Teaching is a profession that is known to be physically demanding, right down to the floor. Podiatrist Sara tells us about two common conditions she sees in her teacher patients and offers some great, professional tips for preventing future foot conditions and alleviating current pain.
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Foot Conditions Teachers Need to Know About – Full Episode Transcript
Bron: Teachers, welcome to For the Love of Teaching this week. I’m back with Sara, who is a professional podiatrist from Frankie 4 Footwear, and Sara is coming back to talk to us more about specific foot conditions, but she’s going to talk a third, two super common and fixable conditions that you can overcome. So welcome, Sara. Thanks for being here.
Sara: Nice to be back. Thank you. And if you want to listen to last episode with Sara, you can just find that by searching in the, in your app, because we talked about some really important things and some common mistakes that teachers make with their foot health. So we will jump straight in.
What are the conditions that teachers are essentially prone to due to the line of work that we’re in?
Sara: I guess there are a few conditions, but I’ve chosen two today. One that affects the back of the foot. So underneath the heel and one that affects the forefoot. Of course, there are probably many other things I could talk about, but I just feel these two are super common. So I thought it was a good place to start. So the first one is plantar fasciitis, and that’s probably a word that a lot of you have heard, whether you’ve actually had plantar fasciitis or not. You probably know someone who has, if you haven’t, and that’s actually a really painful condition underneath the heel, as opposed to behind the heel, which would be thinking about Achilles tendon sort of pain.
Foot Condition #1: Plantar Fasciitis
Sara: So the plantar fasciitis affects where the plantar fascia attaches underneath the heel bone. And you get quite a chronic pain really bad when you first hop up in the morning because you’ve been still all night. So putting weight on that heel when you first hop out of bed tends to be excruciating and it can warm up a little bit or even become pain-free for a few hours. But of course, with teaching you then stand on your feet all day. And the pain tends to creep back in toward the afternoon and become quite severe again in the afternoon.
So it’s a condition that affects women a lot, and we don’t really know why it could be hormone related, could be that women seek help for their conditions more than men. And it could be the type of jobs we choose. It could be that women are on their feet a lot more than men.
So this condition plantar fasciitis, it’s so widespread, basically we want to support, support the foot. And, and that could mean supporting the arch if you’re someone who has a very flat foot.
So the functional footbed in our shoes provides arch support for that medial arch or the arch that runs down the middle of the foot. And what that means is that instead of your arch collapsing, it’s held up in its natural position, which takes the tension off that plantar fascia, which is basically a big elastic band running underneath the foot attaching onto that heel bone.
So again, imagine a flat foot, the elastic band being pulled and that pain where that band attaches onto the heel bone. Whereas if we pop the arch support underneath that, it takes the tension off, reduces that pulling on the sore spot. And then in contrast, if you have quite a high arch foot tight, which is also a risk factor for the disease, you tend to sort of carry all your body weight on the heel and on the ball of the foot. It’s not really spread out evenly. So that, that foot bed with the arch support helps to spread your body weight evenly throughout the foot. And, and sort of take away those sort of pressure points and hotspots under the foot and reduce that pain at the heel that way.
Bron: Yeah, I’m just thinking, as you’re speaking, this makes so much sense to me because we’re putting our entire body weight on such a small limb. Like our feet are relatively small. And when you, when you say for someone with a high arch putting it onto those two points at the front and the back of the foot even reduces how that is sort of like yeah distributed across the foot. So it makes total sense that that is a super common ailment or what are we saying condition for teachers? So yeah, even though the name sounds a bit scary, plantar fasciitis.
Sara: Yes, and not many people can pronounce it.
Bron: I’m giving myself a little high five, I’ve been practicing that one. So yeah. So what are the tips that you can give us to give the heel some immediate relief if listeners are thinking, “Oh my gosh, that’s me. Every day, I wake up with this excruciating sharp pain in my heel.” This could be you, what can they do?
How do we treat Plantar Fasciitis?
Sara: Well, I guess when people have that, you know, really severe pain under the foot, they want to reach for something really soft. There’d be nothing worse than having the feeling of something hard under the foot. And I guess a big problem that a lot of people run into is they either reach for something really soft, but it doesn’t support that arch. So you’ve got either your arch collapsed or your really high arch foot type in, yes, you’ve put cushioning under it. So it might feel nice, but you’re not actually, you know, helping to resolve, you know, the cause of the issue. And then on the other hand, some people do go and get prescribed a really firm orthotic, but they don’t have the right footwear to put that orthotic in. So whilst there’s nothing wrong with a firm orthotic, if you’re putting it in a terribly hard shoe, it’s not going to feel nice.
So yeah, what we want to do is give foot immediate relief and we do that through our cushioning. So the custom moulded soles have that layers and layers of cushioning under the foot. Researchers has told us that that will help relieve foot pain as opposed to a flat surface support, the arch long term, which can help sort of basically resolve the cause of why you got plantar fasciitis in the first place for a lot of people, it’s the only treatment required.
I saw so many people in private practice that had already sort of spent lots of time and money looking for solutions, but they were only ever given one piece of the puzzle. So an orthotic, but no appropriate footwear to wear it in, for example, whereas my first point of treatment for plantar fasciitis is always change the shoes.
Can the foot condition Plantar Fasciitis be cured?
Sara: There are people who get it once and never get it again. But then of course there are people who are more prone to it. It is a chronic condition. It can come back, but fortunately the second time people start to feel those symptoms. They kind of know what to do if they’ve been on holidays, for example, walking around the house barefoot, not at work, they reach for those shoes. They were wearing to work that, fixed it the first time and they can probably get rid of it quite quickly.
But I think people get scared because there’s a bit of a myth out there that, Oh, plantar fasciitis, I’ve heard so many funny things said about it. Like, “It’ll take 12 months to heal. There’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to wait that amount of time”, which is absolutely not true.
Bron: It must be yeah, you must see some interesting things in your job must be pleasantly surprising, a lot of people as well. So I think we’re going to skip ahead to our next top favourite condition if we’re going to put it that way. And I’m going to get you to tell us about this one it’s Morton’s Neuroma. Did I get that one right?
Foot Condition #2: Morton’s Neuroma
Sara: Yes, that’s right. Morton’s Neuroma. And it’s a condition of the forefoot. A neuroma involves the nerve. So in our forefoot, we have five little nerves running down toward our toes and the nerves sort of sitting between our long bones in the forefoot. And when one of those nerves sort of becomes a bit irritated it can enlarge to the size of a pea or the size of a marble. Sometimes you can even feel one by touching the person’s four foot it’s it’s become so large.
So a Morton’s Neuroma is when that little lump appears between the third and the fourth metatarsal bone. And that is the most common location just because of the way the foot works. So I guess that’s why that one has its own special name. So you can get them in other spots, but the Morton’s is common and we see sharp pain, burning pain, stabbing pain, and then even tingling and numbness, all the things you’d associate with nerve.
So I think to an extent it can be a little bit worse than just that achy pain, because the pain can seem so much more extreme from a Morton’s Neuroma.
Bron: Yeah. So you would know if you’ve developed this one, you would.
Sara: Yep. You might say, Oh my third and fourth toe is numb or every time you get up in the morning and you feel like you’ve stood on a knife or something like that.
Bron: What are the best things that you can do to help fix this problem?
Sara: There are a number of things. So I guess we touched on with plantar fasciitis that, there were two arches in the foot, so you’ve got that middle arch, which we know needs to be supported.
But then I guess that lesser-known arch through the forefoot, the transverse arch of the foot, and that basically holds those five little metatarsal bones and an arch. Now, if that arch collapses the nerves that run between those bones can get squashed and over time, you’ll develop that little lump and develop that Morton’s Neuroma. So we want to support that transverse arch of the foot by a functional foot bed has transverse arch support and cushioning as well. So we’re holding the foot in its natural shape. We’re not trying to move it into an abnormal position or anything. We’re just trying to stop it from collapsing.
So holding up that arch will take the pressure off an existing Morton’s Neuroma, but also it will help prevent one from occurring. It’s very hard to put a shoe on with Morton’s Neuroma because wrapping the shoe around the forefoot is squeezing the problem. So we need to give it that space that tightness and ill-fitting shoes can be the cause of that nerve pain. But also if it’s not the cause it’s going to aggravate it all day.
Is Morton’s Neuroma, is that more of an issue with people wearing high heels?
Sara: It’s probably a bit more common with people wearing heels because every centimetre you raise your heel up the pressure on your forefoot increases, and you can imagine your body weight should be spread nice and evenly throughout your feet, but the higher your heel goes, the more weight you’re carrying and it sort of centres in on that middle portion of the forefoot, it’s been studied a lot.
And that’s how we know exactly how much your weight shifts in high heels, because there’s so many studies using sort of pressure plates that people walk across and that sort of thing to see where your body weights going in this level of heel and this level of sort of know the ideal height and everything like that. You shouldn’t wear high heels all day every day, but we know people want to wear high heels.
So why do we see Morton’s Neuroma among teachers?
Sara: It just gets back to that same thing. Well as plantar fasciitis, they are standing all day. And I think a lot of the time in addition to that, it’s the footwear choices that they’ve made. So as I sort of touched on earlier, when you sort of young and first out of uni, first job, you you’re buying the prettiest shoe you can see probably for the cheapest price and it’s not offering me any support. I think a lot of it comes down to dress requirements as well.
So I know that some schools require a more corporate sort of look. So people are probably going for heels or, you know, that ballet flat look that offers no cushioning, no support. And it’s tightly fitted.
Bron: Yeah. With school holidays coming up soon, like it would be a really good time to just evaluate your wardrobe anyway. And then also, you know, see if there’s a couple of key pieces for your feet that you could add in there and also get you safely through the rest of the school year. So it’s never too late where, you know, it rolls on.
Cool, Sara, thank you so much for popping in and giving us your professional information and all of your time and research that you’ve put into this and sharing with us.
Sara: Thank you for having me. I really enjoyed it.