As a runner, your feet are your best investment. Health issues which involve your feet can greatly impact your running career. These might include conditions like plantar fasciitis, hammer toe, and surprising to some, foot deformities.
Your feet are composed of your ankles, heels, and toes with each foot being made up of a whopping 26 bones connected by a complex web of muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
If any of these parts is altered or deviates from the normal shape of a foot in one way or another, then you may develop foot deformities. A reshaping of the feet can take place due to genetics or poor body mechanics. This, in turn, results in various medical conditions and deformities.
Examples of Foot Deformities
Congenital foot deformities are those that are already present at birth. On the other hand, acquired foot deformities occur as a result of an injury. Some examples of foot deformities include:
Typically, the arch of the foot somewhat flattens when it bears weight. However, in the case of pes cavus, or high arches, the arches don’t flatten even with weight-bearing. This condition can lead to associated deformities of the big toe and posterior hindfoot, as well as the development of claw toes.
Pes planus, or flat arches, can be either congenital or acquired. A congenital pes planus happens because the deformity only becomes more pronounced after skeletal maturity is reached. An acquired flat foot is often a result of an injury to the ligaments like in the case of a Lisfranc injury which involves the middle foot. People with arthritis and diabetes may also develop this foot deformity.
Also known as bunions, this condition is characterized by a deformity of the big toe joint. Prolonged use of ill-fitting shoes often puts pressure on the hallux or great toe, causing it to push towards the second toe. As time passes, the normal structure of the great toe will change, resulting in that painful bony bump you know as a bunion.
The hallux or big toe, as minute as it seems, plays a crucial role in how you carry your entire body. It’s actually what gives you propulsive force when you walk and run. Losing motion (hallux limitus) in the big toe will make the tissues and joints of your foot adapt to the loss of motion when you walk or run. This compensatory mechanism can increase foot strain, resulting in overuse and pain.
This refers to tightness in the calf and Achilles tendon. Your body will only be able to move effortlessly if there’s a fine balance in your feet’s range of motion, flexibility, and strength. When the muscles’ flexibility and range of motion are limited, it can lead to injuries, including equinus, which often leads to deformities of the ankle and foot.
A hammertoe (also known as a mallet toe) occurs when there’s an imbalance somewhere between the ligaments, tendons, or muscles that are supposed to straighten the toe. More often than not, ill-fitting shoes, trauma to the toe, or a certain disease can lead to a hammertoe deformity.
As a runner, you likely spend most of your waking hours on your feet, and you’ll probably be the first to admit that your feet are overused, abused, and overworked. Not only do you work your feet to the bone but you might also be wearing tight shoes all the time, which, as discussed above, can make your feet more susceptible to deformities.
Foot deformities are not something you can treat on your own. Yes, you can manage or alleviate the pain associated with the condition, but pain relief is temporary. If you want to find out what you can do to live with the deformities or if there are any lifestyle changes you need to make, consult with a podiatrist or foot doctor.