The BIG Problems with Misaligned Feet
Misalignments that seem fairly minor at first glance can have major—even devastating—consequences.
Consider a tee shot in golf. A 15-degree angle doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you drive the ball 250 yards and your aim is 15 degrees off, your ball is going to land 65 yards off the target.
Here’s another example, and one that’s a little more relevant to our main topic of discussion: the foundation of your home.
A very small amount of settling is normal in a home, of course. But only two or three inches of sagging or tilting across the entire slab may be enough to produce a huge range of problems—everything from sloping floors to cracks in the ceiling to sticking windows. In the most serious cases, the home itself may be unsafe to occupy.
Your feet are very much the same way.
Small Misalignments Can Cause Major Consequences
As we said, your feet are the foundation of your body—the (hopefully) stable base of support that the entire framework of your body rests upon.
But your feet are also a lot more complex than a flat slab of concrete! It might be hard to believe, but just at ankle level and below you have a total of 52 bones, 66 joints, and more than 100 combined muscles, tendons, and ligaments—not to mention nerves, blood vessels, bursae … you get the idea.
All those tiny pieces must be aligned correctly and operating smoothly to provide adequate support, stability, and reliability that the rest of the body can count on.
What are the consequences of misaligned feet? Here are just a few common examples:
- Heel pain. Structural misalignments often lead to excessive weight and pressure being absorbed by the heels. For example, a misalignment in hindfoot bones could cause the feet to significantly overpronate. The feet roll too far inward with each step, which in turn overstretches the plantar fascia ligament underneath the heel until it is swollen and inflamed.
- Flat feet. Your arches are designed to flex naturally like shock absorbers in order to accommodate weight and pressure. Foot misalignments may cause the arches to either not fully form in the first place, or flatten over time due to wear and tear on the ligaments that hold them up. Less shock absorption means more impact force gets transferred directly to bones and muscles that aren’t designed to handle them.
- Toe deformities. If your feet can’t properly balance and distribute impact forces, joints positioned within the “impact zone” can break down and get pushed more and more out of alignment. Not surprisingly, bunions, hammertoes, and arthritic toes are common consequences of misaligned feet.
- Peripheral nerve damage. The delicate peripheral nerves responsible for providing sensation to the feet often have to pass through very tight spaces in and around bones, joints, and other structures—especially in ankles and the arch. Misaligned feet (and the resulting complications) can cause those nerves to become compressed or elongated, leading to pain and—in some cases—permanent nerve damage.
- Leg, knee, hip, and back pain. Just like a poor foundation can directly lead to cracking in the upper floors and ceilings of a home, misaligned feet can cause pain throughout the body. When your feet are misaligned, the joints and muscles higher up the skeletal system that depend on those feet will be forced to compensate. So the pain doesn’t stay in your feet!
As we said at the start of the blog, the misalignments that lead to these and other complications don’t have to be major, obvious deformities. You probably wouldn’t even notice that you had one! Unfortunately, your feet and body will.
What to Do About Misaligned Feet?
Now, you might imagine that a problem like misaligned feet would be huge headache to fix—major surgery, several weeks off your feet, lots of pain. But the good news is that many of the most common misalignments don’t require major surgery, and can be remedied using much less invasive techniques.
Let’s focus on two of them: orthotics and HyProCure.
Shoe inserts such as such as “customizable” prefabricated orthotics and fully custom orthotics are the least invasive way to deal with misaligned feet. You can think of them like glasses or contacts, but with feet instead of eyes.
Orthotics do not fix misalignments—just as glasses don’t fix your eyes. But when you wear them, they can reposition your feet and ankles, shoulder a large percentage of the excess shock and impact forces, and distribute and dissipate those forces evenly across your feet.
That said, just like glasses won’t do your eyes any good if they’re the wrong prescription, your orthotics need to be carefully selected and fit to your feet and condition.
At our office, we’ll make a thorough evaluation (including, if necessary, a standing CT scan) to determine whether prefabricated or custom orthotics could benefit you.
If we feel you’d do well with a prefab, we’ll not only select an appropriate type for you, but also heat mold it in our office to improve the fit as much as we can. These “customizable” orthotics are typically much more effective than simply choosing inserts off the grocery story rack.
For those with more significant misalignments or deformities, custom orthotics may be the way to go.
HyProCure is an innovative, minimally invasive surgical procedure developed to fix one of the most common (and disruptive) foot misalignments—talotarsal joint displacement.
Under normal circumstances, the ankle bone (talus) is supposed to sit above and in line with the heel bone (calcaneus), with a small gap in the middle called the sinus tarsi. Unfortunately, in many individuals, the ankle bone has fallen slightly forward and downward, collapsing that natural gap.
Pretty much all the conditions we talked about above—heel pain, overpronation, flat feet, deformities, pinched nerves, knee and back pain—can be complications of talotarsal joint displacement.
In the “old days” we probably would have recommended custom orthotics to deal with this particular misalignment, but now HyProCure is the procedure of choice. It’s a very simple, minimally invasive surgical procedure in which we insert a specially designed titanium stent into the naturally occurring space between the talus and calcaneus.
With the HyProCure stent in place, the ankle bone can no longer fall forward or downward, and maintains its correct position above the heel bone.
- No bones need to be cut or repositioned directly.
- No pins, wires, or screws are necessary to hold anything together
- You will never “feel” the stent, and it will not prevent you from enjoying full range of motion in the ankle.
And of course, because it’s a minimally invasive procedure, it only takes about 20 minutes to perform, and offers a quick recovery timeline, low risk of complications, and very little scarring—especially in comparison with more traditional foot and ankle surgery.
Are you suffering from painful feet, ankles and legs for reasons you can’t explain?
If so, please give us a call today. There’s a good chance that misaligned feet are at least part of the problem—and a treatment such as orthotics or HyProCure a big part of the solution.