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Healthbeat 4: The importance of healthy feet and ankles

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Sioux City, Iowa (KTIV) -- Whether we're young or old, our feet and ankles are the driving force of many of our daily functions and the foundation for our bodies. That's according to Dr. Valerie Tallerico, UnityPoint Clinic Foot And Ankle Specialist.

Dr. Tallerico says our feet support the entire body and any impact on it.

What's below the surface helps us further understand the importance of our feet and ankles.

Dr. Tallerico say each foot has 28 bones, 33 joints, and a network of more than 100 ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves. If that important network in our feet isn't healthy, the biomechanics and functionality of the entire body is affected.

The heel, the largest bone in the foot, takes the most impact with every step we take.

They are the rocks of our body's foundation. We depend on our feet and ankles for a lot of what we do.

"Without good foot and ankle health, we can't do our jobs, we can't exercise, we can't do sports, we can't play with our kids, or whatever it is that we love to do on a daily basis," said Dr. Tallerico.

When we have a hunch something isn't quite right, we tend to ignore the signs that our feet or ankles, may need some attention. Just ask Dr. Tallerico, who along with her husband, Dr. Kosta Antonopoulos, run the UnityPoint Clinic Foot And Ankle.

"A lot of us think that, you know, if we have pain or some deformity, that it's normal, it's going to go away. It's not going to get worse. And a lot of people think that we have to have this big injury or this big trauma to the foot for it to be validated," said Dr. Tallerico.

In reality, doctors often see patients who are suffering from common, every-day overuse injuries. It's the normal wear and tear from being on our feet every day.

"So we're seeing tendon injuries, ligament strains, foot strains, destruction of joints, and unfortunately, the longer they wait, the worse it gets. And it can be harder to treat and less available treatment options," said Dr. Tallerico.

Other foot ailments include bunions, hammertoe, plantar fasciitis, and heel and arch pain.

People of all ages often see a doctor for flat feet, when the arch is collapsed and feet roll inward causing pain in the arches and ankles.

Heel pain or plantar fasciitis is common, especially in adults, and happens when the ligament that connects the heel to the toes becomes tight and fatigued, causing pain in the heel.

Specialists like Dr. Tallerico can figure out what needs to done to fix the problem, which sometimes requires surgery.

"So if it's not going away within three to five days a week at most, they need to come in. If they feel their foot or ankle pain is starting to limit their jobs or they're changing their lifestyle because they don't want the feet to hurt or they're not wearing shoes because it's going to bother your feet, you need to come in," said Dr. Tallerico.

Wearing the right shoe for the right occasion is a key component of keeping our feet and ankles healthy.

Dr. Tallerico says a good shoe has adequate arch support, cushion, a heel back versus an open heel, and doesn't bend easily in the middle.

Just remember, if it doesn't feel comfortable when you're trying it on, then it probably won't become comfortable.

Women, when it comes to wearing high heels, Dr. Tallerico says wearing them for a short amount of time is okay, but have a more comfortable pair of shoes to slip into.

She says everyone's feet are different so go to a store with staff who can help you determine the types of shoes that are best for your feet.

If you wear heels for too long and too often, she says they can cause forefoot issues, joint inflammation, calluses, bunions or hammertoe.

She suggests getting your feet measured once a year because feet can change in size and width.

Stella Daskalakis

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