Gary Cooke
Special to The Union

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July 9, 2013
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How to have happy feet

Why did Kennan Runte choose to become a podiatrist (foot specialist)?

“Because while exploring careers in medicine I spent time in a podiatrist’s office, and I observed that almost every patient left feeling relief,” he explained. “And they felt better without taking a lot of pills.”

That idea appealed to him, and more than 20 years later, Dr. Runte and another doctor of podiatric medicine, Dr. Stephen Latter, are running the Foothill Podiatry Clinic in Grass Valley. They focus on our feet, each of which is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, and a collection of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that number in excess of 100, in addition to nerves, blood vessels, soft tissue and skin. There are a lot of moving parts that need great care.

Podiatrists receive special education and training and are certified to work exclusively on treatments of the foot and ankle. Their training and testing involves biomechanics, orthopedics, radiography, pharmacology, sports medicine, dermatology, and surgery. Both Latter and Runte are past presidents of the Sacramento Valley Podiatric Medical Society.

During the summer months, when people are walking or working barefoot or in flip-flops, their clinic tends to see more injuries made by “foreign bodies” in feet, along with various contusions and fractured toes. Toenail fungus is also a common complaint in summer months, because people want to wear open-toed footwear, Dr. Latter noted.

People also tend to be more active in summer, hiking, running, riding, or participating in various sports.

Dr. Latter suggests that we can protect our feet with better footwear.

“I’m not against flip-flops,” he said. “I just encourage people to find them with arch support appropriate to their needs.” Unfortunately, feet come in many varieties ranging from flat to high-arched. The higher the arch, the more support is needed.

People shopping for shoes for running or hiking shouldn’t select bargain varieties, Dr. Runte added.

“People need to get really good shoes for running, especially as they enter the decades of the 30s, 40s or beyond,” he advised.

“Spend the money; it makes a difference.”

Since so many leave their feet exposed in summer, Dr. Latter also urged that we not forget to apply sunscreen to our feet as well as the rest of the body, since the sun can burn them easily.

During the summer it’s also very important to inspect our feet, Dr. Latter said.

“Look for blisters, bruises, cuts, foreign bodies,” he said. “This is even more important for diabetics, and especially those with nerve damage that leaves them with no feeling in their feet.”

Although their web site lists nearly 40 “common” foot problems, Dr. Latter said the three most common foot issues seen throughout the year are plantar fasciitis (inflammation of a band of tissue connecting the heel bone and the toes), ingrown toenails, and structural issues like bunions or hammertoe. (A bunion is an abnormal bump at the base of the big toe, often caused by tight fitting shoes or inherited defect. Hammertoe is an abnormal bend in the toe, often caused in women by wearing high heeled shoes, but can be caused by trauma, or nerve injuries resulting from stroke or diabetes.)

How can we be nicer to our feet, besides making sure we have good footwear, and doing foot inspections?

“Everybody loves a foot massage,” Dr. Latter said. “But you can also do foot exercises. There are over 100 ligaments in the foot, and they tend to tighten up, so when you wake up in the morning, sit on the edge of your bed for a few minutes and stretch them out.”

We can also elevate them while sitting.

When should we see a podiatrist? Pain and discomfort are good enough reasons, Dr. Latter said. The pain of a stubbed toe will disappear, but if the pain continues, especially with swelling and discoloration, and particularly if the toe is out of alignment, an evaluation is wise, he noted.

He advised that people shouldn’t wait too long if their feet are hurting.

“What a lot of patients tell me is that they’ve neglected their problem too long, and wish they had done something sooner,” he said.

Foothill Podiatry can be reached at 530-477-7200 or online at www.foothillpodiatryclinic.com.

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.


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The Union Updated Jul 9, 2013 08:46AM Published Jul 10, 2013 11:27PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.