Nearly 8 out of 10 Americans have experienced foot pain and those who suffer from chronic foot pain are significantly more likely to have pain in other parts of their body, according to a new survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).
Foot pain can have a profound impact on quality of life. Half of all adults say that foot pain has restricted their activities – such as walking, exercising, or even just standing. Yet only about a third would seek the care of a podiatrist.
“It’s not surprising to see how many people are affected by foot pain, when survey results show that we view our feet as the least important body part in terms of our overall health and well-being,” said APMA President Frank Spinosa, DPM. “Our feet are literally and figuratively the furthest things from our minds.”
The survey of 1,021 adults found that people with chronic foot pain are likely to have other health problems such as these:
- 65% Have back pain
- 59% Eyesight issues
- 58% Joint pain/arthritis
- 56% Weight issues
- 52% Knee pain
While foot ailments are widespread, familiarity and experience with a podiatrist is considerably lower. Most adults would speak with their primary care physician (60%) or do an Internet search (48%) to answer questions about foot health before seeing a podiatrist.
Among those who have visited a podiatrist, 88% said their podiatrist was able to quickly provide a diagnosis, and 76% said their podiatrist was able to prescribe an effective treatment or medication.
In addition, more than a third (34%) of those who visited a podiatrist said their podiatrist helped identify another health-related issue they had, such as diabetic neuropathy, circulatory problems, or nerve issues.
“Foot pain is never normal, and it’s critical that anyone experiencing chronic pain seeks care from an expert,” said Spinosa.
Ironically, one of the most common causes of foot pain is easily avoidable: Wearing high heeled shoes.
Nearly half (49%) of the women surveyed wear high heels even though the majority complained that the shoes hurt their feet.
Even chronic discomfort didn’t deter women from purchasing the strappy stilettos. The average woman who owns high heels has nine pairs.
Asked what they do when shoes hurt their feet, 38% of the women said they’d “wear them anyway if I like them.”
In spite of their extensive shoe collections, only 2% of women say they wear high heels every day, and just 5% say they wear high heels five days per week.
“With high heels, moderation is key. It’s best not to wear them every day,” said Matthew Garoufalis, DPM, past president of APMA. “Daily heel-wearing can cause the Achilles tendon, the strong tendon at the back of your ankle, to shrink. This increases your risk of an injury while doing activities in flat shoes, including exercise.”
Heel height plays an important role in preventing foot pain. Almost half of women say they can withstand wearing heels that are 3 inches or more.
“Heel wearers should avoid heels higher than two inches,” said Garoufalis. “Wearing heels three inches or higher shifts body weight forward, and puts great pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes.”
“Foot pain is never normal, and it’s critical that anyone experiencing chronic pain—from footwear or otherwise—seeks care from an expert.”