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Healthy You

What is “Pandemic Foot”?

Thursday, June 02, 2022 1:08 PM

By Leah Parsons

Have you noticed an increase in problems with your feet since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic? Perhaps more pain when your foot hits the pavement, or more recurring foot injuries? If you have, you’re not alone.

senior man suffering with foot cramp

Although no hard data exists yet, podiatrists around the country are reporting a rise in foot injuries and trauma since the pandemic began. Their name for the phenomenon? “Pandemic foot.”

Swedish Hospital Podiatrist Peter G. Chioros, D.P.M., said that the most common foot and ankle problems he has seen in the past two years include “everything from painful neglected ingrown nails to various biomechanical disorders that are exacerbated with minimal weight-bearing activities.”

Experts have pinpointed a variety of pandemic-specific circumstances that could be affecting your feet negatively.

One such cause might simply be from not wearing shoes as often. As many people transitioned from going outside every day to working from home, walking barefoot became the new norm for some. A lack of shoe support can increase the risk of overuse injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, which often causes pain in the heel of the foot. Limited shoe support can also trigger structural changes to the feet, which may aggravate problems for some people such as bunions.

In addition, walking around the home barefoot magnifies the chance of stubbing a vulnerable toe on a piece of furniture, or tripping awkwardly over a pet, potentially leading to an increase in toe and foot fractures.

There’s also a chance that your foot problems stem from resuming normal life too quickly after two years of relatively little activity. Doing too much too soon on feet that have undergone atrophy from inactivity can cause even minor foot injuries to turn into a bigger problem.

Luckily, you can help your feet if you are experiencing any form of pandemic foot. Dr. Chioros has these tips:

  • Wear more supportive footwear. This means getting properly fitted at a shoe store for a pair with a semirigid sole, a spacious toe box, and a small heel lift.
  • Strengthen your feet. Check out this exercise called foot doming.
  • Stretch your feet before activity. Roll your foot/toes over a rubber ball, flex and point your feet, and don’t forget to stretch the back of your calf/achilles.