Author Archives: Dr. Kevin Smith, DPM

What Kind of Orthotics Work for You?

Orthotics reduce pain and prevent foot conditions from progressing. While adjustments may be made, the trickiest part is determining what kind truly works for your unique situation.

There are three broad categories of orthotics. The first category of orthotics primarily optimizes foot functions; the second category primarily protects your feet; and the third category contains orthotics which both optimize and protect. You may also distinguish between rigid, semirigid and soft orthotics.

Rigid Orthotics

Rigid orthotics control motion in two major foot joints. They are often made of plastic or carbon fiber and can be used for a longer period.

Semirigid Orthotics

Semirigid orthotics help maintain your balance by supporting muscles, joints and tendons. They usually consist of a soft layer of material which is reinforced with rigid orthotic elements. Semirigid orthotics are often used by athletes.

Soft Orthotics

Soft orthotics improve absorption from shock and take pressure off of painful areas caused by arthritis, diabetes and other conditions. This type of orthotic pads certain areas, which is why they are made of compressible materials requiring more space in your shoes.

Incorrectly fitted orthotics may not only be inefficient, but they may also cause other conditions to emerge or worsen. We strongly recommend consulting with a qualified podiatrist like Dr. Smith to avoid injuries and costly readjustments. One visit may do the trick and set you up with the perfect orthotics for years to come. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our office team with any questions.

Seeking Immediate Medical Assistance vs Waiting for the COVID Vaccine

The news of a COVID-19 vaccine has thrilled the nation. People hope to resume their daily routines within a couple of months without potentially exposing themselves to COVID. This also means you now have to make a tough choice regarding your healthcare.

Will you seek immediate attention for a medical condition or will you wait for COVID to become less severe? Please keep in mind every situation is unique and only a qualified medical professional can make a final assessment. We, at Dr. Smith’s office, would like to provide a few thoughts on this topic from a podiatric perspective.

Pain Levels

The first step is to evaluate your pain level. Does the pain interrupt your daily life and normal activities or is it manageable in the short run? Are there alternative treatments to lower the pain? In any case, pain can be a serious indicator of an injury, so please call the office, explain your condition and ask for steps on moving forward. Self-medication often causes more harm than not and a simple phone call may give you the direction you need.

At-risk Patients

When calling the office, please consider telling us more about your COVID risk level. Patients with asthma, high blood pressure or obesity are more likely to suffer from more serious COVID complications. High-risk patients may be better advised to reschedule follow-up appointments or minor treatments. Knowing risk factors will also help us evaluate the risk of not seeking immediate treatment. Our goal is to weigh the benefits and risks of both actions against each other to come up with the most beneficial solution for you.

Chronic Conditions

The same applies to chronic conditions. Some patients have regular follow-up visits to evaluate progress of their treatment. In some cases, this evaluation may be done over the phone and could save you a trip to our office.

New Symptoms

You may experience new symptoms without exactly knowing whether these relate to a chronic condition, a known condition or to a completely new issue. Certain medications also have side effects, so check the label and give us a call with any questions before making an appointment.

Support Network

This element is often overlooked. Do you live with family who can help you out? Are you living in an assisted care facility with medical capacities? Are you living on your own without any direct support network? We recommend writing down a list of people close to you in case your situation worsens. These individuals may help you make the appropriate decision and call our office for more input. Make sure to communicate problems with loved ones, because a delayed diagnosis may cause non-reversible long-term damage and would outweigh the risk of a potential COVID infection.

Level of Exposure

Ask yourself if you have been exposed to individuals with COVID-19. The best protection for everyone is to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. Watching out for each other reduces exposure for all of us, so please make sure you are not accidentally exposing others when visiting the office.

In general, listen to your body and evaluate your situation with a trusted family member or friend. Keep in mind our office staff is doing everything in our power to keep the office hygienic and safe for you. When in doubt, please give us a call before making an appointment. Be transparent with your situation and ask for advice. We will be able to tell you if it makes more sense to make an immediate appointment or wait until the COVID exposure risk is lower. Your health is our number 1 priority, so please do not hesitate to reach out at any time.

Our Tips to Stay Warm and Cozy

The cold season is here to stay, so we would like to share some of our favorite tips on how to stay warm and cozy during the holidays!

Our first recommendation comes from Tammy Norberg. She loves watching a good movie with her husband and their dog Beatrice. Tammy stays warm in front of her electric fireplace with a pair of comfy fuzzy socks.

Warm socks are a great idea, indeed! We recommend avoiding 100% cotton socks, because they capture moisture, especially when wearing them outside with thick boots. This moisture cancels out any insulation effects and may cause Athletes Foot. Wool socks will keep your feet both warm and healthy. Here is a selection of some of the best winter socks:

Our next recommendation comes from Dr. Smith. He enjoys a cup of hot cocoa when temperatures drop and likes to cover himself with his favorite Iowa Hawkeye blanket. If possible, he heads to California or Arizona for a week in January to warm up.

Choosing a good blanket is easier than choosing the perfect sock. You may choose between blankets made of flannel, fleece, Sherpa and others because humidity is not a concern. Have a look at the following selection of  cozy blankets based on these professional’s recommendations and user reviews:

Every family has their own special strategies, so talk with your friends and neighbors and exchange ideas. Also do not hesitate to gift a nice blanket or a warm pair of socks.

We wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving weekend!

Plantar Fasciitis – Symptoms

Plantar fasciitis is a foot condition involving inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of connective tissue at the bottom of your feet. Because it runs along the heel to the toes, the plantar fascia absorbs shocks and helps maintain balance by supporting the arch of the foot. The inflammation is often caused by intense or prolonged movements or shocks to the tissue, but more than 2 million treatments annually suggest plantar fasciitis may be caused by a variety of issues.

Common symptoms include:

  • Pain at the bottom of the foot; often one or two inches away from the heel.
  • Two thirds of patients report pain in only one foot, but both feet can be affected.
  • The pain level is initially low and gradually increases over time in the absence of proper treatment.
  • Pain is often more severe after exercising or lifting heavy goods.
  • Pain is also often more elevated after waking up or resting for a couple of hours.
  • Many patients report “stabbing pain.”
  • Gentle exercises after waking up may reduce pain throughout the day, which may make it difficult to diagnose plantar fasciitis.
  • Other cases cause limping because individuals rebalance their weight to reduce one-sided pain

Symptoms vary by individuals’ age, profession, fitness and underlying conditions. Plantar fasciitis can vaguely be compared to “tennis elbow” which is another tissue-related condition. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions about plantar fasciitis symptoms and stay tuned for the next blog where we address common risk factors. We collected a couple of reliable sources with more information for the meantime.

Proper Toenail Care for Your Children

Every child has a favorite pair of shoes they will wear over anything. Have they ever worn that pair until they were too tight and squeezing their toes? Likely! Has this behavior increased the risk of ingrown toenails? Likely as well!

Properly fitting shoes are imperative to maintaining healthy and happy feet, especially during the main growth phases, but there are other factors to consider. Addressing these factors early on is key for prevention. We recommend parents adhere to the following actions:  

  • Trim the toenail straight across.
  • Do not cut the toenail too short.
  • Do not curve the nails or round off the nail.
  • Do not pick or tear the nail.
  • Avoid tight narrow shoes or poor fitting shoes.

We recommend regularly inspecting your child’s feet, especially when they begin trimming their own toenails. If your child experiences pain when walking, redness or anything resembling a blister near the toenail, we recommend considering medical attention. Depending on the severity of the case, your podiatrist may recommend potential home remedies to ease the pain:

  • Soaking their foot in warm soap water for 20 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day.
  • Gently rubbing around the swollen cuticle and angle the nail upwards while soaking.
  • Over-the-counter cream, gel or toe protectors.
  • Wearing open-toed shoes.
  • Place a thin piece of gauze around the toenail if closed toed shoes are required.

More severe cases may cause infections and require minor surgical procedures or medication. In any case, we want your child to rock their favorite pair of shoes at any time, so stock up with larger sizes whenever possible to guarantee that perfect fit!