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I bet the average man thinks that women moan about their feet more than men do and maybe they’d be right.  
 
But this is not just because we love our heels or the straps always seem to be in the wrong place.  
 
No – as if it’s not bad enough that we are a rollercoaster of hormones on a monthly basis with the ability to grow, carry and pop out babies.  
 
Now, added to this we can expect to live more than a third of our lives post menopausally!!!  
 
Joy of joys. 
OK so we have hormone fluctuations all our lives so what?  
 
Well the fact that every females favourite hormone Oestrogen affects ligaments, tendons, fascia, skeletal muscle and the nervous system meaning that these fluctuations can have very real consequences on our mobility, injury and recovery. 
 
Oestrogen levels increase during puberty and pregnancy and fall after child birth, menopause and as a result of certain medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome and anorexia. 
 
High levels of Oestrogen affect motor control and elasticity throughout the body tissues. In particular the anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments in knees, the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia are prone to strains and more susceptible to injury during ovulation. In the second half of the menstrual cycle an increase in body temperature is common and this is also associated with a laxity or a relaxing of the ligaments. Elevated Oestrogen also increases water retention and this can affect the amount of synovial fluid between joints making them more flexible. 
 
Low levels of Oestrogen dehydrate body tissues, affect the fatty pads on the sole of the feet thinning them causing heel pain and this combined with menopausal weight gain puts us at greater risk of developing conditions such as plantar fasciitis. Joints, ligaments, tendons and muscle are dehydrated and slow to repair. 
 
But Oestrogen is not the only hormone waging war on our feet and legs (and let’s face it our whole body), Relaxin – a hormone produced during pregnancy to prepare the body for childbirth by relaxing the ligaments in the pelvis – is not selective and also relaxes the ligaments in the rest of our body and yes that includes our feet. Add to that normal weight gain in pregnancy and suddenly you have flatter arches, wider forefeet, plantar fasciitis and heel pain. Our knees and ankles struggle here too. 
 
Feet, ankles and knees are supported and held together by ligaments (hold bone to bone and there are 26 bones in the foot) and tendons (hold muscle to bone). Synovial fluid protects joints. Fluctuations in the hormone Oestrogen and the introduction of Relaxin during pregnancy mean that we go through a variety of stages in the soft tissue structures in these key areas. Ever wondered why those shoes that fitted like a glove last autumn suddenly rub? 
 
Our arches can flatten, our feet can become longer and wider and conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis can flare up and settle down for apparently no reason. The cure? Be a man  There isn’t one as such but evidence says that oral contraceptives can help. Wear supportive footwear and don’t expect last year’s shoes to be your friend, if your little toe suddenly develops a corn it may be that your foot doesn’t fit the shoes any more. 
 
Being a woman is great but being hormonal is not. 
Tagged as: Plantar Fasciitis
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