Our feet haul us through thousands of steps per day. Yet we cram them into pointy pumps, pound them on the pavement, and often tend to them last when it comes to self-care.
By keeping your feet happy and healthy, you’ll be able to easily continue with everyday activities. Find out about choosing the right shoes, a proper foot hygiene routine, and general care to keep your feet healthy.
Both feet (combined) make up for 25% of the body’s bones, 18% of joints and 6% of the muscles. Doing damage to any of these parts can cause serious harm to our bodies and how we complete our daily tasks. One of the best ways to stay healthy is by moving, whether it is through activities like running/walking, dancing, weight lifting or even just cleaning your house. However, because this is an important aspect of living a healthy life, our feet are the ones that get the most wear and tear.
All this pressure and movement will not only leave your feet sore but can also affect your knees, hips and entire spine. The following are some strategies on how you can keep your feet healthy.
Your feet do, too. After all, they are the workhorses of your body, taking about 5,000 steps a day. That’s 2.5 miles! Not to mention that your feet have to bear the weight of your body every step of the way. In addition, we cram them into shoes and stand on them for long periods of time. Those hard-working feet deserve a little more attention than you’re probably giving them.
Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your feet healthy. Use these tips to keep yourself active and your feet pain-free.
Ways to Keep Your Feet Healthy
Wear Shoes That Fit
Many people have one foot that’s larger than the other, and if this is true for you, remember to fit your shoes to your larger foot. Shoe fit comes first when buying. Don’t rely on a pretty pair to stretch or the idea of “breaking them in” around the house.
Perfect shoe fit
- The ball of your foot should fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe.
- You should have enough depth so that your toes don’t rub the tops.
- Stand up with the shoes on and make sure you have a half inch (about the width of your finger) between your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
- Walk around in the shoes and make sure you don’t experience any rubbing or slipping.
If you’re wondering about recent footwear trends, Trepal says cloth kickers, like cotton slip-ons or canvas sneakers, are fine. Just don’t wear them for running, hiking, or activities that require foot protection.
As for the minimalist running shoe craze, you don’t want to switch too fast. These shoes are intended to mimic barefoot running by encouraging a forefoot strike (the front of the foot hitting the ground first) rather than the heel strike that built-up or cushioned shoes encourage. A recent study shows this foot strike change can make some runners more efficient, but transitioning too fast from traditional to minimalist shoes could cause calf or shin pain.
Wear Heels With Caution
While heels can be the finishing touch you need to pull your outfit together for that big event you have coming up, it’s important to limit your use and perhaps avoid them altogether.
Those towering high heels, when worn, tip your whole body forward and change your foot’s natural position. The consistent wearing of heels causes your whole body to be out of position, and can also lead to long-term hip, knee, and back pain.
If you can’t resist wearing heels, choose a pair with a wider heel so you have more contact between your feet and the ground.
Keep Your Feet Clean And Dry
As with any part of your body, healthy feet start with good hygiene. While bathing, thoroughly clean your feet with soap and water. After bathing, be sure to fully dry them, especially between each toe, as fungal organisms love moisture. Keeping your feet dry helps to lower the possibility of a fungal infection. Continue this by wearing clean and dry socks. Also avoid sharing footwear; including rentals, as wearing other people’s shoes can increase your odds of getting an infection.
Keeping your feet healthy goes hand in hand with keeping them clean. Always make sure to give your feet a good cleaning in the shower at the end of the day or following a workout. Keep an eye out for peeling or scaling on the soles of your feet, as this could be an indication of athlete’s foot. Any discoloration of the toenails could be a sign of a nail fungus.
When you use the changing rooms or showers at the gym, make sure to use flip flops or shower shoes since these places are often packed full of infection-causing fungi.
Following a good thorough cleanse of your feet, you should get into the routine of using moisturizer. All the wear and tear that your feet experience can result in thinner and drier skin that can crack and bleed, causing pain and discomfort. Following your bath or shower, work a thick, heavy lotion into your feet, avoiding the space between your toes to prevent infection.
It’s also important following your shower or bath to properly dry your feet to avoid the growth of fungi and bacteria – both of which thrive in a warm and moist environment.
Even though your friend might have a perfect pair of shoes that match your outfit, you should avoid sharing footwear since this can increase the chance of spreading fungi infections. This includes wearing other people’s socks as well.
Cut/Trim Toenails Correctly
If you noticed your toenails are a bit too long, it might be time to cut your toe nails! When you are cutting your toe nails, avoid cutting too close to your skin or drastically rounding the corners of your nails. Your nail edge should grow past the flesh of your toe. Cut your nails straight across and don’t cut too low at the edges.
Inspect Your Feet Regularly
Check your feet for blisters, redness, small cuts, or cracked skin. If you can’t see the bottom of your feet, use a hand mirror with magnification. If you notice any problems, contact a doctor or physical therapist. Never ignore a problem with your feet. If you have diabetes, check your feet daily.
Treat and Prevent Blisters
Caused by continuous friction against the skin, liquid-filled blisters should be covered with a sterile gauze pad and allowed to heal on their own. You can protect the area from further irritation with a moleskin or cotton circle designed for that purpose and available at most drug stores.
If a blister is very large, you may want to puncture it. Sterilize a needle with antiseptic (not a match flame) and prick the edge of the blister. Blots up the liquid with gauze, clean the area with antiseptic, and cover it with a sterile gauze pad.
Wear Breathable Shoes
Allow for your feet and toes to breathe a little! Open shoes such as comfortable sandals and leather shoes allow air to circulate to keep your feet dry and healthy.
Wear Supportive Flip-Flops Or Sandals In Public Places
The fungi that cause most athlete’s foot thrive in warm moist environments. Therefore, walking barefoot in public places such as locker rooms and pools opens you to infection. The best way in keeping your feet healthy is by wearing supportive flip-flops in shower rooms, locker rooms, pools, and all public places.
How to Care for Bunions
The bony protrusion that some people develop at the base of the big toe is called a bunion. It may be hereditary or, in women, caused by wearing high-heeled shoes with pointed toes. Bunion sufferers should wear comfortable shoes that will not press on the affected bone. Soft pads or cushioned socks will give additional relief. Most bunions can simply be accommodated in this way. If osteoarthritis or bursitis makes a bunion chronically painful, however, your doctor may recommend surgery to realign the distorted bones.
Keep your Blood Sugar Under Control
According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes can affect your feet. High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage, resulting in loss of skin sensation. Reduced blood flow also can make it harder for your feet to heal from an injury or resist infection.
Regular physical activity and proper nutrition are keys to preventing type 2 diabetes and maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels. Whether you have diabetes or not, it is important to get the recommended amount of daily physical activity to prevent and manage many chronic conditions and diseases.
If you need help getting started with a physical activity plan to improve your health and prevent chronic conditions, or if you already have diabetes, a physical therapist can help. A physical therapist can design a safe and effective exercise program and treatment plan specific to your needs and goals, and help you manage diabetes-related issues affecting your feet and overall health.
Healing Ingrown Toenails
An ingrown toenail usually develops when either corner of a big toenail grows into the flesh of the toe, causing redness, swelling, pain, and sometimes infection.
A doctor or podiatrist can cut away the ingrown nail and treat the infection with antibiotics. To prevent further trouble, make sure that your shoes don’t put undue pressure on the nails of your big toes. Cut your toenails straight across at the end of the toe.
If, after several treatments, an ingrown toenail keeps recurring, ask your podiatrist about surgical options for preventing it.
Painful Heel Syndrome
As you grow older, the heel’s fatty tissue thins out. Pressure on the heel causes inflammation of the connective tissue and muscle. The pain is greatest in the morning when you first stand up.
For acute discomfort, take an analgesic and apply an ice pack to the heel for 15 minutes. Gently massage and stretch the foot and elevate it whenever you can. Ask your doctor for shock-absorbing heel inserts. During an attack, which can last several months, limit your exercise to non weight-bearing activities such as swimming and bicycling.