The proper foot pads can improve your foot function, rehabilitate your foot and reduce your foot pain. Not all pads are created equal, however; pads that immobilize your feet, holding them rigidly in place, can have detrimental effects on your feet and can unfavorably alter the structural arrangement and tone of your foot tissues. Choose foot pads that are flexible and support your foot in a natural way.
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Metatarsal pads are sometimes used to treat metatarsalgia, a general term that refers to any painful foot condition affecting your foot's metatarsal region. Dr. Ray McClanahan, a Portland, Oregon-based sports podiatrist and a leader in the field of conservative foot care, suggests that the benefits of using a metatarsal pad are manifold. Metatarsal pads help spread your foot's transverse arch and forefoot, have a leveling effect on chronically extended toes and encourage the return of your forefoot fat pad to a place that supports the heads of your metatarsal bones.
The wearing of conventional shoes -- shoes with elevated heels, tapered toe boxes and built-in toe-spring -- contributes to foot deformities, such as extended toes and a forward displacement of the fat pad that usually resides under your forefoot, supporting your metatarsal bones at the point where they contact the ground.
Toe Spreading Pads
According to Dr. McClanahan, your feet should be their widest at the ends of your toes, not at the ball of your foot -- something not commonly seen in shoe-wearing Westerners. In people who have gone barefoot or who have worn minimal footwear most of their lives -- which is common in many parts of the world including Africa, Asia and South and Central America -- their feet are widest at the ends of their toes, with their toes evenly spaced and splayed widely, a foot structure similar to that of newborns, who haven't yet had their feet molded and sculpted by shoes featuring tapered toe boxes.
To combat the deforming effects of conventional footwear, Dr. McClanahan recommends you use toe spreading pads between your toes, especially between your big toe and your second toe, to help re-approximate your toes to the position that nature intended. Re-approximating your big toe, so that it's in line with the inside edge of your foot, helps you avoid a host of lower limb, ankle and foot conditions, such as bunions, hammertoes and plantar fasciosis. Toe spreading pads, which can be worn under a sock and in shoes featuring a sufficiently wide toe box, are constructed of medical-grade silicone and come in various sizes to suit your feet.
According to Dr. Elizabeth H. Roberts, a podiatrist and professor emeritus of the New York College of Podiatric Medicine in New York City, a simple way to remove pressure off your calluses or blisters is to place a little gauze or absorbent cotton over your problematic area, then cover it with a thin moleskin pad. Remove your covering each night, as well as when you bathe or shower, so that your skin can breathe and excessive moisture does not accumulate under your pad.
When you remove your moleskin, hold your surrounding skin taut as you slowly pull your moleskin pad away from your callus or blister. If your moleskin pad is situated on your sole, pull the moleskin back toward your heel; you risk tearing your skin when you pull in the opposite direction. Moleskin pads are inexpensive, easy to apply and can be cut to your exact needs and specifications.