Fresh and Fit: Eight ways to protect your feet

Reprinted from Nooga.com

By Jay McKenzie

Originally Published Sunday, October 19th 2014

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association’s research, even though 50 percent of people surveyed said they experienced foot pain or discomfort at least some of the time, foot care scored last on the “very important” scale for overall health. Those who did have foot pain were more likely to have health problems in other areas of the body, but even though this link makes sense, it’s easy to ignore your feet. Unless you have a particular kind of fetish, feet aren’t all that exciting to look at. They are there for the grunt work to get us where we need to be, but we want them to do their work silently and without complaint. The problem is, if they start aching and causing problems, your life will get a whole lot less comfortable. Before that happens and you have to regret not practicing proper foot care, let’s see how we can prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

Visit a podiatrist.
Nearly 30 percent of people surveyed said that even though they had foot problems, they had done nothing about it. Weight problems, back pain and other joint pains went hand in hand with foot issues. If you have a problem, you should come at it from all sides. Ignoring these issues will only make them harder to fix in the future. Don’t be the person whose bunion is so bad that you ask the doctor to amputate your second toe.  

Podiatrists can help with all sorts of foot and ankle issues, including corns and calluses, heel pain, athlete’s foot, warts, nail fungus, ingrown toenails and more. You may think you can handle some of these problems on your own, and maybe you can, or maybe you try to trim corns and calluses on your own and cause an infection. If you have a problem, shouldn’t you go to a podiatrist at least once before you write them off entirely? It could save you from a lot of unnecessary pain.

Replace your old running shoes after 300–500 miles.
Everyone has different opinions on when exactly to change your running shoes. These numbers are nowhere near an exact science. Some replace them earlier, and some do so much later. There are differenttechniques you can try to decide if your shoes have had it, but the real problem is that people treat their shoes differently. The life of your shoe depends on your weight, running surface and how heavy your steps are.

There are two arguments that seem to hold the most water. If you think you might need new running shoes, go to a shoe store with your old shoes and try on a new pair of the same brand. If the new shoes feel noticeably more supportive, it is probably time to buy them. Also, listen to your body. New aches and pains popping up after or during runs and walks can be the simplest sign that you’re not getting the proper support. It seems that you’re the best judge in this case.

Wash and inspect your feet.
Scrub your feet every day to help prevent bacteria from building up, but do so gently to prevent abrasions. Dry them well afterward, even between each toe, because fungal organisms love moisture. Inspect your feet once a week so you can catch any problems early. White, flaky skin could be a sign of athlete’s foot, and discoloration of the toes could be a fungal infection.

Cut your nails straight across.
Cutting around the corners of your nails can cause painful ingrown toenails, which, if ignored for too long, will require podiatric care.

Be careful if you’re diabetic or at risk for diabetes.
Diabetes can decrease blood flow and sensitivity in your feet, so problems can go unnoticed longer if you’re not careful. You should make your feet a priority and inspect them daily. If left untreated, even a small cut could lead to an infection and may require amputation.

Wear the right shoes and socks.
Your feet can get bigger as you age, so consider having them measured again the next time you’re buying shoes. Wear shoes and socks that aren’t too tight (this can restrict blood flow and cause irritation) or too loose (if your foot moves around too much, you won’t be properly supported). Don’t wear sandals if you’ll be walking around all day, but do wear them in the locker room or other places where you might otherwise go barefoot.

Stay dry and warm.
Make sure that you keep your shoes dry and free of any foreign objects, and change your socks if you can feel moisture building up. Put socks on before bed and around the house when you’re cold to increase circulation and help prevent bacterial buildup.

Don’t wear heels too often.
Caring for your feet is a whole lot easier as a guy. It’s easy for me to say, “Don’t wear heels,” and I’m sure it’s easy for women out there to ignore me and think I don’t understand. Well, let me just say, no, I don’t understand what it’s like to constantly have to choose between fashion and support. But I will say that heels misalign your body and put all your weight on the muscles of your feet and toes. They simply weren’t made to do this, and that’s usually why pain starts. This link explains your options better than I ever could.

Jay McKenzie loves soccer, history and feeling great. He’s on a quest to eat better and exercise more, and he wants to share his experiences along the way. You can email him at jaymckenzie86@gmail.com with comments or questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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