It is easy to take feet for granted. In one way or another, they are involved in just about all daily activities. Yet, while teens and young adults often spend lots of time caring for their skin, teeth, hair, and other parts of their bodies, they devote little if any time to their feet. It is important to remember that foot health is an integral component of overall health and wellness. Female teens may polish the nails on their feet, but that does not really support healthy feet.
Like adults, teens are at risk for a number of foot problems. One of the most common concerns is feet that have an unpleasant smell. This is caused by bacteria that live on the feet and in shoes. Washing your feet with soap every day, wearing a clean pair of socks, and alternating shoes should correct this problem. Removing insoles from shoes and sponge washing them with a little soap and water may also be helpful. Plantar warts, also known as verruca, are caused by a virus that enters the skin through a small crack. To survive on floors, the virus requires a warm and wet environment, such as a communal changing room or sports center. As it thickens, a plantar wart may become painful. If a plantar wart does not resolve by itself, it may be treated by a medical provider. Ingrown toenails are another common medical problem. These occur when a small amount of nail grows forward and digs into the skin. They may become infected and be painful. Again, you may need the care of a medical provider who will use special clippers, and, perhaps, a local anesthetic, to resolve the issue. Another frequent medical problem among teens is foot pain. This is often related to rapid foot growth and the need for larger and more supportive shoes, which may or may not be fashionable. In females, foot pain may be associated with wearing high-heeled shoes. Foot pain that persists should be discussed with a medical provider. 2
In a prospective, randomized study published in 2014 in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, researchers from Denmark and Spain compared the ability of shock-absorbing insoles and regular insoles to reduce the amount of pain experienced by young soccer players on artificial turf. The cohort consisted of 75 adolescent players who were divided into two groups. An initial baseline assessment was conducted. Then, for three weeks, the teens in one group used the shock-absorbing insoles and the teens in the other used regular insoles. Assessments were made at the end of the three weeks of training and at a six-week follow-up. The researchers found that the shock-absorbing insoles reduced the amount of pain experienced by the players. They noted that the use of shock-absorbing insoles “may play a protective role in pressure sensitivity and pain prevention.” Likewise, these insoles “caused larger decreases in pressure pain sensitivity and pain intensity compared with usual insoles.” 4
In a crossover study published in 2015 in the Journal of Athletic Training, researchers based in Italy evaluated the efficacy of a sanitizing technique for reducing the bacterial and fungal contamination of footwear. According to the researchers, people tend to wash their feet with some regularity, but they devote little attention to the inside areas of their shoes. The cohort consisted of 27 male athletes and four coaches, with a total of 62 shoes. The researchers began their experimental protocol by using swabs to take samples from the interior sections of all of the shoes. Then the participants were supplied with a sanitizing product and told to use it on dry shoes before they were worn. Second samples of the shoes were taken after about four weeks. The researchers found that the shoe sanitizing product resulted in a “general reduction in the microbial population.” The researchers commented that “the sanitizing technique significantly reduced the bacterial presence in athletes’ shoes.” 5
In a cross-sectional study published in 2012 in the journal Human Movement Science, researchers from Brazil assessed the effect of high-heeled shoes (seven centimeters) on the static balance of young adult women. (Static balance is the ability to maintain one’s balance when not moving.) The cohort consisted of 53 women between the ages of 18 and 30 years who regularly wore high-heeled shoes. None of the women had experienced any “orthopedic or neurologic alterations.” Static balance assessments were made when the women were barefoot and when they were wearing high-heeled shoes, and when their eyes were open and their eyes were closed. All the assessments were conducted on a single day. The women who were barefoot with their eyes open had the best static balance, and the women wearing the high-heeled shoes who had their eyes closed had the most problems with static balance. The researchers commented that in their findings, “the use of high-heeled shoes had a negative influence over balance in the women evaluated …, which was accentuated when visual information was removed.” 6
In an investigation published in 2013 in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers from the United Kingdom wanted to learn more about the role that foot health plays in the shoe choices of female teens. The cohort consisted of 162 female students with a mean age of 17 years. The students completed questionnaires about their thoughts and emotions concerning their footwear purchases made during the previous six months. During that time, they collectively purchased a total of 458 pairs of shoes. The high-heeled shoes, which were purchased for occasions and parties, made the teens the happiest. In fact, the height of the heel was a statistically significant choice. Flat shoes, which were worn for everyday and school, were not associated with positive or negative emotions. Casual shoes, such as wool boots, were often worn on weekends. The researchers commented that footwear was a factor in fashion and self-image for female teens. But, foot functions and foot health did not appear to influence the choice of footwear. Moreover, “foot measurements were not seen as an important consideration for footwear purchases.” 7
1. Michigan Podiatric Medical Association, www.mpma.org.
2. The College of Podiatry, www.scpod.org.
3. V. Tessutti, A.P. Ribeiro, F. Trombini-Souza, and I. C. Sacco, “Attenuation of Foot Pressure During Running on Four Different Surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete, Rubber, and Natural Grass,” Journal of Sports Sciences 30, no. 14 (2012): 1545-50.
4. Pascal Madeleine, Brian P. Hoej, César Fernández de las Peñas et al., “Pressure Pain Sensitivity Changes After Use of Shock-Absorbing Insoles Among Young Soccer Players Training on Artificial Turf: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 44, no. 8 (2014): 587-94.
5. G. Messina, S. Burgassi, C. Russo et al., “Is It Possible to Sanitize Athletes’ Shoes?” Journal of Athlete Training 50, no. 2 (2015): 126-32.
6. Susana Baceete Gerber, Rafael Vital Costa, Luanda André Colange Grecco et al., “Interference of High-Heeled Shoes in Static Balance Among Young Women,” Human Movement Science 31 (2012): 1247-52.
7. H. Branthwaite, N. Chockaingam, S. Grogan, and M. Jones, “Footwear Choices Made by Young Women and Their Potential Impact on Foot Health,” Journal of Health Psychology 18, no. 11 (2013): 1422-31.
8. Justin F. Shroyer and Wendi H. Weimar, “Comparative Analysis of Human Gait While Wearing Thong-Style Flip-Flops Versus Sneakers,” Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 100, no. 4 (2010): 251-57.
Branthwaite, H., N. Chockalingam, S. Grogan, and M. Jones. “Footwear Choices Made by Young Women and Their Potential Impact on Foot Health.” Journal of Health Psychology 18, no. 11 (2013): 1422-31.
Gerber, Susana Baceete, Rafael Vital Costa, Luanda André Colange Grecco et al. “Interference of High-Heeled Shoes in Static Balance Among Young Women.” Human Movement Science 31 (2012): 1247-52.
Hoffman, Martin D., and Eswar Krishnan. “Health and Exercise-Related Medical Issues Among 1,212 Ultramarathon Runners: Baseline Findings from the Ultrarunners Longitudinal TRAcking (ULTRA) Study.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 1 (2014): e83867.
Hollander, K., D. Riebe, S. Campe et al. “Effects of Footwear on Treadmill Running Biomechanics in Preadolescent Children.” Gait & Posture 40, no. 2 (2014): 381-81.
Madeleine, Pascal, Brian P. Hoej, César Fernández de las Peñas et al. “Pressure Pain Sensitivity Changes After Use of Shock-Absorbing Insoles Among Young Soccer Players Training on Artificial Turf: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy 44, no. 8 (2014): 587-94.
Messina, G., S. Burgassi, C. Russo et al. “Is It Possible to Sanitize Athletes’ Shoes?” Journal of Athlete Training 50, no. 2 (2015): 126-32.
Robinson, L. E., M. E. Rudisill, W. H. Weimar et al. “Footwear and Locomotor Skill Performance in Preschoolers.” Perceptual and Motor Skills 113, no. 2 (2011): 534-38.
Shroyer, Justin F., and Wendi H. Weimar. “Comparative Analysis of Human Gait While Wearing Thong-Style Flip-Flops Versus Sneakers.” Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association 100, no. 4 (2010): 251-57.
Silva, Anniele Martins, Gisela Rocha de Siqueira, and Giselia Alves P. da Silva. “Implications of High-Heeled Shoes on Body Posture of Adolescents.” Revista Paulista de Pediatria 31, no. 2 (2013): 265-71.
Simon, J., E. Hall, and C. Docherty. “Prevalence of Chronic Ankle Instability and Associated Symptoms in University Dance Majors: An Exploratory Study.” Journal of Dance Medicine & Science 18, no. 4 (2014): 178-84.
Tessutti, V., A. P. Ribeiro, F. Trombini-Souza, and I. C. Sacco. “Attenuation of Foot Pressure During Running on Four Different Surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete, Rubber, and Natural Grass.” Journal of Sports Sciences 30, no. 14 (2012): 1545-50.
Michigan Podiatric Medical Association. www.mpma.org .
The College of Podiatry. www.scpod.org .