What is ‘Pandemic Foot’?

Nearly two years into the pandemic, many find themselves dealing with foot complications for the first time. While not an official or medical term, this phenomenon has been deemed “pandemic foot.” “Pandemic foot” describes a variety of foot conditions believed to be caused by various direct and indirect factors relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While it may take several years for official research-based data, podiatrists nationwide have been reporting a rise in these sorts of conditions. Injuries and conditions commonly seen include fragility fractures, fractures of the ankle, metatarsal or toe bones, as well as overuse injuries such as Achilles tendonitis or plantar fasciitis. Additionally, diabetes-related foot complications have seen a dramatic increase.

Many of the factors contributing to “pandemic foot” are related to inactivity followed by increased activity, also known as “doing too much, too soon.” With prolonged inactivity, the body can undergo muscle atrophy, where the muscles waste away. Bones can also weaken at the same time. This can leave individuals more prone to fractures, tendonitis and sprains.

Spending more time indoors during the pandemic can decrease our overall absorption and production of Vitamin D, which is obtained largely from sunlight. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, among other important bodily functions. Additionally, there has been a hesitancy to see physicians and specialists during the pandemic, which can cause issues to worsen overtime. Hospitals and medical facilities are safe, and patients should feel comfortable seeking all types of care.

Much of foot health is related to one’s overall health. There are various ways to protect oneself from becoming susceptible to “pandemic foot.” Wearing supportive shoes outside and around the house will not only offer support but protect one’s feet in the event of a trip or fall. Get outside for at least 20-30 minutes per day to obtain the benefits of sunlight exposure, like Vitamin D. Now, more than ever, health and wellness should be an integral part of daily life for all. Daily physical activity or movement, adequate quality sleep and proper nutrition promote good foot health.

Matthew Reiner, DPM, FACFAS, is a podiatrist with ProMedica Physicians.