A conversation with a notable podiatrist, Dr. Robert Chelin

Dr. Chelin is the Past President and CEO of the Federation of International Podiatrists (FIP) as well as its Chairman of Economic Development and Website Committees. Chelin has been providing podiatric services to the residents of Ontario, Canada for over 29 years. Dr. Chelin and other key podiatry leaders recently met in Washington D.C. to celebrate the inauguration of the new president of the American Podiatric Medical Association at their House of Delegates meeting. Dr. Chelin is an authority on the prevention of foot problems. As a prominent and notable podiatrist, we were lucky to have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Chelin about how to eliminate foot pain, increase foot function and improve the foot’s appearance.

bunion examination

bunion examination

The mission at our “Aesthetics in Podiatry” practice is to eliminate foot pain, increase foot function, and improve the foot’s appearance. A physical exam of my patient’s feet begins with a complete foot physical including an evaluation of their foot mechanics and the environmental factors that their feet are exposed to daily. What I mean by this, is to first evaluate whether their foot deformity is primarily a result of their genetics (extremely flexible foot structure), or primarily, from wearing ill-fitting shoes.

In this case, I will use a bunion deformity, also known as Hallux valgus as an example of a patient’s foot condition. A bunion deformity is an enlargement of bone on the side of the 1st metatarsal head which may also involve the deviation of the big toe. Primarily it is caused by genetic factors. In some cases, ill-fitting shoes can be the cause of a bunion, but in most cases, improper foot wear only exacerbates this genetic disposition.

With a bunion deformity, conservative treatments such as wearing prescription foot orthotics and/or the Bunion Aid® bunion splint and switching to proper-fitting shoes can reduce bunion pain and stabilize one’s foot mechanics. If the bunion is painful, an x-ray examination is performed. If the deformity is severe and the degrees of bunion deviation of the big toe is large enough, I will suggest that the patient consider bunion surgery. I will then recommend a procedure or multiple procedures to eliminate the bunion pain, stabilize the deformity, and straighten the big toe for improved foot function and appearance.

Bunion surgery in most cases is successful; but in the end, it is up to my patients to continue with diligent foot care. For example, as part of my post-surgical care package, I include a Post Operative bunion splint that is engineered and manufactured in Germany, the Bunion Aid® Treatment Splint. I recommend that our patients begin wearing it daily after I remove the post-op dressings, usually 4 – 6 weeks after the surgery. This flexible hinged splint will maintain surgical correction while allowing the patient to return to normal activity.


I like to use analogies with my practice when consulting with patients. For example, with orthodontics, once our braces are removed from our teeth, we will continue to wear a retainer for some time to ensure our teeth do not shift back to their native position. It is only natural that with genetic deformities, whether they are deformities of our teeth or feet, our bones, ligaments and tendons want to go back to their native state. That is why it is so important to wear a bunion splint after bunion surgery and perhaps beyond. Post surgical use of the Bunion Aid® Treatment Splint will keep the big toe into the corrected position as well as maintaining the correct metatarsal angle. By doing so, we have a much better chance in preventing the reoccurrence of the bunion deformity.

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My Struggle with Bunions

Like millions of women around the world, bunions or “Hallux valgus” run in my family. A team of scientists at Harvard Medical School, Hebrew SeniorLife and the Institute for Aging Research analyzed the foot health data of more than 2,100 individuals to determine whether foot conditions are inherited. They discovered that about 39 percent of women and 38 percent of men had a hallux valgus deformity, also known as a bunion. Among these individuals, about 89 percent of those younger than 60 had inherited their bunions.

In addition, as a fashionable woman, I also have a long standing love affair with high heel stilettos. The UK College of Podiatry warned that prolonged high heel wearing can trigger serious problems including arthritis, stress fractures and trapped nerves. The college’s Mike O’Neill, a consultant podiatrist, said: “There is absolutely no doubt that women who wear high heels are putting themselves at risk of permanent injury in the name of fashion.”

The combination of these two factors made me a prime candidate to suffer from bunions. I first started developing bunions in my early 20s. As a young woman I thought that I was too young to develop bunions, what I thought was only a foot condition for older people! “When younger athletes have a bunion, it’s a very complex problem. And in younger patients, the tendency for a bunion to recur later on is much higher,” Dr. Victor Prisk, orthopedic foot specialist at Allegheny General Hospital explained to the source. “A lot of the procedures don’t just involve shaving the bone down. It actually involves moving the bone and getting the alignment back to normal.” As I got older the foot pain made it harder and harder to enjoy the things I love the most like dancing and hiking. I foolishly neglected to take care of my feet and allowed my foot ailments to get worse and worse. It’s uncommon to hear the word “metatarsophalangeal” during a dinnertime discussion or at a bar with friends, but if you’re suffering from bunions, you have an association with this term that you may not even be aware of.

Finally, I reached the stage of bunion progression where something had to be done. I already knew from my research into bunion surgery that it is a costly and painful procedure that is reserved for only the most severe cases of Hallux valgus.
Much of information I read about bunion surgery and many of the images I found online of it were so disgusting and revolting that I would no longer even consider having the procedure done. If at all possible, I wanted a way to relieve my bunion pain while correcting the underlying bunion problem at home. Without surgery.

bunion surgery bunion surgery

I decided to experiment with various bunion products available online, but found many of these bunion products were inadequate or misrepresented. After much research, I found that many of the “soft gel” bunion products did not work at all. Bunion Splints seemed to offer the best bunion correction, but how to determine which bunion splint was the most effective? I needed to learn more about bunion splints. First I consulted the “Bunion Splint Buyer’s Guide” available on this site.

Finally after much research, I was able to determine that the best and most effective bunion splint is the “Bunion-Aid” Splint. It is the only podiatrist recommended bunion splint that has been scientifically proven to effectively treat bunions and relieve bunion pain. There are Bunion-Aid resources for medical professionals such as numerous clinical studies, medical testimonials, customer reviews and brochures available on the Bunion-Aid distributor’s website.

Bunion Aid Treatment Splint Bunion Aid Medial Mid Foot Brace

Especially after viewing the Bunion-Aid reviews on Amazon.com I decided to give Bunion-Aid a try. After using it regularly for 6 months I am happy to report that Bunion-Aid is the only bunion product I have used that actually worked as promised. It has reduced my bunion and relieves my bunion pain every night. I usually wear it at night, but it works great for wearing around the house. It features a joint hinge that maintains foot mobility while securing the big toe. For now I am so happy that I was able to find an alternative to bunion surgery. However, while Bunion-Aid remains the most effective bunion product on the marketplace, I am always open to new technology and bunion surgery alternatives. Does anyone else have similar bunion struggles to share?

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Foot pain could indicate a deeper problem

As people break out the strappy sandals and flip-flops for the summer season, many are also preparing for the foot pain that is associated with a more active lifestyle and less supportive footwear. Pain in the foot can be due to a problem in any part of the foot. Bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, toenail beds, nerves, blood vessels, or skin can be the source of foot pain. The cause of foot pain can be narrowed down by location and by considering some of the most common causes of foot pain.

Cary Copeland DPM According to Cary Copeland, DPM, director of University of Cincinnati Health Podiatry services, “Foot pain is not normal, and people often accept it—even children,” he says. “People should be able to stand for hours at time—even wearing flip-flops or other flat shoes—without experiencing pain. It’s important to realize that if you cannot, there might be an underlying problem.”

Copeland says that if a child complains of foot pain, it isn’t normal, and that down the road, if not properly addressed, it could lead to hip, knee and lower back pain later in life.

“When you’re enjoying the day at Kings Island and notice that your child needs to sit down every half an hour, there may be other issues,” he says, adding that undiagnosed tightness in the calf muscle can lead to premature knee and hip pain and affect muscles and joints throughout the lower half of the body and lower back. “There are a number of issues that can be caused by an imbalance in the lower extremities, which people may often ignore and compensate in ways that harm other parts of their body.

“When you go to the ophthalmologist and the different strengths of lenses are put in front of you, it’s easy to see that your eyesight improves; however, with lower extremity imbalances, a person is not as aware that there is a problem.”

Oftentimes, children are told that they are experiencing “growing pains,” which do in fact happen during growth periods. However, Copeland says, this can occur as a result of overcompensation, which could lead to premature arthritis in the knees, hips and lower back and a specialist might be needed.

“It’s important to catch these problems earlier in life and remedy them to avoid arthritis or other joint and foot pain—including bunions, corns and hammertoes—later in life,” he says. “People often think these issues are genetic but it is the biomechanical imbalances that may be passed from parent to child, and if caught early, common foot pathologies can be avoided.

“Enjoy your flip-flops and sandals, but for the best health and an overall good quality of life, take care of any foot pain you may have.”

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The pros and cons of wearing heels

Your girlfriends may tell you that strapping your toes into stilettos will boost your confidence, make your legs look longer, give you a skinnier-looking figure or make you look more stylish. But what are the short-term and long-term effects? Is it really worth it – especially if you get a bunion in the process?

A little history …
This was shocking even for me — and trust me, I've heard it all — but high heels have been around since the 1500s. However, it wasn't damsels or Renaissance princesses donning these shoes, it was men. Seriously … you have to chuckle a bit at that fun fact. Oh, the irony! Could it be that males are actually the first humans in history to get bunions from heels? It's highly possible! Despite its slightly amusing past, these painful yet sexy shoes are now one of the fashion features that women especially love to hate.

Pros
This really isn't rocket science. We all know why women wear heels – it gives you the idea that you look and feel like a million bucks, especially if you are one of the shorter gals out there. As a bonus, many people believe that these shoes accentuate curves by bringing your chest forward and your waistline back.

Although this is not safe or healthy for your legs – the calf muscles contract and adjust to the angle of high heels. This gives the illusion that you have been working out (even if you have been slacking off at the gym). However, the biggest reason women totter around in heels is because it makes your legs look longer.

Cons
The negative effects of stilettos are much less talked about, but I know for a fact that they're alive and well. You know that feeling when you take off your stilettos at the end of the day? That horrible foot pain is not normal, ladies. As much as I hate to admit it – these shoes are killers for foot health and can even cause irreversible damage.

You can easily get hammertoes or bunions since feet are crammed into tight, narrow spaces. However, there is also a risk for ankle sprains, knee and back pain and just plain falling flat on your face.

To save yourself this kind of embarrassment and possible bunion pain, stick with a pair of sexy flats and tone up those legs on the treadmill to look your best.

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Why women are more likely to get the bunion blues

It is almost sadly ironic that women bear the brunt of a lot of foot problems out there. Not only do we bear children and pound the pavement while trying to break our industry's glass ceiling, we are inhibited from wearing the shoes we love because of annoying bunions!

Ladies, I have lived with this my whole life … and trust me, things are hard out there for us ladies – especially when it comes to feet. Yes, even our poor toes have to undergo more torment than our male counterparts. This is why my orthotic and a bottle of pain reliever are mainstays in my bathroom closet – and should be part of yours if you are currently suffering from a stubborn, painful bony bump:

• The odds are against you, gals. Most women will develop bunions at some point or another. In fact, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 55 percent of women will develop a bunion over the course of their lifetime. Another startling statistic? A whopping 88 percent of women wear shoes that are too small for them! Take it from me – it is worth it to get your feet properly sized – the bunions you might get are definitely not worth it, ladies!
• I hate to be the one to break it to you, friends: But those 5-inch Louboutins have got to go if you are suffering from a bunion. As much as I hate to admit it – most high-end fashion designs don't think about comfort or arch support. Tight, narrow heels can be to blame for your issues, but according to a blog post from Steve Rosenberg on the Huffington Post, acute slopes in shoes can even cause muscle spasms – who wants that?
• It doesn't get any better if you have a bun in the oven, either. In fact, Rosenberg claims that women's feet change dramatically during pregnancy because of a hormone called relaxin. This is good because it allows your foot ligaments to stretch and provide extra support for weight gain, but unfortunately – your flat feet might get bunions, and might never be the same again (but it's all worth it for that bundle of joy, right?)

Women everywhere – take care of your feet as much as your hair, skin or nails. Prevention is key when it comes to bunions, and I don't want your pretty little feet to become a painful statistic!

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So long, 2012! Enter: Winter’s worst foot problems

The ball has dropped, I have finally recovered from my hangover from New Year's Eve and have started to get back into the grind of daily life after the hub bub of the holidays. Although I thought rushing around for gifts and dancing the night away a few nights ago was going to to be the main cause of my foot pain, I have Old Man Winter to thank instead.

In case you haven't noticed yet … it's cold! I mean – really, really cold. Although my feet take a beating year-round, my toes are especially tempermental once the temperatures start to drop. Although I have my good ol' orthotics that easily fit into my snug winter boots to help avoid bunions, there is little this device can do to protect my feet from the harsh winter winds.

In lieu of another wave of winters storms headed across the country at the start of 2013, I thought I'd give a few helpful hints about how to keep your feet looking and feeling great during these chilly months that lie ahead:

• This should be common sense to most of you, but make sure to wear warm boots during this time of year … the only thing worse than a bunion is a frostbitten one! I don't know about you guys, but I am planning on staying indoors. However, if you plan on hitting the slopes or braving the ice – make sure to pair those boots with some warm, wool socks.
• If you prefer to be curbside, take caution in walking on sidewalks too. Not all merchants are concerned with salting the outside of their establishments, so it is important to take extra time and care when window shopping.
• According to Daily Glow, cracked heels and flaky skin can making walking less-than-desirable when icy winds begin to blow. Although it isn't pretty, you aren't the only one. Wearing moisturizing socks at night or simply rubbing a cream-based solution – like body butter – on your feet can help keep your toes pretty and soft.
• Everyone knows I love a good pedicure, but even I have had to be careful about soaking my feet for too long. Hot water can zap your skin dry – making the effects of a pedi not seem worth it.

As always, make sure to invest in the right shoes – especially in the winter. Keeping your feet healthy and moisturized now will make your feet look great once swimsuit season (eek!) returns.

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2012’s worst celebrity bunions

As 2012 draws to a close, I often pause and reflect about everything I have experienced in the past year and draw out what my new year's resolution will be. If there is anything I have learned this year – besides the Mayans being wrong and how long-winded elections are – it is that women, typically celebrities, do not know how to take care of their feet!

To keep a reminder of why I need to love my toes at all times, I have compiled a list of the worst celebrity bunions of 2012. If you haven't already, pop open some bubbly, kick off your flats (because you shouldn't be wearing heels this NYE) and view some of the worst celebrity feet on the market!

• Michelle Yeoh, probably best known for her performance in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," may want hide those bunions instead. Donning a pair of silver strappy heels (of course) at a red carpet event this year, her blistered and bony bump was on full display.
• Serena Williams. Although we don't want to judge her too harshly after her stunning performance at this year's Olympic games in London, (Winning gold medals with bunions? Don't say it can't be done!) we hope that this dynamic tennis star is wearing an orthotic when she isn't dominating the courts.
• Uma Thurman. What can I say? A woman this tall should probably ditch the heels. Not only does this starlet not need them, they are wreaking havoc on her toes!
• Katie Holmes. Although I totally understand the need to "step out" after a messy public divorce with someone like Tom Cruise, perhaps a night in caring for her painful, blistered feet might do her some good in 2013.
• Paris Hilton. Years of partying in stilettos and jet-setting in Louboutins are starting to take a toll on this heiress' feet. Although we applaud her for growing up a bit in recent years, it wouldn't kill her to try out a pair of flats from time to time.
• Naomi Campbell. She's not the first runway model to have foot problems, and she certainly won't be the last as long as high heels remain the industry standard for footwear.
• Posh Spice (a.k.a. Victoria Beckham). OK, she technically had surgery to get rid of her painful bunions, but I predict that those pesky bumps are going to return soon, since this pop diva did not learn her footwear lesson in 2012.

All I have to do is look at these ladies' feet to know why I will be wearing flats for NYE – with bunions like those, it just doesn't seem worth it – does it ladies? Cheers to taking care your feet, and happy New Year!

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New Year’s and Red Carpet season are here: A primetime viewing of foot pain

So the holidays are finally over, snow has completely blanketed the ground outside of my home and all I want to do is prop up my bunion on the couch and take a breather or two. After weeks and months of shopping, endless holiday parties and the annual event of being around family members I hardly ever see, I think it is time for a little distraction and well-deserved "me" time.

Enter: The New Year's and Red Carpet season! Most of you know I am obsessed with this time of year, mostly because everyone dresses to the nines, sips on champagne and dances the night away (what's not to like?). However, as I well know after watching the ball drop with foot pain for several years, your footwear is as big of a choice for these festivities as your hot date or the cab you will most assuredly be taking home later.

When it comes to fashion, we look to Hollywood for all of the trends that are going to be rocking the shelves this year. With the Golden Globes and Oscars coming up soon, you can bet that all of the beautiful people are beginning their juice cleanses, amping up their Pilates sessions, getting their faces filled with botox and practicing their walk down the Red Carpet in Louboutins (well, the ladies are anyway).

I personally have been in awe of the way that these ladies seemingly float on a cloud at New Year's parties and Red Carpet events in their high heels. I know from past events, I have had serious problems with gravity when it came to walking from my front door the car – let alone under the bright lights and glare of the cameras. According to a blog from The Huffington Post, the feet of the stars are often going through as much work as their faces to prepare for the big night, whether it be on the glittering streets of NYC on New Years or in the midst of glitz and glamour for Oscar night.

More celebs are opting for fat replacement surgery in their feet. Never heard of it? There is a reason. Although these are extreme measures, some celebs are taking the fat from their thighs and putting it into the balls of the feet for better cushioning! No offense, Hollywood, but I think I will be doing just fine with a foot insert rather than resorting to these tactics.

And besides, if you look fabulous from the ankles up, who the hell is going to be looking at your feet anyway?

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What does your foot pain say about you?

A woman's gait has been romanticized by many songwriters over the years (you know … "It's in the way she walks …"), but is there any truth to whether or not my bunions reveal a powerful first impression? Apparently so, according to the Scientific American.

From job interviews to holiday parties and many horrific first dates, I have been through more than my share of first encounters. However, I never realized how quickly we "sum up" each other based on the way we walk until I read an article from this publication.

Don't judge a book by its cover?
I know I probably spend more time than I would like to admit when it comes to judging others' footwear choices, but apparently I have sound science to back up my bad habits. Every time I make fun of Snooki taking a tumble in her crazy, bunion-inducing platforms, I am actually engaging in a behavior that scientists believe is innate in all of us. From the shoes we choose to wear and the way we move in them, our gaits reveal quite a lot about us. The Scientific American even highlighted a study that examined human reactions to participants who watched silent videos of stick figures and then recorded their observations based on body movements alone.

What they found was pretty startling to me (and you all know I have seen and heard everything). Based on gait alone, the participants determined personality traits like adventurousness, extraversion, neuroticism, trustworthiness, warmth and approachability. Who knew your feet could tell so much about you?

This applies to the bedroom as well
I know what you must be thinking … what on earth does my bunion have to do with my sex life? Well, hold onto your orthotic, because this news may be even more shocking. According to a Belgian study highlighted by Cosmopolitan magazine, your strut can reveal quite a bit when it comes to the way you move under the sheets.

Yep, you heard that right. According to their findings, women who have a more fulfilling sex life take longer strides and move their hips more. Their findings were spot-on too, as the sex researchers were able to pinpoint the walkers with better sex lives with 81 percent accuracy. And you thought your gait was all about your personality, huh?

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Will orthopaedic sandals be the ‘it’ trend next summer?

I know most of you may think I am jumping the gun when it comes to footwear fashion for next summer, but my eyes didn't deceive me when i was surfing through the Daily Mail. Apparently Worishofers – playfully dubbed as "bunion shoes" – may be gracing the feet of women everywhere when warmer weather comes back.

Although Europeans still haven't caught on to the trend, fashion divas like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and M.I.A. have all been seen sporting Worishofers, an orthopaedic shoe manufactured in Germany that is causing many of the fashion elite to raise their eyebrows – this is certainly not your average pair of Louboutins.

According to Slate, this all started after the shoes were called "chic" and "ridiculously comfortable" by Lucky magazine in 2006, and the manufacturer has been enjoying success ever since. Since 2009, the president of Buddy Shoes – one of the few distributors of Worishofers in the United States – has tripled his sales because of the growing footwear trend. What the source is calling "granny-chic" should become the must-have for any sartorially-minded fashionista – especially those who are suffering from bunions. Although they have been marketed to the under-40 crowd stateside, pregnant women and people dealing with foot problems have been enjoying these trendy
orthopaedic sandals for years.

For me, this news couldn't be better. Paired with a shoe insert, I can still look fashionable and aid my sore bunion at the same time! Podiatrists and the fashion elite have both accredited these bunion-friendly sandals. Since I do quite a bit of walking – and I know many of you ladies do the same – sandals with proper support are the best options for your bunion, especially during the summer months when you're trying to cram in vacation time or rush the kids around.

The shoe world is tricky, so the verdict still isn't in on whether or not Worishofers will make their way to the feet of even more celebrities (ahem, Victoria Beckham). However, this is definitely a step in the right direction if you are trying to stay fashionable and stave off foot pain. Until then, I will continue to wear my beloved orthotic and continue to hope for the day when high heels are finally out of fashion.

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