Gill South: Tootsie troubles to mull over

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Worried about the beginnings of an ingrown toenail, Gill South visits a podiatrist to get the lowdown on her tootsies.

It's better not to tiptoe around toe troubles by getting any foot issues checked out early. Photo / Thinkstock
It's better not to tiptoe around toe troubles by getting any foot issues checked out early. Photo / Thinkstock

I would have made a good ballet dancer, says my podiatrist, Lisa Hinchcliff at Greenlane Podiatry Clinic, judging from the way I walk. I did give ballet a whirl - I was a picture in my pale blue tutu at the age of 7 - but the industry did not weep when I hung up my ballet slippers early on.

Why ballet? Apparently when I walk, I pronate, that is my foot rolls inwards. Pronators like me have a tendency to twist ankles and stub toes, she says. Oh yes, all those times writhing in agony on the netball court.

I am here today to see if I have what I suspect is the beginnings of ingrown toenails. The tops of both my big toes have been tender for a while and I've just been hoping it's nothing serious and will sort itself out.

Think how much you spend on tyres every year, she says. That's quite a lot for me, I tend to be rather hard on them, those darn kerbs keep getting in the way. But I only have one set of feet, says Lisa. Do I want to treat them like a Mercedes or an old dunger?

Lisa notices the extensor tendon leading to the big toe on each of my feet is tight - this is caused by trauma, she says. Shock absorption is where all my issues are and this does relate to ingrown toe nails.

Lisa confirms I have the beginnings of what could be an ingrown toenail and to avoid this, when cutting my nails I should aim for the v in the middle and not hack too much off at the sides.

Another way to protect my toes is to wear the right shoes. When I buy a shoe, the heel of the shoe needs to be stiff, supporting the heel.

The good news is, despite my tight extensor tendons, I am blessed with high arches - they are my saving grace, Lisa tells me but they must be protected.

As I get older my flexi tendons tend to get weaker. Lisa shows me a stretch where I point my toes forward and hold for a time. I do quite a lot of activities which involve pivoting - tennis for instance - so this foot exercise is important.

Another delightful thing about my feet, which I used to think were in pretty good shape, is my dry heels. They are dry because I take a lot of pressure on my heel, and the heel is always absorbing this. Lisa sends me away with various Gewohl products to help moisturise them.

The podiatrist also sees a slight leg length discrepancy; my right is longer than my left. Because of this my right foot takes massive shock absorption, compensating for the left. That could explain my wonky right knee every now and then.

Lisa notes that my little toes have exostosis, bone growing on already existing bone. My little toes are always where I get my blisters. The preventative measure is to take the pressure off them, again by wearing good shoes. I don't want to end up with extra bone growth.

Lisa leaves me with a summary of what I need to do. Good shoes, moisturiser, shock absorption, stretches, and leave the sides of the big toe nails to grow.

The podiatrist says a lot of her regulars come to her at the beginning of the summer and at the end which sounds like a plan.

Next week:

People often ask me what activities/treatments/therapists I have stuck with since starting this column. I will try and give a list of my favourite things.

- NZ Herald

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