Footwear, particularly high heels, rightfully gets a lot of blame for women’s foot problems. But other factors can play a role too—especially as more women stay active as they get older.
Years ago women weren’t exercising into their 80s and were rarely involved in challenging physical activities even in their 40s and 50s. Now women are engaged in activities that are just as intense as those men engage in, and yet their feet aren’t built to the same strength and complexity. So physicians say they are seeing more overuse and impact injuries in women.
The solution, says experts, isn’t to stop being active, but to be more proactive about foot pain when it occurs. Here’s a look at some of the most common foot problems for women.
Adult onset flat feet
When the posterial tibial tendon, which helps hold up your arch, begins to break down, it can eventually cause a painful flattening of the arch. Symptoms might include pain and swelling, often on the outside of the ankle, which will intensify if the condition is not treated. Treatment ranges from orthotics and anti-inflammatory medication in the early stages to possible surgery in later stages.
A foot stress fracture in a woman, particularly if she is pre-menopausal, can be a sign of a potentially greater problem: loss of bone mass. This complication is more common in extreme athletes such as triathletes and marathoners, but it can be a red flag for any active woman. Stress fracture treatment includes rest and possibly orthotics.
Heel pain tends to be caused by overuse, so the best treatment is prevention. Experts suggests replacing athletic shoes after they have about 300 miles on them, even if they still look new.
Sometimes problems higher up in the body can cause pain or other symptoms in the feet. Peroneal nerve dysfunction, for example, is characterized by foot numbness and drop foot, but it is simply a compressed nerve caused by crossing the legs. Tarsal tunnel syndrome, the foot-equivalent of carpal tunnel, results in pain and burning in the arch, but the real culprit is a pinched nerve near the ankle. Compressed nerves in other parts of the spine or legs can also cause foot symptoms, so be sure to tell your physician about any other problems you’re having when seeking help for foot problems.