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Metatarsalgia, Hammer Toes, and Help for Foot Problems

Posted Jul 12 2009 10:20pm

I recently received questions from Deborah, who was surfing the web looking for help and possible exercise solutions for her chronic foot pain issues, she has been kind enough to let me add her questions, and my reply to my blog, so that anyone else out there searching for possible solutions for similar issues can benefit from this info.

Here are Her Foot Related Questions:

“I will be seeing a podiatrist in a couple of weeks to address “metatarsalgia” of the second and fourth toes of my right foot. My second toe has also been trying to become a hammer toe for quite some time. I had a bunionectomy 30+ years ago. This current situation came up once before about 12 years ago, got an orthotic at that time which “suspended” the second joint through a dip in the orthotic material. That doctor is no longer in this area, so going to a new doctor soon.

Any suggestions? Does your book specifically address what to do for the met. problem? I’m sure it does for hammer toe since that is listed in the description about the book. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.” - Deborah K.

And Here was My Reply:

Thanks for your inquiry! It’s not possible for me to give you any specific opinions about what to do to help your feet without actually seeing you for an appointment to get an idea of your posture, body alignment, and how you walk, sit, and stand. Sounds like your feet have had many years worth of medical assistance for improving alignment and structure.

As I’m not a podiatrist or medical professional, it’s great that you’re scheduled to see a doctor for an evaluation. From reading up on metatarsalgia it looks like the conservative treatments are rest, ice, pain-relievers, good shoes, and arch supports or metatarsal pads. Perhaps after an evaluation, your podiatrist will recommend some of this, or be familiar with other alternative treatments. It looks like if conservative treatment options don’t work, surgery to realign the metatarsal bones may be recommended.

Now, here’s my personal OPINION, having not seen your feet! In my experience, the specific toe and foot exercises that I’ve included in the Fantastic Feet book have helped many of my clients and workshop participants improve the strength, flexibility, and alignment of the foot. If the muscles of your toes, ankle, and arches are not appropriately strong and flexible the bones will not be held in the correct alignment.

Since we are on our feet for a lifetime of getting around (against gravity,) if things are not working optimally, sooner or later injuries and pain somewhere else in the body will appear. (Whether it’s the feet, knees, hips, back, or neck & shoulders…) Pain anywhere else in the body, could potentially be coming from issues at the feet!

I haven’t seen too many (if any) traditional fitness professionals spend time teaching clients about specific foot-care exercises. It’s generally accepted that if you’re wearing a good shoe and walking or running, you are exercising the feet. In my experience, lots can be improved with very easy exercises if people only knew what to do and how relatively easy it is to begin seeing a change. This is why I wrote my book Fantastic Feet!  Exercises to Strengthen the Ankles, Arches, and Toes, and began teaching Foot Fitness workshops!

If you spend any time at all wearing flip-flops, or shoes that do not have a strap across the heel… I would encourage you to throw them away, they are only aggravating the problems with your toes and metatarsals.

To answer your question about exercises in my book specifically addressing your metatarsal problem:

The exercises in the Fantastic Feet book are not written to read: if you have this problem, do this exercise, or that problem, do a different exercise, because I come from a background and philosophy that you can’t spot-fix a problem. It is actually the process of doing a series of exercises to work the feet (or body) in all directions that will help identify the strengths and weaknesses in your feet (and the rest of your body) and help provide optimal overall benefits to alleviate pain and help solve strength, flexibility, and alignment issues.

In my experience, I recommend clients starting with the Terrific Toe Series, which should begin to open the joints and re-train the muscles under the foot to work properly. If you have a high arch, your feet will feel flatter to the floor when you’ve finished the “toe series.” If you have a flat foot - you will notice that the arch is more lifted after the exercises. So the body will get what it needs by completing the full series of exercises which work the joints in all ranges of motion. This is started non-weight bearing with the assistance of the hands (chances are the toe muscles won’t be able to do the work because they don’t know how!) and over time props and toys are added, then semi-weight bearing, and back to a standing position.

I don’t think that I have ever had a copy of my book returned! But to ease your mind, there is a money-back guarantee. Consult with your podiatrist as to if he/she would recommend exercise as beneficial for your problems. You might even consider bringing a copy of the book with you to your appointment so they can see the things you would like to do if they feel it might be appropriate. Lots of things can be corrected with the right exercises in your weekly routine!

Hope this information is helpful to you. Drop me a note and give me an update - I always enjoy hearing how it’s going for folks and if you’ve had success in alleviating problems. I’m also available to travel and teach workshops - so if there is a Pilates studio, fitness center, or any place in your area that might be interested in hosting a Fantastic Feet workshop, let me know who to contact and perhaps I could see your feet live and in person to tweak your technique and personally show you the foot-care exercises in my book!

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If you have thoughts, questions, or suggestions about this post, please make a comment below.  The more information people can find to help enjoy a healthy life, the better!

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