Neuritis: When Fashionable Shoes Attack!

Over the years, many patients have said that they have long-standing foot pain but have ignored it because “it’s just part of getting old”. Foot pain is not normal! Pain is a response to an abnormal or excessive stimulus where the body is trying to tell you to stop and fix the problem. The feet are a very special area because they are in contact with the ground, they support the total weight of the body, they get jammed in all types of shoes, gravity takes excessive fluid to the feet causing swelling and they are the point where blood vessels and nerves end. There are numerous other reasons why the feet are unique but the nerves of the feet are of significant importance because they allow us to feel our environment so even basic walking and standing can occur. Nerves also conduct impulses to stimulate muscle contraction resulting in motion and they regulate blood flow, sweating and other activities. Inflammation of these very busy and delicate nerves is common.

Inflamed or irritated nerves can cause the sensations of sharp, burning and stabbing pain, tingling, “pins and needles”, a feeling of something stuck onto the foot, a feeling of walking on a rock or numbness. Because of the unique anatomy of the foot, nerves of the foot can become compressed or squeezed from pressure or from lack of adequate protection from ground forces. The onset of pain or numbness may be gradual or it may occur all at once depending on the intensity of the stimulus. Wearing shoes that are too narrow or with a very thin sole and lack of arch support are major causes of inflamed nerves in the foot. When purchasing shoes, you are commonly asked by the sales person “What size shoe do you wear?” but how often are you asked, “ How wide is your foot?” Most commonly, a B-width shoe is produced for you to try on and if you vocalize that the shoe seems tight, you are told, “You’ll break it in”. Sound familiar? The fact of the matter is that the extremely chic, innocent-looking shoes on you feet will probably break you before you will break them in. You will likely get a blister or have some sort of significant foot pain before those babies will stretch out. If this scenario is repeated over a lifetime, you can clearly see how this would affect the happiness of your feet. Nerves can be initially irritated but when continuously insulted over years, they can become permanently damaged. If only inflammation of a nerve exists, this can be treated with removal of the cause of the inflammation, by utilizing anti-inflammatory methods and nutritional means, padding, changes in shoe gear and custom shoe inserts (orthotics). When permanent damage to a nerve is present, more invasive means, such as surgery, may be warranted.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, come see one of our doctors and get on the road to recovery. Remember, pain-free feet are a step in the right direction!