Foot Health Awareness Month: How Well Do You Know Your Feet?

4 min read

Footprints on a sandy beach leading to a calm, foamy sea.

Aches and pains plague us all sooner or later — it’s just a fact of life. But what you may not know is that your sore knee, hip, back, or neck can be caused by an issue with your feet, and problems can exist long before you experience that pain. That’s why foot health — and Foot Health Awareness Month — is so important. In this article, you’ll discover some need-to-know facts, common issues, and potential solutions to help treat your feet right.

Your feet are unsung heroes — and footwear is important

By the time we turn 50, many of us will have walked up to 75,000 miles. Understandably, our feet take the brunt of this stress, while factors such as profession also have an impact. A recent study showed that up to 79% of UK retail and hospitality workers spend between four and ten hours on their feet each day, directly impacting not only their quality of work but also their physical and mental well-being.

A timeline showing how physical and mental wellbeing suffer the longer people stand, using blue arrows and stick figures on a black background.

Most interesting, however, is that the type of footwear also clearly impacted the pain these workers feel — and where they feel it. Whether you work in this industry or not, ensuring that your footwear fits well, offers adequate support for your ankle, heel, and arches, and provides the grip you need for the surface you’ll walk or run on, is incredibly important to maintaining a healthy, pain-free body.

Sometimes, however, the perfect pair of shoes is not enough. If your feet require additional support, swapping out the standard insoles for corrective orthotics that meet your needs is highly recommended. Not only will this help you move more comfortably, but it will also help to prevent further harm over time, including some of the most common foot-related concerns.

Over-the-counter or custom-made?

Say you decide to invest in a pair of orthotics — what are your options? Generally speaking, your choices will range from standard, over-the-counter insoles that are only adapted to your shoe size to tailored orthotics with varying levels of customization. Which you should choose depends on your condition.

If your feet and gait are considered normal, there’s no wrong decision — standard orthotics certainly won’t do any harm and will likely provide extra comfort and support. But before you make that decision, it’s important to find out precisely what you need. The best way to do that is to visit a specialist who can identify issues with your balance, the areas of pressure, and more that could be helped by opting for specific corrections. You’ll learn more about what that process might look like later in the article.

Common issues

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), around 20% of Americans suffer at least one foot problem each year. Many of these will be minor yet chronic discomforts that can be avoided with the right precautions. These range from short-term issues like sprains, strains, fractures, and fungal infections to permanent concerns such as those related to arch height.

The latter is particularly important. Both high arches and flat feet (collapsed arches) can cause pain, as they impact how much pressure is applied to different parts of your feet. Ensuring your footwear has sufficient arch support — normally with the help of custom orthotics, depending on your needs — is the best way to avoid unnecessary foot pain.

A clear solution is to treat your feet with the same due diligence you do your eyes and teeth. Booking regular checkups with a foot and ankle specialist is ideal, whether you're already feeling the effects of one of these common concerns or not.

Healthy feet, healthy body

It may not be obvious at first glance, but issues that begin in your feet may present themselves elsewhere — knee pain, a sore back, or shoulder imbalance are common signs that something is not quite right further down. Correctly analyzing the root cause is an essential aspect of treatment. Using tools like the footscan pressure plates and footscan software found in Materialise Phits Suite, specialists can measure and assess your gait, pressure zones, roll-off, and other areas at risk of causing injury over time.

“We may have a patient come in that doesn't necessarily have a foot injury, and we would still use footscan initially for an evaluation to diagnose any dysfunction,” explains Guy Sweetman, a Sports Therapist and Clinic Director at East Devon Physical Therapy. “It could potentially show pelvic dysfunction, which could affect the posterior swing going up the back of the patient’s body and affecting the shoulder.”

Having witnessed similar issues in her role as a physiotherapist, Eef Lantin from Groep Sam echoes those sentiments.

“We saw people return (to the practice) with back pain every few months. So we took a deeper look and found out that the cause of the problem is often the feet,” she tells us. “When the patient walks over the (footscan pressure) plate, it’s immediately clear in the system what’s really happening.”

Prevention is better than cure

The saying might be a bit old-fashioned, but it’s a great motto to live by when it comes to your foot health — and the solutions available to you are certainly as up-to-date as they come. So, rather than wait for any potential problems to appear, why not visit a foot and ankle expert to ensure they don’t? It’s an opportunity to learn something new about your body and your movement, assess your risk of injury, and find out if orthotics are right for you — even if only for a little extra daily comfort.

With modern technology, these assessments have never been easier for either patients or professionals. Years of extensive research by biomechanical engineers, foot doctors, and experts led to Materialise Phits Suite — a tool for objective, data-driven diagnosis that works as follows:

Step 1: Walk over a pressure plate

First, you’ll walk over a unique pressure plate that captures your information. This differs from traditional, static methods such as eye-balling, foam boxes, messy plaster casts, or even digital static pressure plates because it measures your foot pressure while moving. This dynamic data of your gait and pressure points paints a picture of the strains they face in real-life situations.

Step 2: Understand your issues — and what makes you unique

Using software built on years of ongoing clinical research, your specialist will analyze the data and explain what they see. You’ll get a firsthand look at your pressure maps, the root cause of any issues, and advice on how to solve them. This data is used to design orthotics tailored to your feet and specific way of walking, if you need them.

Step 3: If necessary, order orthotics that fit your movement and your lifestyle

3D printing experts create all phits orthotics based on your specialist's design. Unlike old-fashioned manual methods of manufacturing orthotics, 3D printing guarantees accuracy and ensures your insoles are lightweight, durable, and based on your unique digital footprint. Long-lasting, comfortable, and slim, your orthotics will support you for years, slipping perfectly into your favorite dress shoes or sneakers. No more worrying about what traditional bulky insoles mean for your wardrobe!

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