheel of your truck and the repetitive motion of your foot on the clutch can lead to all kinds of foot problems. Diabetes and excess weight can make you feel even worse, but there are things you can do to prevent and treat your foot pain.

“Basically, one of the most common foot problems we see in truckers is plantar fasciitis, which is a strain across the bottom of the foot,” Dr. David Tachna, a podiatrist at Montclair Podiatry in Birmingham, Ala., says. “You can prevent that with appropriate shoe gear with good soles.”

According to the National Safety Council, there are about 120,000 job-related injuries in a given year; one-third of those are foot injuries. While well-fitting and structurally sound shoes may help prevent foot injuries or problems, there are other things that can help keep your feet in good shape.

“If you have a flat or a high-arched foot, a good supportive shoe and possibly a custom-made insert could help with foot problems,” Tachna says. “A lot of drivers also complain of swelling in the lower extremities. If it’s not cardiac-related, it usually results from sitting for so long. I recommend a light compression sock to relieve swelling and pain in the calf and foot.”

Footcaredirect.com says that bathing and drying feet thoroughly on a daily basis is important, and while doing this, it is helpful to check feet for corns, calluses and cracks. Toenails should be cut straight across and slightly longer than the end of the toe. Never trim or use over-the-counter medication for corns or calluses.

Got cold feet? Bundle up with insulated socks and direct heat vents downward to prevent injuries that are worsened by cold temperatures.

“Feet contract with cold and expand with heat,” according to community.healthgate.com. “Feet can change shape and increase in size by as much as 5 percent depending on whether a person is walking, sitting or standing.” Improper posture also causes foot problems.

Wear shoes that can repel water if this is a problem on your routes. Finally, protective footwear should be worn at home while using lawnmowers and chainsaws, and moving heavy objects.

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If your feet sweat a lot, you may be more prone to athlete’s foot. Wearing shoes made of leather or canvas, which are natural materials, may help your feet breathe. Changing shoes from day to day and using foot powder also helps.

“Achilles tendonitis is another problem for truckers,” Tachna says. “A higher-ankled shoe, like a boot, is good prevention for this.”

Footcaredirect.com warns that uncontrolled diabetes can lead to a lesion, which is a sore or ulcer, on the bottom of the foot. Treatment for this condition requires relieving the pressure and preventing infection to ultimately prevent neuropathy, which leads to the loss of a limb. With neuropathy, loss of sensation occurs and you may be unaware of developing foot sores. A podiatrist may peel away the ulcer to treat lesions. Padding can relieve the pressure on the ulcer, and the podiatrist may recommend a diabetic shoe or antibiotic medication. Massage and pain-relieving gel may also help. Always show foot ulcers to vascular surgeons, podiatrists, orthopedists or family doctors.

Foot pain is not normal. Always consult a doctor if you have problems.

The number of a local podiatrist may be obtained by calling 1 (800) ASK-APMA.

Top 10 Foot Problems

Achilles tendonitis
Description and Cause: Irritation and inflammation of the Achilles tendon, which attaches to the back of the heel bone; can be caused by improper warm-up or overtraining.
Treatment: Ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medications; any swelling or chronic pain should be assessed by a professional.

Description and Cause: Joints on the big toe are misaligned and can become swollen and tender, causing the first joint to slant outward and the second joint to angle toward the other toes; tend to be hereditary, but too-narrow shoes may aggravate it.
Treatment: Surgery by a podiatric physician is usually necessary.

Description and Cause: Usually stems from muscle imbalance and results in the toe bending to a claw-like position; usually occurs with the second toe.
Treatment: Alleviate aggravation by selecting roomy shoes and socks.

Heel spurs
Description and Cause: Growth of bone on the underside forepart of the heel bone; usually occur when the plantar tendon pulls at its attachment to the heel bone and this area calcifies to form a spur.
Treatment: Proper warm-up and athletic shoes can reduce strain to the ligament.

Ingrown toenails
Description and Cause: The corners or sides of nails dig painfully into the skin; caused by improper nail trimming, shoe pressure, injury, fungal infection, heredity or poor foot structure; twice as likely in women.
Treatment: Trim toenails straight across; select proper shoe style and size; pay attention to foot pain.

Description and Cause: Enlarged, benign growth of nerves, usually between third and fourth toes; caused by tissue rubbing against and irritating the nerves, ill-fitting shoes or abnormal bone structure.
Treatment: Use orthoses (shoe inserts); may require cortisone injections or surgical removal of the growth.

Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
Description and Cause: Usually an inflammation in the bottom of the foot.
Treatment: See a podiatric physician to evaluate arch pain; may
prescribe orthoses.

Description and Cause: Inflammation or rupture of the two small bones found beneath the first metatarsal bones; usually the result of exercise stress.
Treatment: Select proper shoes; use orthoses.

Shin splints
Description and Cause: Pain to either side of the leg bone caused by muscle or tendon inflammation; may be caused by overpronation (collapsing arch) or a muscle imbalance between opposing leg muscle groups.
Treatment: Stretch properly; use orthoses for pronation.

Stress fractures
Description and Cause: Incomplete cracks in bone caused by overuse; can become complete fractures if left untreated, which requires casting and immobilization.
Treatment: Complete rest will heal stress fractures; extra padding in shoes can prevent them.

Source: The Foot Health Foundation of America, a national health initiative of the American Podiatric Medical Association