Feet absorb some of the most stress on the entire body. For every mile we walk, 200,000 to 300,000 pounds of pressure bear down on our feet. By the time we are 50 most people have walked 75,000 miles. That is a lot of stress for the 26 bones and more than 30 joints of the feet. Yet, somehow, most people end up ignoring their feet and certainly ignore proper foot care. Most problems can be corrected or prevented with proper foot care and attention.
“Feet degenerate like tires on cars,” says Washington, D.C.-based podiatrist Arnold Ravick. This means the muscle will weaken and the skin thins, leading to inactivity and disability. While this weakens our natural shock absorbers, it can also be exacerbated by arthritis. Joints that are inflamed and distorted due to arthritis get progressively worse as skin thins and muscle weakens. Keeping this in mind, here are some helpful foot care tips to keep you ‘on your toes’ well in to old age.
* Rotate your shoes: Don’t always wear the same pair of shoes. Switching shoes frequently will prevent irritation and pressure on the same location.
* Wear proper shoes. You must wear a shoe that fits properly and don’t try to fit into a too small or too large shoe “because you love it and they didn’t have your size”. Most foot problems either begin with, or are made worse, by ill-fitting shoes. Hammertoes, neuroma and bunions are conditions in which the foot begins to take the shape of the shoe.
* Inspect your feet often. Diabetics should check their feet daily. Use a mirror to look at the bottoms of your feet. Inspect them for blisters, cuts, bunions, calluses and ingrown toenails. Also look for areas of redness or tenderness when touching any area of your foot.
* Put your feet up when you are sitting down. This helps with circulation in your feet.
* If you wear socks then change them daily or even twice daily. Make sure your feet are dry when putting on your socks. Wear clean well-fitting socks to help cushion feet and absorb moisture.
* Use moisturizers on the feet if you have dry feet or calluses. But, do not use the lotion in between the toes.
* Make sure to remove any objects (dirt, pebbles, etc.) from shoes before putting them on. Also, clean your shoes weekly to help prevent athletes’ foot and other fungal conditions.
* If you sit for long periods, stand up and walk around periodically. Also, wear shoes whenever you venture outside. Do not walk around barefoot.
* Do not smoke. It can affect the circulation in your feet and lead to serious complications.
* Exercise is a key to foot health. Stretching out your Achilles tendon and the tendons in the balls of your feet and toes can increase mobility. A stiff foot can lead to great stress and foot pain.
* Take care of your toenails. Cut your toenails after bathing when they are soft. Cut the toenails straight across and avoid the corners of toes.
* Don’t cross your legs when sitting down. If you must, then uncross and switch which leg goes on top often.
Since well-fitting shoes are the best way to take care of your feet, here is a simple guide to making sure your shoes fit:
* Always have your feet measured before you buy new shoes. And have them measured at the end of the day when your feet are at their largest.
* Most people have one foot larger than the other. Make sure your shoes fit the larger foot.
* Always try on your shoes before buying them. Different styles will fit differently even if the listed sizes are the same.
* Walk in the shoes with your normal socks to check fit.
* Make sure there is about a ½ inch between your toes and the end of the shoe when standing up.
* Don’t buy shoes that are too tight and expect them to stretch.
* The upper part of your shoe should be made of a soft, flexible material.
* Buy shoes with thick, non-slippery soles.
* Choose a shoe that is shaped like your foot and avoid high-heeled shoes if at all possible.
Good foot care is very important for your overall health. Have your doctor check your feet regularly and don’t be afraid to contact your doctor if you suspect foot problems.