Considering how much people rely on their feet, knowing how to take care of them is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the general population still neglects foot health.
UK researchers found that 30 million Brits experience foot problems from wearing the wrong shoes. However, patients would rather endure foot pain than visit a podiatrist. These statistics raise concerns over society’s general disinterest in the possible deformities stemming from the use of ill-fitting footwear.
You might not notice it, but shoes are essential in protecting your feet. Something as simple as wearing shoes that fit correctly can cushion the underfoot, support spine alignment, and make walking overall more comfortable.
Not sure how to keep your feet healthy? Don’t worry—we can help! To give readers a proper starting point, we made a guide explaining the basics of foot care and the tell-tale signs indicating you already need medical advice.
7 Common Foot Problems Caused by Ill-Fitting Shoes
Unfortunately, overreliance also compromises your foot health. Issues vary on a case-by-case basis. However, most patients who place extra pressure on their feet experience the following complications:
1. Athlete’s Foot
Australians love walking barefoot on hot summer days. Not only does the activity feel refreshing, but research entails several psychological and spiritual benefits as well. Unfortunately, grounding also raises your risk of developing an athlete’s foot.
The athlete’s foot is a fungus infection that grows between the toes. In more severe cases, the fungus can spread from the toes all the way to the hands and nails.
Wearing ill-fitting shoes and walking barefoot in public spaces are the most common causes of foot and toe infection. Remember that the floor contains various bacteria. So while grounding may feel amazing, wearing shoes that fit properly is crucial in preventing any foot infection.
Consult a foot doctor or podiatrist as soon as you notice signs of fungus growth. You can mitigate mild symptoms by changing your footwear and taking over-the-counter medication, but people with diabetes or HIV might need urgent treatment.
Blisters are tiny little bubbles on the skin filled with clear serum, although some blisters contain blood. They commonly appear due to skin irritation and friction. For instance, your brand-new shoes may cause skin blisters if they do not fit properly and rub against your toenail or heel, among other parts of the feet.
Blisters are not a significant health concern. The pain and inflammation often subside once you stop using tight, narrow shoes. However, if your feet blisters continue to worsen, yet you refuse to get professional treatment, they might lead to skin infections.
With that in mind, make sure not to pop a blister prematurely. The fluid inside protects the fleshy part of the skin from further irritation, thus speeding up the healing process.
Corns rank among the most painful and common foot problems. These are small calluses and blisters along your feet. In most cases, corns stem from the excessive pressure of wearing tight, narrow shoes and high heels.
Hard Corns: Hard Bump on Top of the Toes
Several factors contribute to the development of hard corns, but they are commonly the result of consistently rubbing the toe joints against hard shoes. These appear on top of the toes. Also, hard corns look like small, kernel-sized calluses positioned in patches of thickened skin.
Soft Corns: Painful Bump Between Fourth and Fifth Toes
Soft corn has the appearance of a fleshy, infected blister. Most patients would describe them as a painful bump between the fourth and fifth toes, although they can also appear on the other toes. These cuts cause excruciating pain.
Seed Corns: Small Bump on the Soles
Seed corn appears at the bottom of your feet, commonly under the soles or toes. Similar to the other two types of foot corn, they also form due to friction between the feet on the skin and your shoes.
Bear in mind that you should never attempt to shave or pull foot corn yourself. A DIY approach poses the risk of further infections. Only a professional doctor can assess, diagnose, and treat your foot corn.
4. Ingrown Toenails
While ingrown toenails are not grave complications, the inflammation will not subside unless you get the proper treatment. For faster results, ditch the natural remedies and go straight to your podiatrist. Common foot problems like these will quickly go away with sufficient antibiotics.
Note: Apart from wearing ill-fitting shoes, ingrown toenails can also come from incorrectly trimmed nails. Cutting your nails too short exposes them to various bacteria. The risk also heightens if you use the clippers and nail files of other people.
5. Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis involves striking heel pain that runs straight across the feet. This pain stems from the inflammation of a thick band of tissues in the heel called the plantar fascia. Patients indicate that the first steps they take upon waking up hurt the most.
Several factors contribute to plantar fasciitis, but the inflammation commonly occurs among those who perform physical activities that place too much stress on their heels. (e.g., long-distance running). Furthermore, wearing ill-fitting shoes that don’t match your feet will aggravate the risks.
For fast, steady recovery, consult a physical therapist. They can put you on the proper health and wellness program consisting of simple, effective heel exercises.
Bunions are the bumps that form at the bottom of your big toe. This inflammation might seem like a sore muscle, but it’s actually a misaligned joint.
Furthermore, a bunion can cause your foot to clench. Worsening joint inflammation will curl your big toe toward the other toes, thus causing its base to protrude.
A patient with bunions will find it painful to move their big toe. And once the inflammation spreads throughout the foot and ankle, even daily tasks like standing or walking will seem impossible.
Research indicates that joint complications are hereditary. Your risk of developing a bunion depends on the structure of your big toe, foot, and ankle, although healthy lifestyle choices can mitigate the damages. Always stretch your toes, never wear ill-fitting shoes, and avoid flip-flops.
Patients can address mild inflammation by wearing the correct shoe size, taking prescription medication, and using a bunion corrector. However, bunions left unaddressed might require surgical treatment.
Not only do hammertoes cause excruciating pain, but they also make your feet look unusual. Many patients even feel insecure about this toe deformity.
Toes typically develop an unusual, bent shape when exposed to constant pressure, although the time it takes for the toes to buckle varies. For instance, people less prone to toe and nail problems can tolerate tight shoes for years. Meanwhile, others already show symptoms after a few months.
Whatever the case, rectify the situation as soon as signs of buckling appear. In the early stages, hammertoes are fairly easy to treat. Some patients can effectively alleviate the symptoms by switching to a more comfortable pair of shoes. However, if left untreated, hammertoes may eventually require surgery.
How To Wear Ill-Fitting Shoes
Everyone needs several pairs of shoes that fit correctly, but poorly fitting shoes don’t have to go straight to the trash. Some ways to make your tight, cramped footwear more comfortable include:
Breaking In New Shoes
Don’t worry if your brand-new shoes feel uncomfortable at first. They need to “break-in” so that their materials loosen and mould according to the unique shape of your feet.
Different pieces have varying adjustment periods. While thick leather shoes need three to four weeks to break-in, you can already exercise with new rubber shoes after a couple of days.
Pro Tip: We understand that you want to show off your new shoes right away. However, you cannot rush the break-in process. Wearing cramped shoes and high heels for long periods right away may cause heel pain, calluses, blisters, bunions, and fungus to develop.
Stretching Out Rubber Shoes With Ice Bags
For a better running experience, stretch your brand-new running shoes with ice before hitting the track.
- First, fill a couple of resealable freezer bags halfway with water.
- Afterward, stuff the bags into the shoe parts you want to adjust (e.g., sole, instep, ankle).
- Once the bags are secure, leave your shoes in the freezer for at least six to eight hours. Keep them away from cold cuts and meats, of course. The blood might stain your new shoes.
- Take the shoes out of the freezer and let them thaw for half an hour.
- Once the ice bags have softened a bit, carefully pull them out of your shoes.
- Thicker shoes may still feel uncomfortable after these, so feel free to repeat the process as many times as necessary.
Note: We used rubber shoes for this example, but you can perform this stretching technique on any shoe that doesn’t consist of leather.
Using Commercial Shoe Stretch Spray
Commercial shoe stretch sprays can loosen ill-fitting shoes, but make sure to choose the correct product-specific formula. Footwear materials react differently to various brands. As such, you cannot use the same products on all your leather, fabric, satin, denim, and nylon footwear.
Visiting a Shoe Repair Shop
If none of these quick fixes make your ill-fitting shoes feel more comfortable, visit your local shoe repair shop. Cobblers have professional tools to stretch shoes. Stretching the collar, soles, and topline will permanently resolve incorrectly sized shoes.
For overall more comfortable shoes, have your cobbler address other problems as well. Abrasion marks, flimsy tongues, and excess glue might not be as bad as asymmetrical footwear, but they can still hurt your feet.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Can ill-fitting shoes cause foot swelling?
Small, narrow shoes that restrict foot mobility will eventually cause swelling in the heel, toes, or joints. Fortunately, using shoes one size larger often provides instant relief.
What happens when you wear shoes that don’t fit?
Using shoes that do not fit properly constraints the feet. The excess pressure will initially cause mild discomfort, but prolonged usage may lead to toenail infections, skin abrasions, joint inflammation, and bone deformity.
Can tight-fitting shoes cause tendonitis?
Ill-fitting shoes place unnecessary stress on the foot tendons, thus causing inflammation. Engaging in strenuous physical activities will aggravate the irritation.
What can wearing tight shoes cause?
The consequences vary from person to person. For most people, using ill-fitting shoes may cause calluses or ingrown toenails to develop. However, preexisting conditions like diabetes or nerve damage increase the likelihood of infections, swelling, and cuts developing.
When To Consult a Foot Doctor
There is a common misconception that long-term foot pain is normal, but this is never the case. Under no circumstances should you ignore foot discomfort. Avoiding your doctor may cause even minor unease to develop into significant complications like nerve damage or plantar fasciitis.
Moreover, enduring these symptoms can drastically decrease your quality of life. Common foot problems will hinder you from engaging in physical activity. In the worst case, even a simple task like walking could cause unbearable pain.
Remember: you don’t have to put up with your aching foot. If you feel anything unusual in your lower legs, reach out to our podiatrist at Adelaide Foot and Ankle right away. We can provide a unique treatment plan customised to suit your individual needs.