More than three fourths (78%) of American adults age 21 or older have had one or more problems with their feet at some time in their lives, according to the National Foot Health Assessment 2012 1. While Ankle Sprains top the list of problems we have experienced, among the top five after Sprains are Blisters (anywhere on the foot), Calluses, Foot Fatigue, Cracked Skin, and Athlete’s Foot. Women in general are more likely than men to suffer from problems with their feet and significantly more likely than men to report suffering from Calluses, Foot Fatigue, Cracked Skin, Ingrown toenails, Blisters, Swelling, Plantar Fasciitis, and Corns. While nearly one in five (16%) consider the health of their feet to be “excellent,” about half of those adults interviewed (54%) were currently experiencing at least one of the foot ailments listed in the survey. While most people only experience mild to moderate pain, as self-reported in this research, there are those who experience high levels of pain. Meanwhile, there was a significant decline in visits to foot-related health care specialists and foot care product usage versus 2009 when the survey was last conducted. This could be a result of the recession and thus economic pressure on individuals to forego what might be considered “discretionary” medical attention. Some health care plans require primary care physician referrals for a podiatric physician office visit, while others do not cover consults or procedures considered “cosmetic” or without a medical diagnosis.
Poor foot health is associated with lower participation in fitness, athletic activities and leisure pursuits. Those with self-reported excellent/very good foot health are also the ones who report exercising frequently to stay in shape. Individuals who report fair or poor foot health are less likely to report being “active weekly in sports and fitness.” Consequently, foot health is negatively related to BMI, creating a real dilemma for overweight adults attempting to become more active and healthy. The researchers found:
•The “Very Overweight” are more likely to rate their foot health fair/poor (51%).
•The “Very Overweight” are more likely to currently be experiencing a foot issue (40%).
•The “Very Overweight” are more likely to be currently experiencing a high level of foot pain (16% rate their current foot pain 7-10 on a 10 point scale).
•The “Very Overweight” are less active in fitness/sports activities (32%).
Aside from the correlation between poor foot health, lack of exercise, and high BMI, is the importance of identifying and addressing other culprits to foot problems such as abnormal gait and poorly fitting shoes. According to this same survey, very few adults (7%) report having their walking gait analyzed for biomechanical abnormalities the last time they purchased shoes. It is no secret that properly fitted shoes are a first line of defense in fall prevention, especially in those whose gait, balance, or leg strength is compromised. And safe ambulation for reaching the toilet when the urge strikes is imbedded in NAFC’s continence care message!