Your Best Foot Forward

By Evangeline Majawat

During her pregnancy, voluptuous American reality star Kim Kardashian, got tongues wagging when she squeezed her swollen feet into an uncomfortable-looking, towering pair of heels. “Ouch! Kim K squeezes puffy feet into Perspex heels,” screamed a headline in the Sun — a popular tabloid in the UK.

“The price of beauty is too high. Yet we’re willing to pay for it and our feet usually get the worst of it!” declares Dr. Kelvin Chin, solemnly. “We forget how much we depend on our feet.” Chin, a general practitioner who is undergoing orthopedic training in Sydney, says most people only pay attention to their feet when there is something wrong. He lists corns, calluses, blisters, bunions, ingrown nails and athletes’ foot as common conditions that are simple and easy to treat but exceptionally painful at times. Many of these conditions stem from wearing the wrong size shoes. “Blisters, corns and calluses are caused by friction when our toes or any part of the foot rubs against the shoe because the shoe is either too loose or too tight,” Chin explains.

Bunions form when the big toe is pushed inwards. The misalignment of the bones leads to painful inflammation of the soft tissue and if left untreated can lead to arthritis. Tight fitting shoes and those with narrow toe boxes are believed to cause this toe deformity.

Famous bunion sufferers include Victoria Beckham and Sarah Jessica Parker. Parker went as far as declaring that “heels ruined my life”. “Heels that are tight and higher than 100 mm  or 4 inches are too high and will damage the feet in the long run,” says Chin. “It’s not just the feet that are affected. Other parts of the body like your knees and hips are all connected. So when one fails, it affects the others.” Podiatrists describe this as biomechanics, which is the study of how the movements of the lower limb and foot affect the rest of the body.

According to Dr. Mark Reyneker, director of Family Podiatry Centre Sdn. Bhd, podiatrists use biochemanics to examine a patient’s gait (walking). “There are several theories to describe foot and lower limb function and how it leads to malfunction, diseases and pain,” he says. Both Chin and Reyneker do not recommend women wear high heels all the time. Ultra high heels create an unnatural foot position that puts stress on the ball of the foot.  “(The ball of the foot) is where the different bones meet. Too much pressure can cause them to be inflamed and even cause hairline fractures,” says Chin.

American Podiatric Medical Association spokesperson Hillary Brenner once described ultra high heels as “shoe-icde” and that sky-high heels lead to a myriad of problems from sprains to chronic pain. However, it’s not just high heels that cause damage — ballet-style flat shoes are also not the best as they offer so little support. The UK Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists recommends that ballet-inspired shoes should be worn only for short periods of time because the lack of support puts pressure on the knees, hips and back.

Chin says that taking care of your feet is not a complicated task when you know how. “The key thing is to always wear comfortable shoes that are the right size. Remember that Asian feet tend to be wider,” stresses Chin. “Don’t buy a pair of shoes just because it’s cheap and happens to look good!”

Reyneker adds that it helps to alternate your shoes. He also says that keeping toenails short and making sure feet are clean and dry at all times, are habits that will go a long way toward keeping your feet healthy. As for diabetics and the elderly, who suffer from poor circulation, Reyneker says that a visit to a podiatrist for a foot health screen is essential. Men should also inspect the space between toes number 3 and 4, and 4 and 5 for moisture collection and flaky skin.  “This is often a sign of athlete’s foot, which if it goes unnoticed, can become a serious infection.”

Give Your Feet Some Love

Your feet deserve your attention. Lavish some “tender loving care” on them using the following tips and techniques:

  1. Immerse your feet in a warm bath filled with marbles. Move them on top of the marbles for a gentle massage. This is especially good to do and offers deep relaxation after a long run or when you’ve spent many hours on your feet.
  2. Slough off dead skin using a pumice stone. This will prevent the buildup of calluses.
  3. Your feet aren’t naturally moist so rub unscented lotion on them to keep them soft and moisturised. Do this before you sleep and you’ll wake with wonderfully soft feet.
  4. Cut your nails straight as rounded edges can cause ingrown nails. Long nails can rub against the inside of your shoes or cut into other toes, making it painful to walk or run.
  5. Always wear comfortable shoes that fit your feet. Also, wear the correct shoes for different activities. For example, get proper running sneakers if you want to run or wear sandals to the beach to allow your feet to dry quickly.
  6. Exercise your feet by rotating your ankles in a circular motion, pointing and flexing your toes and standing on you tiptoes to strengthen not only your feet but your calves and knees too. Stretching can prevent injury and ease soreness after a hard day of walking.
  7. You can perform a simple self-massage at home with a tennis ball. Sit or stand and place the ball under the arch of your foot. Roll it along the foot for much needed relief.
  8. Pay attention to any condition that might develop. Watch out for bunions, corns, blisters and infection and treat them immediately.

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