Podiatrist: Pandemic is leading to problems with people’s feet

The coronavirus crisis is beginning to impact people’s feet, according to a D.C.-area podiatrist with advice for what might help.

“We’re actually seeing a huge array of foot issues that have come from people who are now homebound because of the pandemic,” said Dr. Howard Osterman of Foot and Ankle Specialists of the Mid-Atlantic.

Osterman is the team podiatrist for the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics and consults with Georgetown University sports teams.

“We’re seeing a lot of heel pain; we’re seeing a lot of arch pain,” he said of patients visiting his Silver Spring, Maryland, and D.C offices.

Numbers of potential contributing factors include weight gain, people having more time to be active and people spending more barefoot time than usual on their feet.

“Do not go barefoot or in slippers (or flip flops) for the entirety of the day,” he said, recommending everyone wear shoes daily for three to four hours. “There’s also exercises you can do.”

An exercise to support good foot health that Osterman recommends is to use your toes to grip and release a towel or rolled up sock in multiple repetitions of 10 with the left foot, then 10 with the right foot.

“And what you end up doing is building strength to the muscles in your arch so that you’re getting less pain to the bottom of the foot,” he said.

When you hear people complain about heel spurs, arch pain or plantar fasciitis, Osterman said it’s all essentially interchangeable.

“The bottom of your foot is called the plantar surface. So, the plantar fascia is the big thick band of tissue that runs from your heel all the way up to the ball of your foot,” he said. “It goes all across the bottom of your foot and it’s the big suspensory strut to your arch.”

When you transition from sitting to standing and the foot wants to flatten out, the tension on the foot bottom’s band of tissue pulls away from where the ligament attaches to the heel bone; there also may be pulling in the middle of the arch or up by the base of the toes.

“All of that is plantar fasciitis by definition, but most commonly we hear it as heel pain,” Osterman said.

Foot pain also could be related to too much of a good thing.

“If you’re walking and you’re running extra mileage or you’re getting out and doing more walks. Those are all good things, but the question is: ‘Do you need an extra arch support?’”

Osterman’s tip for aching feet or to reduce inflammation: Roll an acupressure ball or frozen water bottle back and forth under the arch.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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