New treatments for common foot problems

Patsy Westcott / 12 August 2016

Bunions? Fallen arches? Inflammation? Here are the latest effective procedures to ease these and other foot conditions.

The problem? Bunions

The solution? Minimally invasive foot surgery

Small incisions are made in the toe, under general or local anaesthetic, through which instruments can be passed to realign it. Because less soft tissue is stripped away than during conventional open surgery, the procedure is less painful, with easier recovery.

You will usually wear a special surgical shoe for around six weeks, after which you can do low-impact exercise.

Also used for other foot conditions, including hammertoes, big toe or ankle arthritis, and plantar fasciitis.

Available on the NHS and privately for £1,700-£6,300.

The problem? Osteoarthritis of the big toe

The solution? Cartiva implant

A synthetic cartilage implant that cushions the big-toe joint. The procedure takes just 40 minutes and you can put weight on your foot almost immediately.  Healing takes six to eight weeks, after which you can wear normal shoes.

Many surgeons were previously cautious to use Cartiva due to lack of proof of efficacy. But recent research found it an ‘excellent alternative’ to the most usual operation, ‘fusion surgery’ (arthrodesis), which, as the name suggests, fuses the bones in the toe.

While it is rarely available on the NHS, you can expect to pay from around £3,500 privately.

Learn more about osteoarthritis

The problem? Morton’s neuroma

The solution? Cryotherapy

Morton’s neuroma is a swelling of the nerve between the bones of the toes. It causes a sharp, burning, or shooting pain that often worsens over time. During cryotherapy, a -50°C ‘iceball’ is injected into the foot to freeze and destroy the offending tissue.

Unavailable on the NHS. Expect to pay from around £1,400 privately.

The problem? Plantar fasciitis

The solution? Extracorporeal shockwave therapy

Plantar fasciitis is painful inflammation of the tough band of tissue (plantar fascia) that runs underneath the sole of the foot.

The therapy involves a surgeon shooting high-energy soundwaves from a hand-held ‘gun’ to trigger the formation of new blood vessels and activate healing. This can help with debilitating pain that has lasted six months or more.

Available in some NHS hospitals. Expect to pay £600-800 privately for three sessions.

Find out more about plantar fasciitis

The problem? Fallen arches

The solution? Tendon transfer

Painful flat feet – aka fallen arches – become more common as we get older. The reasons? Problems with the posterior tibial tendon in the foot, overuse, arthritis, trauma, injury or simply the ageing process itself.

A tendon transfer involves taking a different tendon from the leg and replacing the faulty tendon to restore function.

Available in some places on the NHS, or privately. Expect to pay £1,000 for the surgery, plus hospital fees.

Visit The College of Podiatry website - - or call 0207 234 8620 to find a registered chiropodist/podiatrist.

For more on foot health, see our great feature in the August issue of Saga Magazine.  Subscribe to the print edition or download the digital edition today.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.