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Feet Facts FAQs

Reviewed by Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

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Q:All babies have flat feet. True or False?

A:True. All babies have flat feet. This is because their arches are not yet formed and because baby feet tend to be plump. Flat feet may persist into adulthood, though an arch may form as the child grows.

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Q:People with flat feet are sometimes clumsy from prolonged walking or running. True or False?

A:True. Flat-footed people are sometimes clumsy and fatigued from prolonged walking or running. Shoes with built-in arch supports can help with these problems.

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Q:When are feet their largest?

A:At the end of the day. Feet are at their largest at the end of the day. Because of this, the end of the day is the best time to buy shoes to ensure a proper fit.

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Q:Shoes with heels should be no more than how high?

A:Two inches high. Switching to lower heels will help you avoid problems with the metatarsal bones. The lower you go, the more natural your foot position will be. Dr. Hillary Brenner, a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association recommends choosing heels that are no more than two inches high. -- "Even those should be worn in moderation," she says.

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Q:Which foot condition mainly affects women?

A:Bunions. Common in ballet dancers, a bunion is a painful lump at the base of the big toe, which may cause the toe to bend unnaturally. It forms when the tissue or bone at the base joint gets displaced. This may happen after years of abnormal pressure and movement. Pointy-toed shoes are a common factor, which explains the prevalence of bunions among women. Pain relievers, pads to cushion the bunion, custom shoe inserts, or surgery may help. To avoid bunions, it is best to wear roomy shoes and avoid high heels.

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Q:How many bones are in the human foot?

A:26. The human foot has 26 bones.

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Q:This condition causes the deformity of the second, third, and fourth toes?

A:Hammer toe. The term hammer toe refers to a common deformity of the foot in which either the second, third, or fourth toe is bent at the middle joint, so that the tip of the toe is bent downward while the middle of the toe is cocked upward resembling a hammer. The hammer toe deformity is the most common deformity of the small toes. The condition can be present at birth or can develop as a result of wearing poorly fitting shoes.

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Q:Athlete's foot is caused by bacteria found in places such as gyms, locker rooms, and nail salons. True or False?

A:False. Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus, not bacteria. The medical name for athlete's foot caused by a fungus is tinea pedis and can be contracted in many locations, including gyms, locker rooms, swimming pools, nail salons, airport security lines, from contaminated socks and clothing, and from direct person-to-person by contact. Another colorful name for this condition is "jungle rot," often used by members of the armed services serving in tropical climates.

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Q:Painful inflammation of the big toe usually indicates this type of arthritis?

A:Gout. The small joint at the base of the big toe is the most common site of an acute gout attack of arthritis. An acute attack of gouty arthritis at the base of the big toe is medically referred to as podagra. Other joints that are commonly affected by gout include the ankles, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows.

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Q:Foot amputation may result as a complication of which disease?

A:Diabetes. With diabetes, proper foot care is very important. Poor foot care with diabetes can lead to serious health problems, including possibly having to remove the foot or leg (amputation). It's important to understand the connection between diabetes and foot care. A person with diabetes is more vulnerable to foot problems because diabetes can damage nerves and reduce blood flow to the feet.

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Q:What are the worst possible shoes for your feet?

A:Flip-flops. According to podiatrist Andrew Shapiro, DPM, a spokesman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, the world's worst shoe is not spike heels or pointy boots. Instead, the worst offender is flip-flops! This is because flip-flops offer no arch support and do not protect the foot at all, leaving feet exposed and prone to injuries. The solution: Unless you're on the beach, wear real sandals, not flip-flops -- the kind with a strap in the back that at least holds your foot inside the shoe. Worst Shoe Runners-Up are spike heels, ballet flats, pointy-toes pumps, and backless mules.

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Q:Metatarsalgia is a condition describing acute pain in the ball of the foot. True or False?

A:True. Metatarsalgia is the medical term for acute pain in the ball of the foot. A common overuse injury, metatarsalgia can become chronic as a result of stress and pressure on the ball of the foot. This is often caused by shoes and actions that put an abnormal amount of pressure on the ball of the foot, such as high heels and high-impact sports.

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