Winter Storm Jonas may have spared Chicago, but stepping into the frigid outdoors still requires bundling up.
Most of us who’ve braved a Windy City winter know to invest in a puffy, down-filled coat, thick gloves and a warm hat.
But what sort of winter boots are best for your feet?
While it’s common to see women wearing colorful Hunter rain boots or fur-lined Uggs, what’s the perfect footwear for keeping feet warm and dry with enough traction for ice and snow?
“Keeping your feet dry in the winter months is perhaps even more important than keeping your feet dry in other seasons,” Holmbeck said. “Cold, wet feet in winter months can lead to serious problems.”
For one, he said, chilly, moist feet can cause frostbite — especially in those with diabetes. In addition, the cool, damp environment inside boots is perfect for fungal growth. This can infect the skin and lead to athlete’s foot, or target the nails and cause thick discoloration. These infections are often difficult, costly and time-consuming to treat. They can also lead to bacterial infections of the feet or nails.
Meanwhile, the fit of boots is also important. Poor fit can result in foot and ankle pain, heel or tendon pain — even nerve pain. Make sure to try on the boots with the appropriate thickness of sock.
Last, but not least, does the boot have traction on ice? Are you wearing boots for fashion or function?
Here’s a look at some popular boots you’ll see on people’s feet this season – perhaps even your own – and the pros and cons of each.
Sometimes dubbed “wellies,” and produced in a rainbow of colors by brands such as Hunter, these boots are popular among women in Chicago – and their style is favored by celebs such as Kate Middleton and the Olsen twins.
Pros: They’re waterproof, and block rain or snow from soaking into socks. You can make them warmer by adding socks or specially made boot-liners.
Cons: Be prepared to pay if you want Hunter boots, often upwards of $150. There are cheaper brands, but the cheap ones may gap, let rain or snow soak in, or cause slipping in the snow.
Let’s face it, Chicago gets cold. Even with socks, rain boots are no match for the next Polar Vortex. Fur-lined Uggs or copy-cats that are knit, down-filled or fleece-lined were made to withstand the sub-zero.
Pros: Uggs will still let you feel your feet while waiting for the CTA during a cold morning commute. These boots can also repel light, powdery snow.
Cons: They’re only warm as long as they’re dry. Step in enough slush or a puddle, and your feet will wind up wet.
Made popular by companies such as L.L. Bean, the boots are part-rain boot with a waterproof rubber coating on the foot and laces criss-crossing the front of the leg.
Pros: Opt for a shearling-lined version for a boot that’s both warm and waterproof.
Cons: Stripping off the shoes – especially if the laces are caked with snow and your hands are still gloved — can be messy and cumbersome. In addition, the shape could potentially put pressure on the toes.
It may seem obvious, but take note of how many people trudge around town in loafers, tennis shoes – even heels. It’s Chicago – winter snow is as certain as death and taxes. We recommend visiting a retailer such as North Face or Columbia for boots that are warm and snow-proof. Since the holidays are over, odds are good of finding boots on sale.
There are often no laces, and many can be pulled off – meaning you often don’t even have to deal with a zipper.
Cons: Sorry, you’re still in Chicago – not Florida. It’s going to be cold for a few more months, and you’re going to need snowboots.
Still stumped about which boots to buy? Consult the experts at Ankle N Foot Centers. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can help you weather winter with advice about the right boots.
Question: I am a male-power walker in my mid-60s with symptoms of plantar fasciitis developing in my right foot.
To give you some background, I ran for 10 years (I stopped in 1995, but I am familiar with the ailment. As a runner, I had full-blown plantar fasciitis in both feet, for which I sought the services of a physiotherapist.)
In more recent years, I have be walking between two and three miles daily, but will occasionally walk 3 to 5 miles.
After I walk longer distances, I make sure to ice the affected foot with a bag of frozen peas for 20 minutes following my workout.
In addition, I’m using a pair of custom orthotics that were made for me several years ago (I am flat footed,) along with full-length sorbothane insoles in a pair of old running shoes.
Can you suggest something I can do to prevent worsening of my condition? Would new walking shoes be worth trying?
Answer: This orthopedic podiatrist with offices in Chicago’s West Loop (60661,) Roscoe Village (60618,) Ukrainian Village (60622,) and in suburban Elmhurst and Bartlett says…
For your plantar fasciitis, get a new pair of orthotics.
As you man know, plantar fasciitis is perhaps one of the most common sources of heel pain. Those who suffer from the condition have pain and inflammation of a thick band of tissue — the plantar fascia — which runs across the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, plantar fasciitis usually creates stabbing pain, often during the first steps one takes in the morning. Yet once the feet limbers up a bit during the day, the pain normally decreases. Still, it may return after long periods of standing or when a person gets up after a period of being seated.
The condition is common among runners, those who are overweight and those who wear shoes with inadequate support.
For that reason, we suggest you get a fresh diagnosis for your plantar fasciitis and find out the biomechanical cause.
For instance, if tight calves are causing the pain, look for shoes with a little bit of a heel and do plenty of calf and plantar stretches.
The podiatrists at Ankle and Foot Centers are experts at treating heel pain, so make an appointment at one of our offices if you need help. In addition to diagnosing your pain, we can provide patients with pre-made or custom orthotics and suggest the right type if shoes for you.
While many people’s attention across the area has recently been focused on the Chicago Blackhawks’ third Stanley Cup victory in six years, icy days are behind us for now and summer is getting into full swing.
Especially with the July 4 holiday just around the corner, more people are wearing shorts, tank tops and flip-flops.
But while these shoes remain stylish and come in nearly every color, style and price range, they can do a lot of damage — and offer virtually no protection — for the feet.
We recently came across a list of reasons why flip-flops can be bad for you that the American Podiatric Medical Association shared with Cosmopolitan magazine.
Take a look and learn.
1. They expose feet to bacteria, viral and fungal infections. Wearing flip-flops exposes your feet to the elements. That means they can get covered in Staphylococcus — a bacteria that can irritate skin on the foot or, in the worst cases, lead to amputation. (This depends on your health at the time the bacteria is picked up, and whether you have open wounds from exfoliation during a pedicure, or open cuts.)
Meanwhile, athlete’s foot – a fungal infection that’s easily spread and is marked by itchiness – happens when a person walks around barefoot – or nearly so – and comes into contact with fungus. This is also true for the virus that causes warts, human papillomavirus, better known as HPV.
2. Heel damage. While walking, your heels hit the ground with force, and when the only thing between you and the ground is a flip-flop, the heel-strike impact can be even greater. This can result in pain — especially when standing or walking in flip-flops for long periods of time.
3. They can lead to blisters. When the thin strap of a flip-flop rubs against your feet while walking, it can create irritation and blisters. If a blister pops, you’ve got an open wound that leaves you vulnerable to pathogens when your foot is exposed.
4. They can create toe damage. A hammertoe happens when the knuckles of the toes bend. And when you’ve got a pair of flip-flops on your feet, the toes work extra hard to keep them in place. Over time, this can lead to a hammertoe.
5. They can cause pain. Those with flat feet need arch support to align their knees, hips and back. A flat shoe doesn’t offer that support, so as a result, your joints must compensate. This can result in overuse injuries such as Achilles tendonitis (injury to the tendon that bridges the calf muscle to the heel bone,) heel pain and pinched back nerves.
6. They can prompt bunions. Toes must work harder to keep flip-flops on the feet, and all this over-gripping can aggravate bunions, a painful bump at the big toe joint.
If you think you might be suffering from pain or injury from your flip-flops, call the doctors at Ankle and Foot Centers. Our podiatrists are experts at treating blisters, hammertoes, bunions and other foot injuries and can offer suggestions on the right types of shoes and inserts for your foot type.
Enjoy the Chicago weather this summer and we hope you stay safe no matter where your feet may take you!
For more information, visit our website at thinkfeet.com!
Worried About the Look of Your Feet This Summer? Step Into the Light With Laser Treatment for Toenail Fungus.
Summer is just about here, and already, warm, sunny days have sent locals and tourists alike to Chicago’s famous street festivals, Cubs and Sox games and for jogs or bike rides along Lake Michigan’s busy beachfront path.
After bundling in layers all winter, the doctors at Ankle and Foot Centers know that many people are anxious to show of a little skin this summer. But for many, wearing summer shoes such as sandals and flip-flops can be a source of shame when they have toenail fungus.
Common symptoms include toenails that slowly grow thick or yellow or crumble at the tip. Up to 33 million Americans suffer from toenail fungus, and in addition to obvious thickening, streaking or yellowing of the nail, it can also lead to ingrown nails or infections such as athlete’s foot.
Anyone can be at risk of a fungal nail infection, especially those who have diabetes, wear artificial nails and swim and/or go barefoot in public swimming pools or showers at the gym.
The good news is that one of the most effective ways to get rid of the problem is through laser treatment, which is offered at all href=”http://www.anklenfoot.com/Home/tabid/125/Default.aspx”>Ankle and Foot Centers locations in Chicago’s West Loop, Roscoe Village and Ukrainian Village and in suburban Elmhurst and Bartlett. The Food and Drug Administration approved lasers to fight fungus in 2010 after being used in Europe for several years.
Although there are creams and pills that help treat toenail fungus, laser treatment may be more effective because some fungus-killing drugs have side effects. The oral medication Lamisil, for instance, is inexpensive and can be effective, but some are hesitant to take it because in rare cases, it may cause liver damage.
One of the benefits of a laser is that it cooks and kills damaging fungi while leaving healthy tissue alone.
Our podiatrists use the Q-Clear laser. It’s the only FDA approved laser with an efficacy rate of up to 95 percent. There are other lasers out there, but they may not be FDA-approved, or have a lower efficacy rate.
We use the laser to treat all nails on the foot because fungus can easily spread toe to toe. The more spores you kill, the greater the success rate. It’s like going for a dental cleaning and only polishing some the teeth.
While one treatment is often effective, a few sessions with the laser may be needed. We also give patients a list of hygiene-related items to do afterward. For those who follow our directions and return for a yearly follow-up exam, odds are good of not being bothered by nail fungus again.
With summer underway, we encourage those with toenail fungus to give our treatment a try. Flexible Spending Accounts can be used to cover treatment, or you take advantage of our Amazon Local deal.
More information about laser treatment can be found at
It was dubbed “flatgate” by the media.
While celebrities and fashion routinely make news, during last month’s Cannes Film Festival in France, the Hollywood Reporter to CNN to USA Today jumped all over reports that some women were turned away from a gala premiere. The reason? They weren’t wearing high heels.
“Multiple guests, some older with medical conditions, were denied access to the anticipated world premiere screening for wearing rhinestone flats,” according to the trade publication Screen International.
While they may be fashionable, constantly keeping a pair of high heels on your feet can lead to a variety of foot issues, from painful ingrown nails to more serious foot issues such as bunions.
The podiatrists at Ankle and Foot Center know too-tall shoes can be dangers. In fact, the American Osteopathic Association reports that one in 10 women wear high heels at least three days per week. Meanwhile, data shows that high heels are one of the biggest contributors to foot problems in women, with up to 30 percent suffering permanent problems from prolonged wear.
But while most people have heard about high heels, not everyone knows about the issues they can cause, such as bunions.
In essence, it’s a bony hump that forms where the big toe attaches to the foot. Because it’s located on a joint — where the toe bends during walking — a person’s full body weight presses on the bunion with every step, meaning they can be very painful.
Meanwhile, depending on severity, treatments for bunions vary. It can range from medication to ease swelling to custom shoe inserts to surgery in more severe cases.
The good news is that picking the right footwear can go a long way in preventing bunions. Here are a few tips.
• Pick shoes that have wide and deep area that surrounds the toes. Look for shoes with low or flat heels coupled with good arch support. Make sure there’s space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
• Avoid constant wear of tight, narrow, or high-heeled shoes. This type of footwear tends to put pressure on the big toe joint.
• Don’t buy or constantly wear shoes that cramp or irritate your toes.
• Wear shoes that conform to the shape of your foot without squeezing or pressing
• Avoid shoes with pointy toes.
While it’s often pretty clear a patient has a bunion from the pain it create — and the unusual shape of the big toe that comes with it – it’s a good idea to get diagnosed by a podiatrist. The doctors at Ankle and Foot Centers can work with you at any of our five locations to diagnose and treat the problem.
We’ll often try conservative measures first to go you back on your feet. And unlike the bad press created by “flatgate,” we think you’ll agree that’s good news.
With Memorial Day approaching, there’s plenty of summer fun planned for those in the Chicago area, everything from spending the day at Navy Pier or the Lincoln Park Zoo to special events that draw crowds into the city such as the annual Taste of Chicago.
But the doctors at Ankle and Foot Centers know one of the downsides of warmer weather is that it can make the toe area of your shoes an ideal place for fungus to grow. The dark, moist area inside the shoe can lead to issues such as athlete’s foot or fungal toenail infections – or at the very least, smelly shoes.
However, the Wall Street Journal published a story a few weeks ago about ultraviolet sanitizers that claim to eliminate shoes of fungi that can lead to infections — in addition to ridding athletic and leather shoes of bacteria that make them smelly.
The Journal reported that one device — the SteriShoe — was found in a study to lessen the levels of fungus in test pairs of athletic and leather shoes, but scientists say more research is needed.
According to the Journal, a study that was published in 2012 in the Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association concluded that the SteriShoe device — sold by California-based Shoe Care Innovations — reduced the levels of two common fungi that cause athlete’s foot and nail infections by 80 percent.
But since only four shoes were tested, the researchers can’t be sure that some of fungus reduction didn’t occur by chance.
“There is a very good trend that this works, but more research is needed for a really solid, robust conclusion,” study co-author Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, who works as professor and director of the Center for Medical Mycology and Mycology Reference Library at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University – told the Journal.
If you’re confused about how to remove odor from your shoes – of other issues such as athlete’s foot or fungus, don’t hesitate to consult the doctors at Ankle and Foot Centers. Our podiatrists commonly treat these types of issues, and we can recommend some of the best types of shoes for you. In addition, we also offer state-of-the-art laser treatment for toenail fungus.
Don’t hesitate to seek us out! We’re here to help.
The cover story in the just-released issue of Nail Pro magazine is about pedicures, and the doctors and staff at Ankle and Foot Centers are proud to announce that our director, Dr. George Tsatsos, and a member of our staff, Leigh Andrea, are featured in a story about medical pedicures.
Take a look at the story by clicking here.
What is a medical mani-pedi? It’s a service we offer at our Roscoe Village and Elmhurst locations. Basically, it’s a safer, sterile, salon-style treatment that will leave your fingers and toes looking great without the risk of spreading disease or fungus.
All of our instruments go through a multi-step sterilization process, and are treated like any other surgical instruments.
All our mani-pedi tools such as nail files, buffers and tub liners are single-use only.
In addition, our mani-pedis have they following benefits:
• They’re sanitary with very low risk of fungal, bacterial and viral infection
• The process is sterile — Instruments are autoclaved and never re-used on another person
• It’s a relaxing, yet safe treatment that includes also includes an exfoliating scrub and callous removal
• The service is finished with polish in the latest colors and natural, anti-fungal products are used and available
The Doctors and staff at Ankle and Foot Centers are proud to share a blog that was just published on the website trustedchoice.com. It features advice from our chief clinician and surgeon, Dr. Svetlana Zats, about how to pick the right running shoes. The full text of the blog is below.
Whether you’re new to running or a seasoned athlete who has completed a dozen marathons, choosing the right pair of running shoes is essential to staying fit and avoiding injury out on the roads or on the treadmill. But not every running shoe type is right for everyone—and runners’ footwear needs can also change over time. “You have to look beyond appearance, color and brand to make sure you are getting the right shoe for you,” and this process can take time, says Kevin Purvis, a certified personal trainer and USAT-certified Level 1 triathlon coach who runs his own endurance-training firm, KP Training Systems.
Since selecting your next pair of running shoes probably won’t be a simple grab-and-go event, we consulted several experts on running and foot health for some tips on choosing the right ones for you:
1. Know your foot shape.
The natural shape of your foot can affect how you step and run or walk (also known as your gait) as well as what part(s) of your foot will require extra cushioning to prevent injury to your feet, legs, knees, or even your back. “You need to understand your foot shape and structure, such as having a narrow heel, a wide forefoot, a low or high arch, or a decreased fat pad (the [natural] cushion on the bottom of the foot),” says Dr. Svetlana Zats, a Chicago-based podiatric foot and ankle surgeon with Ankle and Foot Centers and a recreational triathlete. The shape of your feet can also affect whether you pronate or supinate your foot (roll it inward or outward) when stepping or if your gait is neutral, Zats adds.
There are different styles of running shoes for each foot type and gait, says John Honerkamp, running coach with New York Road Runners and former competitive running pro. “A neutral shoe is good for a forefront runner with a high arch who needs less support. A stability shoe is good for a runner with a flatter foot, or a heel striker. A maximalist shoe is for runners who need more support,” such as heavyset runners or beginning runners who rotate their feet more than experienced ones, he explains.
A quality pair of running shoes can cost anywhere from $80 to $250, depending on type and brand, our experts say.
“A maximalist shoe, like Hokas, will provide a lot of support and cushion, while a minimalist shoe, like Vibram 5 Finger, provides very little,” Purvis notes.
If you’re not sure what category your foot shape falls into, Purvis suggests this test. “Dampen your bare feet, step onto a surface that will show your wet footprint, squat down [with both feet], and step away and look at the print.” If you see half your arch, that’s considered a normal foot shape, he says, while if you see your entire foot, you have flat feet or fallen arches that will require motion control shoes. If you only see a tiny line between your forefoot and heel, you have high arches and will need a high-cushion (maximalist) shoe, Purvis adds.
Your running shoes should also be a half to a full size bigger than your street shoes to accommodate foot swelling while running, Zats points out.
2. Have your running gait analyzed.
Both new runners and seasoned runners who are altering their distance or training programs should have their running gait professionally analyzed before choosing shoes, experts say. You can visit a medical professional, like a doctor trained in sports medicine, a podiatrist, or a physical therapist—or you can go to a specialty running store with staff who are trained in the proper fitting of running shoes. “They…not only analyze your foot and stride, but [physical therapists] can also suggest exercises for injury prevention so runners start off on the right foot (no pun intended) with their training,” says Alice Holland, DPT, a running physical therapist and director of Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, OR.
Both medical professionals and professional running-store staff will watch you run a short distance in a pair of neutral shoes, usually on a treadmill, and will often record the run on video for further analysis before recommending a shoe type, Holland adds. “Runners can never tell what their running stride and pattern is like,” she stresses, noting that even as a running professional herself, she still consults other professionals for gait analysis.
3. Find a quality running store with knowledgeable staff.
When it comes to finding the right running shoes, it’s best to go in person to a local specialty store that specializes in running and running shoes, rather than visiting your local mall or browsing the Internet, Honerkamp stresses. “They know feet and running shoes,” he says, adding you should give yourself at least one or two hours of shopping, gait analysis, and try-on time when choosing a new pair.
Holland agrees. “I would not recommend going to a [general] sporting goods store—the staff just isn’t trained enough in running shoe fitting, and the selections they carry tend to be popular brands or aesthetically pleasing but functionally useless models,” she says. (Specialty running stores can also help fit you with ergonomically designed running socks and other equipment, such as easy-to-carry water bottles and running attire that won’t chafe your skin.)
If you live in a rural area or other place without a local running store, Purvis suggests Road Runner Sports, a specialty online retailer that focuses on running supplies. “They have a guided purchasing process as well as liberal exchange policies to make sure you get the right shoe,” he says.
4. Try before you buy.
Quality running retailers will usually offer a trial period to get used to your shoes and will also let you return them after use if they are the wrong fit for you, experts say. Honerkamp suggests doing the first one to three runs in new shoes on a treadmill or indoor running track to see if they’ll work out for the long term. “As long as the shoes are not dirty, most running shoe stores will take them back,” he says.
Holland takes it a step further. “I know a runner who bloodied up a pair with blisters, and still managed to exchange them,” she says. “The [running] store would rather keep a customer for life and sacrifice a pair than have a bad reputation for ill-fitting shoes.”
5. Monitor changing needs.
Your shoe needs may change over time as you develop as a runner. You may need to switch from general running shoes to trail-running shoes if you begin training regularly on rough dirt or gravel trails instead of on pavement or a treadmill, or you may require less foot support as your running gait improves. Or you may develop aches and pains as you age that will require special attention.
If you’re a naturally heavy person or have recently gained weight due to inactivity or increased muscle mass, you’ll need more cushioned shoes, says Andrew McMarlin, DO, a Mount Pleasant, SC-based physician and former Olympic rower who is board-certified in sports medicine and family practice. “Ground reaction forces increase as a runner’s weight increases,” McMarlin explains. “Heavier runners need to be aware of this additional demand on their joints and choose properly supportive shoes.” Runners with knee osteoarthritis should also consult with a physician or physical therapist about which shoes or shoe inserts can help reduce stress on their knees, he adds.
And if you’re ever planning to switch from traditional shoes to minimalist “barefoot” shoes, you should phase them in to prevent injury to your Achilles tendons and insteps. “I recommend walking in them for 20 to 30 minutes [at a time] for a few weeks before running in them,” McMarlin stresses.
A quality pair of running shoes can cost anywhere from $80 to $250, depending on type and brand, our experts say. “While that might seem pricey to the first-time buyer, remember your shoes are the only thing between your foot and the ground,” Purvis cautions. “Saving a few dollars short-term could lead to much higher costs in the long run.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jill Elaine Hughes has been a professional writer in both corporate and mass media/journalism environments for 20 years, covering health/wellness, technology, science, and consumer/financial topics. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, Consumers Digest magazine, the Washington Post, DailyWorth.com, and many other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter at @JillEHughes.
Worried about ankle pain leaving you sidelined this spring? Take our tips for sports injury prevention.
After a long winter, the weather has warmed, meaning spring is the perfect time for folks across Chicagoland to be active outdoors.
But as the podiatrists at Ankle and Foot Centers know, spring and summer is often the busiest time of year for treating ankle and foot injuries.
During the warm months, our doctors everything kids who sprained an ankle in Little League to runners who suffered injuries while training along Lake Michigan for October’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
To avoid injury this spring and summer, follow these tips:
• Warm up before working out
Before exercising or going on a run, stretch or warm up with five to 10 minutes of cardio such as jogging or jumping jacks to warm up the muscles.
• Choose the right shoes
Especially with running, it’s important to wear shoes for your foot type. Visit a podiatrist to evaluate the biomechanics of your foot, do a gait analysis and advise you about the type of shoes to purchase.
For instance, over-pronators have feet where the arch flattens or rolls inward, distributing weight unevenly. People with this foot type need shoes with support in the front and under the arch. The heel/back of the shoe must be stable.
Other people have neutral feet, where the foot and ankle maintain a straight line, distributing weight evenly.
Once you know your foot type, your podiatrist can educate you about the shoes that fits your needs that you can buy online or at a sporting goods or specialty running store.
• Replace shoes regularly
Don’t wear the same shoes for years. Runners especially should replace shoes after 300 to 500 miles of use. If you have trouble keeping track of how worn your shoes are, there’s are even apps for that. For instance, shoe-selling site Zappos and training app MapMyFitness teamed up to create a feature called Gear Tracker in the MapMyFitness app for iPhone users. The feature lets users estimate when their shoes need to be replaced and gives the option of ordering a new pair from the fitness tracking app.
• Obey your body
If your feet or ankles start hurting while playing a sport, stop or alter your activity until the pain eases.
If you do suffer pain or injury, try the PRICE method to avoid further injury:
1. Protect – Wrap your ankle and avoid use. Wear a brace around the affected ankle, and limit movements that aggravate pain.
2. Rest — This speaks for itself. Avoid using the ankle when possible.
3. Ice – Apply cold as much as possible for up to 72 hours after pain or injury strikes. Ice should be applied for 45 minutes on the ankle and 15 minutes off.
4. Compress – Use an Ace wrap or an ankle sleeve on the foot that’s bothering you.
5. Elevate – Doing this as needed for should help if the ankle throbs or swells.
Follow this method for at least three days, then do only do so as needed. Using this method, pain and swelling should ease after four to six days.
For more information about our doctors, our services or our hours and locations in the West Loop, Roscoe Village, Ukrainian Village, Elmhurst and Bartlett, go online to thinkfeet.com.