The feet are possibly the most maltreated and maligned part of the body. We cram our feet into tight, unyielding shoes, we stand or stomp around for hours at a time and, in case of women, often in high heels, and proclaim at the end of it all that “we hate out feet, they’re really ugly” or that “our feet are killing us.”
These unsung heroes of the body in fact perform two vital functions, namely to support the weight of the body and to act as a lever to propel the body forwards.
The foot is and extremely intricate and delicate structure, yet despite the abuse it often suffers, it stands up pretty well under the strain. Naturally, some people (especially sportsmen and women) do suffer injuries to the foot, particularly fractures of the metatarsals and phalanges (the bone of the toes). Deformities of the foot are also reasonably common and include talipes (club foot), flat feet, claw foot, and bunions (thickened, fluid-filled pads over the joint at the base of the big toe). Skin disorders are also common on the feet. Principally, these are conditions such as corns (small areas of thickened skin), often caused by tight-fitting shoes; plantar warts (veruccas) on the sole and athlete’s foot, a fungal infection which affects mainly the skin between the toes, causing it to become itchy, sore, and cracked.
An in-growing toenail is an affliction peculiar to the foot and, although it is the butt of many jokes, it can be and agonizing condition. It mostly commonly affects the big toes, causing painful inflammation of the surrounding tissues. Another painful condition which features heavily in comic material is gout, a fairly common form of arthritis which often affects the joints of the foot.
Flat feet tend to occur in small children and the elderly whose ligaments are generally slack. Virtually anyone who can bend their fingers right back or who is “double-jointed” will flatten out the arches of the feet when standing. If the feet ache, arch supports can be worn in shoes, but otherwise no treatment is necessary. Those who spend a lot of time outdoors during the winter months should watch out for frostbite in their toes. The first signs will be reddish-blue swellings when the blood vessels shrink so much that the supply of oxygen is severely reduced. Frostbite can have very serious consequences; in some cases, the affected area might have to be amputated.