In Episode 14 of the Healthy Matters Podcast, I talk to podiatrist Dr. Nicole Bauerly – a foot and ankle surgeon. Yeah. Everyone loves the foot doctor.

“They do!” Dr. Bauerly humbly agreed, because most of the time podiatrists are successful at treating some very uncomfortable foot pain. And at Hennepin Healthcare, this includes open wounds from diabetes complications, trauma, fractures and much more.

One pain many of us can relate to is plantar fasciitis. I got it when I was running and it was a bugger. But evidently it can also be related to not wearing the right kind of shoes – or not wearing shoes at all.

“I would say, since the pandemic, plantar fasciitis is very common because people have transitioned to working at home and they are barefoot and not getting the support from shoes anymore,” explains Dr. Bauerly. “We’re seeing an uptick in biomechanical-related pain – or just wear-and-tear aches and pains.”

So what exactly is plantar fasciitis? Dr. Bauerly said that it’s a structure that starts at the heel bone, runs through the arch of the foot and out to the toes.

“It can be as simple as inflammation in there, or if it’s left untreated some really small tearing can occur. It’s very painful – it feels like your heel is broken, but it’s not. It’s just the attachment of the fascia on the heel bone.”

Dr. Bauerly was kind enough to offer some tips on how to avoid foot pain and one included a trip to the shoe store for an annual upgrade. If your shoes are more than a year old, the lining can start to break down and won’t offer the cushion and support you need. And yuck – apparently bacteria and fungus can break down the lining.

She also answered questions about gel and over-the-counter shoe inserts work, as well as the availability of custom-fit inserts made by an orthotist – when needed – right at Hennepin Healthcare’s podiatry clinic.

The significance of diabetes and wound care cannot be overlooked when talking about podiatric care. I asked Dr. Bauerly why people who live with diabetes get sores on their feet.

“It’s related to the neuropathy – the kind of the inappropriate sensation where the nerves don’t work correctly because of the years of high blood sugar that damages the nerves,” she explained. “If we lose sensation in the feet, a diabetic patient might end up with a blister or a sore spot from a shoe but not know it. And then they’ll end up rubbing into a deeper wound. But you or I would take our shoe off and look at it right away, change shoes, and figure out why it’s hurting. People with neuropathy don’t have that pain sensation and will end up with a wound. They also have an increased chance for infections. So even though we would heal from a simple wound — a diabetic patient would have a harder time healing that wound and it might lead to an infection.”

Dr. Bauerly also described Hennepin Healthcare’s unique limb preservation program that combines four different departments – podiatry, hyperbaric medicine, vascular surgery, and interventional radiology.

When we’re talking about feet there are many directions we can go – but don’t take my word for it. Check out Episode 14 of the Healthy Matters Podcast to hear the feats we’re taking to keep your feet healthy.