Happy Feet

Truckers are susceptible to several common foot ailments.

We’ve all heard that the eyes are the window to the soul, but who knew that the feet are the mirrors of your health?

The average person probably wouldn’t, but foot doctors, aka podiatrists, know that foot ailments can signify much greater medical conditions like diabetes, arthritis and nerve or circulatory disorders.

Since three out of four Americans experience serious foot issues in their lifetimes, it is important to know about potential problems and treatments to ensure that your tootsies don’t prevent you from driving. With one-fourth of the body’s bones and the weight of a whole body on them, the feet have a lot of potential problems.

Because of the work they do, truckers can be susceptible to foot problems. It is essential to recognize them, if possible, before they become a problem that affects your ability to work.

Heel trouble
According to podiatrist Dr. Robert Hope, heel pain is possibly the most common problem among drivers because they prop their feet on their heels for hours at a time. The pressure applied to the heel can cause plantar fasciitis, which is the inflammation or stretching of the plantar fascia, a broad band of fibrous tissue that runs along the bottom surface of the foot from the heel through the midfoot to the forefoot. It is usually caused by a biomechanical problem like over-pronation from flat feet, but the inactivity of driving can contribute to the problem. Often, the pain will be most intense in the morning or after long trips from inactivity because movement helps warm up the muscles and ligaments in the foot.

“The long periods of rest behind the wheel make the feet stiff and hurt even worse when they get up,” says Hope.

Weight is another factor in heel pain. Because of the inactive lifestyle of driving, a lot of drivers can be overweight, which can add even more stress on the feet. “Extra weight can increase the pain of everything from an ingrown toenail to a bunion,” says Hope.

Being overweight and having stiff feet can be a painful combination when a driver gets out of his truck. Drivers tend to jump down out of their trucks, further irritating any heel pain.

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To treat heel pain, you must absorb the impact, provide cushioning and elevate the heel to transfer the pressure. Because a driver cannot prop one foot up while driving with the other, other devices such as a heel cup, a visco heel cradle or an orthotic designed to absorb shock and sheer forces should be used to treat the pain. You can find these devices at online retailers like www.insole.com, but consider getting these orthotics through your podiatrist to ensure that you are getting the appropriate treatment.

Proper footwear selection can also impact foot comfort. Shoes with a firm heel counter, adequate arch support and moderate heel height are ideal to avoid heel pain.

Tough as nails
Toenail fungus is a major problem for more than just truck drivers. Approximately 5 percent of people have toenail problems within a given year, but half of all Americans will have a toenail fungus by the age of 70, according to this site.

Toenail fungus infections occur when microscopic fungi enter the nail through a small cut and thrive in the warm, moist environment created by socks and shoes. You can identify a toenail infection by symptoms such as swelling, yellowing, thickening or crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots on the nail, or even the complete loss of the nail. Toenail color can vary from yellow or brown to white.

A toenail fungus can be picked up in public gyms, shower stalls or swimming pools. People who wear tight-fitting shoes or hosiery that prevent the feet from drying properly are at a higher risk. Other risk factors are those with abnormal pH levels in the skin and with compromised immune systems from conditions like diabetes.

Because it is difficult to eradicate a toenail fungus, it is a good idea to prevent them from ever occurring. To prevent toenail infections, wear protective shoes while in public gyms, showers or swimming pools, don’t borrow someone else’s shoes or socks, wash your feet regularly and dry them thoroughly when they get wet, keep toenails trimmed and be sure to disinfect any pedicure tools before using them.

If you have a toenail fungus, see a podiatrist for treatment. Depending on the severity of the fungal infection, a doctor may remove as much of the toenail as possible by filing, clipping or dissolving. In the case of a serious infection, a doctor will prescribe an oral antifungal medication or a medicated nail polish.

Athlete’s foot
Another common fungal infection is athlete’s foot, which occurs between the toes or on the sides and soles of feet and causes red, dry, flaking skin, and sometimes pain and itching. While athlete’s foot is easily treatable, it can spread to the nail and cause chronic toenail infections if left untreated. It can also spread to other parts of the body if scratched and transferred elsewhere.

Athlete’s foot is contracted in the same conditions as those of a toenail infection: public gyms, showers and swimming pools or other warm, damp areas. The name comes from the fact that athletes’ feet are often in favorable conditions for contracting fungal infections.

Once a foot comes into contact with fungal spores, the spores can enter through cracks or sores on the feet and can spread if the feet are not washed and dried immediately afterward.

Athlete’s foot can be prevented by washing the feet with soap and water, wearing dry socks and shoes, not wearing anyone else’s footwear, using foot powder to keep feet dry and wearing protective footwear in public showers and pools.

If you do contract athlete’s foot, there are good over-the-counter remedies, but if the problem persists see a podiatrist.

If you are in an unfamiliar area, you can locate a podiatrist in the area at this site.

Guide to Healthy Feet

  • Wash your feet. Many fungal infections can be avoided by simply washing the feet with soap and water, then drying them thoroughly. Washing them is also good for eliminating foot odor.
  • Do not walk barefoot. Walking without shoes or socks can cause plantar’s warts because the virus enters through a cut on the foot.
  • Do not soak your feet. According to podiatrist Dr. Robert Hope, a common misconception about feet is that soaking them is a good thing. “Soaking the feet is not recommended because it dries out the feet and causes cracking,” said Dr. Hope. Cracks in the feet can leave one more susceptible to infection because fungal spores like athlete’s foot take root in deep crevices in the feet. Thus, the fewer cracks, the less room for fungal spores.
  • Wear appropriate footwear. There are three types of feet, which are distinguishable by low, medium or high arches, and wearing shoes to meet your feet’s needs will make a big difference in how your feet feel at the end of a day. Typically, low arches need stability, medium arches need mild cushioning, and high arches need a lot of cushioning. If your feet are not getting the proper support, then every part from your toes to your knees and even your upper back can experience pain. To identify your foot type, go to www.foot.com.
  • Take a hike. Walking is the best exercise for your feet because it improves circulation, controlls weight and promotes an overall sense of well being.
  • Trim your nails. Nails should be cut as they are shaped on a regular basis. This will help ward off toenail infections, ingrown toenails and toe pain from the pressure of shoes on the nails.
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