It Grows On You, aka BUNIONS
Looks like A bony lump on the outer edge of your big toe.
Happens when The lowest joint becomes misaligned, causing the end of the bone to jut out. Though pointy heels that squash your toes can make bunions more painful, shoes are not the cause. More crucial factors are the shape of your feet and the way you walk.
How to deal For foot pain relief, buy shoes made of stretchy material, such as leather, that will conform to the curves of your foot. Before throwing down your plastic, hold the sole of the shoe against the sole of your foot to make sure the toe box is at least as wide as your tootsies. Using custom insoles, which any podiatrist can provide, may prevent bunions from worsening, but surgery is the only real cure. Still, docs don't recommend it unless the pain is so bad you can't function normally. Most procedures involve shaving down the bone and realigning the toe with a pin or a screw, which leaves you hobbling around for one to two months afterward. Plus, stubborn bunions come back in 10 to 15 percent of cases.
To smooth the rough skin on your tootsies, see WH's "Having a Rough Day."
MC Freaky Feet aka HAMMERTOES
Looks like The joint of one of your toes (usually the second piggy) points upward instead of lying flat.
Happens when A bunion, flat or high arches, or too-narrow shoes cause your big toe to butt up against the second toe, putting pressure on the digit and causing it to contract.
How to deal A Budin splint--a flat, foamy pad with an elastic loop that goes under the ball of your foot and wraps around the hammertoe--can reduce pressure and friction from shoes. A podiatrist can also give you cortisone shots to tame the pain. If you've tried those options and are still desperate, surgery offers permanent relief. A small piece of bone on one or both sides of the joint is removed so the toe can uncurl, and a pin is sometimes left in for a few weeks to keep it in place.
Rubbed the wrong way aka CORNS AND CALLUSES
Looks like Raised layers of thick, dead skin. On the tops of your toes they're called corns; on the bottoms or sides of your feet they're known as calluses.
Happens when There's too much pressure or friction on the feet, often due to ill-fitting shoes or a deformity, like a hammertoe.
How to deal Once or twice a week, in the shower, gently rub the area with a pumice stone until the skin begins to turn pink. Follow with a cream designed to soften calloused skin, such as Gordon Laboratories Gormel creme with 20 percent urea ($13 for 2.5 oz, amazon.com). If the layers are really thick, have a podiatrist shave them down during an in-office medical pedicure (because there's a risk of infection, stay away from the nail salon for this). Avoid OTC medicated pads containing salicylic acid, which can burn healthy skin and cause infection. [block:dfp=in_content_article_520x150]
Hell on heels aka PLANTAR FASCIITIS
Feels like A stabbing or burning pain in your heel that's often worse in the morning.
Happens when The plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot, becomes inflamed. This can be triggered by the strain of having exceptionally flat or high arches, standing or walking all day long, being overweight, or doing intense physical activities.
How to deal Try OTC arch supports or custom insoles to take stress off the plantar fascia and a topical gel called Biofreeze, also at drugstores, to increase blood flow and ease the ouch. If you're really in agony, ultrasound therapy and shock-wave therapy can speed healing. There's also a new, minimally invasive surgery called an endoscopic plantar fasciotomy, in which a surgeon makes a tiny snip into the plantar fascia to release the tense tissue. However, a study found that up to 25 percent of people who have this surgery continue to experience pain.
In a pinch aka NEUROMA
Feels like Tingling, burning, or numbness in your foot. It may make you feel as if you're walking on a pebble.
Happens when The bones of two toes--usually the third and fourth ones--rub against one another, pinching the nerve in between. Too-narrow shoes, which cram toes together, are often to blame.
How to deal Most experts recommend cortisone injections, to reduce pain, or alcohol, which will destroy a portion of the nerve. If your foot is still killing you despite the shots, surgery can cut out the squashed nerve.