Q&A With Your Podiatrist: Common Questions We Get Asked

Q&A With Your Podiatrist: Common Questions We Get Asked

Posted 4 Sep '23

When it comes to the health of our feet and legs, not to mention their complex function, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot that feels unknown or uncertain - unless you happen to be a podiatrist, of course. Our feet and legs are truly wonderful and highly dynamic parts of our body that do need a lot of care and attention, given that they’re responsible for holding up our body weight all day every day - often on only just one leg as we walk and transfer that weight.

So today, we thought we’d tackle a few of the most common questions we get asked by patients just like you in our appointments - because if others are asking it, we know there will be plenty more people wondering the exact same things at home. If you have a burning question about your feet and legs that we haven’t answered here, please don’t hesitate to email us and let us know - we may just dedicate an entire article to it to help!

1. What Can I Do At Home To Relieve My Foot Pain?

Given that previous surveys have found that at times, almost one in two Australians may wake up with heel, arch or foot pain at least once per week, and other Australian studies have shown that one in five people may have foot pain at any one time, this is a fantastic question.

The answer is that what you should be doing at home to relieve your foot pain will vary greatly depending on what’s causing your foot pain. If you’ve got some inflammation happening alongside your injury (think redness, swelling and pain), then things like using ice, resting and elevating the foot, using compression, and taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are likely to help you get some temporary relief (if it is safe for you personally to do so). 

If your foot pain is caused by a prominence on the bottom of your foot - like a corn or a wart beneath the big toe joint at the ball of your foot, then those may not work so well - but adding an off-loading pad to the bottom of your foot with a strategic cut-out for the corn and wart will help - for as long as you keep wearing the padding, anyway. If you have a strained Achilles tendon that has been this way for months, then adding a temporary heel raise inside your shoe could help. If you have painful bunions, you’ll need to discern whether the pain is from the joint itself, or from the shoes you’re wearing daily - the answers to which will change how to best approach your foot pain.

While doing things like stretching and strengthening are important once the cause of your pain and problem are addressed, and the healing process begins, in many cases they are not recommended while you’re still experiencing redness and swelling - as in these tender ‘initial’ stages, it’s often best to protect your foot and not place it under more pressure, which could lead to further damage. Wearing good, supportive footwear, however, is always a good idea - both inside and outside the home. They may not fix your problem - but they can help you feel a lot more comfortable in the meantime.

The moral of the story? It really depends on what’s going on with your feet, and the cause behind it. This is why so many people see their podiatrist as their first port-of-call so they understand what their injury is, what has caused it, and the best approach to treatment - both at home and professionally together with your podiatrist.

2. Will Orthotics Help Me?

The cheeky answer is that if we’ve prescribed you orthotics, then yes, your orthotics will go a long way in helping you recover from your foot pain and injury - and typically long beyond that to help prevent the problem from recurring. But does everyone need orthotics? No - they don’t. After all, orthotics are prescription medical devices that can only be created after a comprehensive examination with your podiatrist. We don’t count the supermarket or pharmacy insoles as ‘orthotics’ - as they’re just generic, one-size-fits-all cushioning pads at best.

This is such a great question that we’ve actually detailed the answer comprehensively in our blog article titled: will orthotics help me?

3. How Can I Get Rid Of My Athlete's Foot?

We think Athlete’s foot is such a common topic because it affects so many Australians, and it can be notoriously difficult to get rid of - often spreading through families or continuing to make recurrences over time. What you need to know about Athlete’s foot is that you’re dealing with a fungus that spreads through spores - meaning that once you have the infection, the spores from the fungus will be present in your shoes, socks, bedsheets, shower - you name it. This is one of the reasons that treating it can feel like such a battle - because most people will only ever try to treat it with a cream for their feet - and forget that the spores are still lingering in their shoes and socks, which can keep the infection going and going.

This is another one that we’ve written a dedicated blog article for - read it here.

4. What Are The Best Shoes For Flat Feet And High Arches?

This is a really good one. We’re going to assume you mean sports and exercise shoes to answer this question. If you mean school shoes - read this article. If you mean podiatrist-approved sandals and other fashion shoes, then visit our clinics - we have a range of shoes available that have our tick of approval while being comfortable, supportive, fashionable and much better for your feet compared to other options.

Back to the sports shoes - regardless of whether you have a flat foot or high arches, you always want to make sure your shoes have some staple features including a firm heel counter (the part that wraps around the back of your ankle), a firm midsole with some flexibility beneath the ball of the foot, that your shoes are made from high-quality materials that are made to last, and that they use laces or velcro - and are not slip-ons. 

Generally speaking, if you have flat feet, you’ll benefit most from joggers that offer excellent arch support and stability. Look for shoes with motion control features to prevent “overpronation” and may have some built-in arch support. Always choose shoes with removable insoles to give you the option of replacing them with custom orthotics as needed, as those with flat feet are more likely to develop foot pain or problems (though this is a big generalisatoin). Opt for shoes with ample cushioning to provide shock absorption and reduce the impact on the feet. Overall, stability, motion control, arch support, and cushioning are key factors to consider when selecting the best sports shoes for flat feet.

For those with high arches, sports shoes with extra cushioning are essential to provide shock absorption and reduce pressure on the feet. Look for shoes with a curved last to accommodate the higher arch shape and promote better weight distribution. A neutral or slightly cushioned shoe with good flexibility is ideal for high-arched individuals to allow for a more natural foot movement. You may also want to consider shoes with a softer midsole to absorb impact during high-impact activities. As high arches are associated with supination (rolling outward of the foot), we also recommend a shoe with stability features to limit that side-to-side movement.

5. Why Do I Need To See A Podiatrist If I Have Diabetes?

Been given a diabetes care plan to see a podiatrist but aren’t sure why? It’s because diabetes affects your feet in two key ways, which can put you at risk of some unpleasant and harmful complications. Specifically, for many with diabetes, they experience:

Combine these two effects, and there’s a significant risk of a person with diabetes developing a foot or leg ulcer - and they may not even know it initially. This is why it’s so important to have a podiatrist on your care team, especially as diabetic foot ulcers are a leading cause of preventable amputations in the lower limbs. We’ve actually written an article on the things that your podiatrist wants you to know if you have diabetes here. 

6. Is It Normal For My Feet To Ache At The End Of The Day?

This is a great question because it addresses the battle of what is “common” versus what is “normal”. Specifically, it’s natural to assume that after a day at work on your feet, it’s normal for your feet to ache, or become sore, or develop all sorts of pains or problems. The truth is that while it’s common to develop foot pain, especially if your feet aren’t being supported adequately or you have foot problems that aren’t being addressed properly, end-of-day foot fatigue or pain is not normal and is most definitely a sign that your feet could use some more care and support.

We work extensively with everyone from nurses to tradies to teachers to help them stay comfortable on their feet throughout the day and relieve those end-of-day aches.

7. Why Do My Corns And Calluses Keep Coming Back?

Feel like you can’t shake that corn or callus no matter how many times you treat it? That makes sense to us - because simply reducing the corn or callus, as great as it may feel, doesn’t actually do anything to stop it from coming back. Let us explain: corns and calluses arise from excess pressure over an area of your foot. It could be a wider area, leading to callus, or a smaller pinpoint area, leading to a corn. Either way, the corn or callus forms as a protective mechanism by your body that can sense the pressure, and doesn’t want your healthy skin to break down because of the forces it’s being exposed to. So it thickens.

Unfortunately, the thickening can quickly become uncomfortable and painful, which is where the problem with corns and calluses really starts. While debriding (reducing) the corns or calluses will help alleviate your discomfort, this is typically only temporary if you don’t address the cause of them - that high pressure. So they’ll keep coming back until you do. This is why when we reduce corns and calluses during our skin and nail care appointments, we’ll also discuss ways to help prevent them from coming back by addressing the likely causes (where possible), too.

8. Is It Normal For My Child To Have Flat Feet?

In your child’s younger years? Yes, it can be perfectly normal. In their later childhood years? Well - that really depends. Here’s everything you need to know about flat feet in children.

9. What Does It Mean If I Have Heel Spurs?

First thing’s first: a heel spur is a type of bony spur (outgrowth), or hard calcified area, that can develop on the bottom of the heel. Medically speaking, it’s called an osteophyte. It can look like a small spike or hook which faces the inside of the arch, following the same path as a soft tissue on the bottom of the heel called the plantar fascia.  Heel spurs develop in response to damage and strain to the soft tissues that insert at the bottom of the heel. Gradually, over many months, calcium deposits build up to form the spur. Heel spurs may also be caused by inflammatory arthritis, and may be encouraged by other problems like the breakdown of the fat pad of the heel.

So what does it mean if you have a heel spur? Honestly, sometimes it means nothing at all, even if you have heel pain. Most people are surprised to learn that approximately 1 in 10 Australians have heel spurs - regardless of whether they have heel pain or not. And of those that do have heel spurs, only 5% are estimated to experience any heel spur-related foot pain, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. This means that for most people, whether they have a heel spur or not will be unrelated to their heel pain.

So if you do have a heel spur but not heel pain - there’s nothing that needs to be done, and it’s likely that your spur won’t bother you in the coming years. If you have heel spurs and heel pain, then it means you need an assessment to understand whether your heel pain is being caused by the spur, or by something else - most often plantar fasciitis heel pain. In most cases, treating the plantar fasciitis gets rid of your heel pain completely, meaning you don’t have to worry about your spurs. It is much rarer (though still possible) to need surgery to remove the spur, which would only be discussed if other treatment approaches have failed, and only occurs in a very small percentage of people.

Any more FAQs for us to answer? Just email us - or if you need an appointment with our podiatry team, you can book it online here or call us on (07) 3356 3579.

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