Over time, our feet take a real beating. Just think about how essential your feet are to standing and walking. And the miles they carry you over a lifetime. Made of 26 bones, which are connected by many joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, the foot is one of the most complex parts of the body. When pain, inflammation or injury strikes, they can result in limited motion and mobility.

At Crystal Clinic, our physicians treat a wide range of common and complex foot and ankle problems. The most frequently seen conditions are described below.


Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles tendon is a strong, fibrous cord in the lower leg that connects the muscles of your calf to your heel. You use it when walk, run or jump. Due to overuse or repeated stress to this tendon, it may begin to degenerate, causing pain and stiffness from the calf through the back of your heel. 

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Arthritis

One of the most common conditions that can affect the foot and ankle is arthritis. Arthritis occurs when cartilage -- the smooth, gliding tissue – wears away from the joint surface. This can happen as a result of injury, aging, or overuse. 

Symptoms of arthritis include pain (with motion and at rest) and swelling. Arthritis that affects the middle of the foot can cause the arch to drop down. If it afflicts the big toe, the toe can get stuck in an unnatural position. In extreme cases, people may not want to walk or move at all due to the pain.

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Fractures

A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone. There are many different types of fractures.

Bone fractures are often caused by falls, trauma, or as a result of a direct blow or kick to the body. Overuse or repetitive motions can cause stress fractures. Fractures can also be caused by diseases that weaken the bone. These include osteoporosis or cancer in the bones. The main goal of treatment is to put the pieces of bone back in place so the bone can heal. This can be done with a splint, cast, surgery, or traction.

Bunions (Hallux valgus)

Each year, more than three million people are diagnosed with hallux valgus, commonly known as bunions. One of the telltale symptoms of a bunion is a bump at the joint of the big toe on the inside front of the forefoot. If the bump is large enough, the big toe will turn in toward the smaller toes. In more severe cases, a bunion can lead to deformities on the second and third toes.

Fortunately, there are numerous non-surgical and surgical options that can alleviate the pain from a bunion. Non-operative approaches will only slow down its progression or help with the symptoms. Your doctor may suggest that you find roomier shoes or ones that accommodate the bunion. Toe spacers can also help align the toe and pads are available to cushion the bunion and decrease irritation from rubbing on shoes. Surgery is the only way to remove a bunion.

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Flat Feet

The normal human foot has two arches: one that runs from the heel to the toes and the other that is aligned across the foot. In people with flat feet, both of those arches are lower. Flat feet are generally painless, but some people may experience pain while playing sports or walking. In-shoe orthotics and physical therapy can often provide additional support and relieve pain in most people. Those with advanced flat foot disorders may require bracing or surgery.

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Hammertoe

Hammertoe can occur as we age. As the name suggests, the toe(s) become crooked where they’re bent, causing them to rub at the tops of shoes. While hammertoe can be inherited, more often, it happens as a result of the small muscles in the foot becoming unbalanced or overpowered by the larger muscles. It can also be caused by wearing poorly fitting shoes. 

Once diagnosed, your doctor may suggest non-surgical options such as wearing small splints to pull the toes downward, wearing shoes that don’t allow the toes to rub, or using pads on the toes for protection. Should those approaches not work, surgery may be necessary to adjust the ligaments and tendons so the toes straighten. Small implants can also hold toes in position and can frequently avoid having pins stick out of the toes.

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Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis occurs when the band of tissue that supports the arch of your foot becomes irritated and inflamed. The plantar fascia is a ligament found directly beneath the skin on the bottom of your foot. It connects the heel to the front of your foot, and supports the arch. With all the stress and strain we put on our feet, sometimes too much pressure damages the tissues, resulting in stiffness and heel pain.

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Stiff Big Toe (Hallux Rigidus) 

A stiff big toe often occurs as a result of wear and tear or damage to the articular cartilage, which covers the ends of the bones. As articular cartilage is worn away, the bone ends can rub together, causing a bone spur or overgrowth. This overgrowth can limit the toe from bending the way it needs to when you walk. Symptoms may include pain in the joint when you are active, swelling, and a bump that develops on the top of the foot. 

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Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains are common injuries that occur among people of all ages. A sprain happens when the ligaments that support the ankle stretch beyond their limits and tear. Ligaments are flexible bands of fibrous tissue that connect bones to bones, and bones to cartilage. Most sprains heal with getting rest and applying ice. However, if your ankle is swollen and you have any difficulty putting weight on it, you’ll want to see your doctor. 

Strains occur when a muscle or tendon is injured. Tendons are the fibrous cords that attach muscle to bone throughout your body. Similar to sprains, a strain may be an overstretched muscle or tendon, or it could be a partial or complete tear in the muscle and tendon combination. Pain, cramping, inflammation, muscle spasm, muscle weakness and swelling are the most common symptoms.
Most strains heal with rest, ice, compression and elevation. For a more serious tear, surgery may be necessary.