A Closer Look at Common Military Foot Problems
As a member of our armed forces, you’re trained to face extreme and dangerous situations calmly and professionally. So it’s especially frustrating when the reason you aren’t able to perform your duties at full capacity has nothing to do with the tactical situation, and everything to do with a preventable foot or ankle injury.
Sometimes, what seems to be the smallest, most insignificant problem at the time can completely hobble you. Maybe not at first, of course. But continue to go full speed on an already weakened tendon, ligament, bone, or even toenail, and sooner or later that small problem can become one that keeps you out of action for weeks at a time.
Common Military Foot & Ankle Injuries and Conditions
Foot problems are extremely common for men and women in uniform—with incident rates as high as 25 percent according to some studies. Duties that require a lot of standing and physical activity, combined with long shifts, ill-fitting boots, and other complicating factors can conspire to produce severe problems.
Over the years, Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates has had the privilege of serving the foot and ankle needs of men and women of our armed forces, especially those stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Some of the problems we see most frequently include:
- Traumatic injuries – The most common traumatic injuries we deal with from military personnel are sprained ankles. However, we also see a lot of muscle strains, ligament tears, broken toes, and other sudden, painful traumas. With traumatic injuries, it’s extremely important to get prompt treatment and take your recovery and rehab seriously, or you greatly increase your risk of re-injury, as well as your risks of developing chronic pain and instability.
- Plantar fasciitis – This is the most common form of heel pain among U.S. adults in general, and it’s also very common in the military due to the added stress on your feet. Overstressed arches lead to irritation and tearing in the band of tissue that supports the bottom of your feet, usually right under the heel. You might notice the pain is worse when you first get up out of bed, or after a long period of activity.
- Stress fractures – Another classic military injury that’s related to chronic overuse. When you sustain excessive, repetitive impact forces on your feet without adequate time off to rest, the soft tissues break down, can’t repair themselves, and lose their ability to absorb shocks. As a result, more force gets transferred directly to bones, which start to crack under the stress. This causes chronic pain that increases during activity—and unfortunately, it often requires several weeks to a few months of significantly reduced activity to heal.
- Ingrown toenails – Ill-fitting boots are a frequent contributor to this painful condition, especially if toenails are not kept neatly trimmed. Although an ingrown toenail may start small, ignoring the problem often allows it to develop a serious infection, which is associated with severe pain. As with other foot problems, it’s best to address ingrown toenails as early as possible.
- Blisters – Also associated with ill-fitting boots (as well as damp socks), we don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to march (or do anything, really) with blisters on your feet. They also have the potential for infection, which can be especially dangerous in the field. You should avoid popping a blister if possible, and instead protect it using a donut-shaped moleskin bandage.
This is, of course, only a partial list.
The Importance of Routine Maintenance
We certainly don’t have to tell you that routine maintenance on essential equipment can save your life in the field. Taking the necessary time to make sure the things you rely on are in proper working order is absolutely critical.
The same really is true of your feet and ankles. Even something as seemingly minor as an ingrown toenail can cause you to lose focus, concentration, and mobility—and in most cases, proper maintenance could have helped you avoid the problem in the first place.
In other words? Most serious foot problems don’t start out that way. They start out small. Identifying and dealing with them early will keep you in top shape.
Simple yet critical steps include:
- Keeping your toenails neatly trimmed
- Ensuring your boots are comfortable and properly broken in (and are equipped with orthotics if necessary.)
- Washing your feet at least daily, and drying them thoroughly afterward.
- Warming up before exercise.
- Drinking lots of water—before, during, and after exercise.
Your Military Foot Care Specialists
If a foot problem does start to impair your fitness and readiness to serve, don’t wait until the problem gets worse before taking appropriate action.
The Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates team stands ready to assist you, and we’ll do everything we can to get you back in the field, at full strength, as quickly as possible. We know you’d go the extra mile for us. Going the extra mile for you is the least we can do.
Our treatment options include MLS laser therapy, an advanced procedure that can in some cases reduce the recovery time after an injury by 40 percent or more, particularly when it’s performed as part of a comprehensive treatment plan with more traditional forms of therapy.
We are always ready for duty so that you can be, too. If you’re having any foot or ankle issues, please call our office today at (609) 714-0052.