Feet. They are stuffed into socks, wedged into airless shoes, pinched into high heels, exposed to a constant environment of sweat and bacteria, and then stood or walked on all day long.
And did you ever notice when your feet are tired your whole body feels tired?
That is because feet are the foundation of our lives. We put a considerable amount of pressure on feet. For the most part, our feet put up with this sort of abuse rather well. However, not taking care of feet, especially later in life, can result in some uncomfortable side effects requiring a visit to the podiatrist. Or worse, the endocrinologist; feet are among the first indicators of conditions like diabetes and the first to show symptoms of the condition. However, the most common complaint is that our feet are simply sore and tired.
Badly fitting footwear, fungus, bacteria, improper care of skin and toe nails, and overall neglect contribute to poor foot health and painful feet. The good news is the lowly but mighty foot is the easiest part of the body to maintain without medical intervention.
Baring Your Soles
Obviously bare is the natural state of the feet. After all, we didn’t come into the world clad in designer brogues and stiletto heels. While you should don footwear while wandering around outside to avoid cuts and bruising, the easiest way to give your feet some relief is to free them from the confines of shoes and socks whenever possible.
Baring feet also allows for a visual inspection of your tootsies. Note the health and colour of your toenails. Discoloured or yellowish-brown spots on nails may indicate the presence of a fungal condition that can eventually deform nails. Check for ingrown nails, too, when the sharp edge of the toenail begins to grow into the flesh. Keep an eye out for warts, scratches, and unhealed sores particularly if you are diabetic. Diabetics often lose sensation in their feet and wounds may go undetected until a more serious condition results. Make sure to treat blisters with an antibacterial ointment and a non-slip bandage to prevent infection. Take note of any existent corns or calluses.
Foot Care tip: While a long day of standing or walking may result in puffed- up feet, persistent swelling that never seems to go away should be looked at by a professional.
Hot Footing It
Since your feet are already bare, give them a bath. Doctors & old wives everywhere have always recommended plunging your feet into a warm foot bath with Epsom or foot salts as a simple treatment for tired, ailing feet. The warm, salty water relaxes the feet, soothes away aches, softens dead skin, corns and calluses. Soaking is one of the easiest forms of foot care.
Dead and dry skin cause hot, itchy feet and contribute to the build up of corns and thick callus if left untreated. Gently slough off deposits of rough skin from the sides, heels, and soles with a pumice stone. This works well for corns and calluses, too. You should never try to shave away any sort of dead skin build-up from feet. This is a good time to trim toenails and push back cuticles.
If you suffer from fungal infections like athlete’s foot, the addition of some vinegar and baking soda to your foot bath may be helpful. Check with your podiatrist for the best prescription or over-the-counter medication for your condition. Drug and retail stores offer a wide variety of lotions, bath salts, powders, treatment for warts, pads for heels and corns to comfort and cushion painful parts of the foot until you can see your foot doctor. Right after a foot bath is the ideal time to medicate and treat your feet.
After bathing, make sure your feet are dried thoroughly, especially between the toes. Then you can gently rub a soft nail file over any rough or scaly places to smooth the skin. Apply a good quality lotion to further relieve dry, itchy skin and keep it soft. Rub lotion in thoroughly and give yourself a foot massage while you are at it.
Foot Care tip: An excess of dead skin on the feet may be an indicator of a low thyroid condition. Be sure to ask your doctor if your feet have excess accumulation of dead skin in spite of regular exfoliation.
Take a Hike
After a long day on your feet, taking a walk is probably not the most appealing idea but feet need exercise, too. One of the primary causes of foot discomfort is simply that your foot soldiers are not in shape when called into active duty. Taking a brisk walk in comfortable walking shoes several times a week will help you and your feet stay in shape. Neither will they feel so tired and sore at the end of a long day.
Foot Care tip: Heel inserts help with painful heel conditions by cushioning the heel and redistributing your weight. Arch supports help, too. However, if you experience frequent, sharp, shooting pains in your arch, heel or ankle that may indicate a more serious condition that should be looked at by a podiatrist.
Simply stretching your feet throughout the day—particularly if you are on them for extended periods of time—will help to maintain good foot health. Using one hand to support your heel, grasp your toes and gently pull back until you feel the stretch in the arch area to relieve tension. If you cannot remove your shoes, make sure to move your feet around as much as possible. Lift your feet, one at a time, and flex your foot, wiggle your toes and rotate your foot from the ankle to relieve aches, tension and restore circulation. While relaxing at home you can roll a tennis ball under your foot with gentle, firm pressure while watching TV or reading a book.
Foot Care tip: Improper foot care can aggravate lower lumbar pain if left untreated.
These Boots Are Made for Walking
The problem is most boots aren’t made for walking. While they may provide necessary protection for feet they may also bring foot strain and blisters, especially if they do not fit properly. In fact, a lot of our footwear isn’t compatible with proper foot care. Ill-fitting footwear contributes to tired, sore feet, blisters, corns, calluses and may even cause more serious conditions. And, if we are honest with ourselves, we often choose shoes for reasons of vanity rather than comfort and health.
Donning appropriate footwear is the best way of taking care of feet by heading off common problems and even more serious deformities of the foot. Over the years, shoes that are too small can cause a retraction of the toe ligaments resulting in an unsightly and painful condition called hammer toes. Wearing elevated heels of any sort, day in and day out, puts excess pressure on joints which can cause deformation resulting in painful bunions that may require surgery. Spurs are aggravated by improperly fitting shoes. So are neuromas; a build-up of flesh around nerve endings causing pain, tingling, and numbness.
Be sure to try shoes on both feet keeping in mind that we nearly always have one foot that is a somewhat larger in width and length than the other. Try on shoes in the later part of the day when they've already swelled. Walk around as you try on shoes to ensure they are comfortable. Shoes shouldn’t slide around as you walk. Make sure your footwear has plenty of room for your socks and foot with a half inch of space between the toe and the end of the shoe.
Pick the most appropriate shoe for what you will be doing in them. Soles should be thick enough to provide support and traction, plus have adequate arch support. Uppers should be flexible and forgiving when you first purchase them. Avoid buying tight shoes in the hopes they will stretch out, they seldom do.
The same goes for hosiery. Make sure they fit properly and don’t bunch up causing blisters. Socks and stockings made from all-natural fibers allow your foot to breathe and wick excess moisture away from your feet.
Also make sure you are giving your footwear as much attention as you do your feet. Wash or wipe out the inside of shoes with anti-bacterial cleanser. Leave them to air dry thoroughly. Socks and nylon stocking harbour sweat and bacteria. Make sure to change them daily. Sprinkle powder in your shoes and socks for friction-free feet.
Foot Care tip: Never wear someone else's shoes; they may harbour viruses and fungi responsible for warts and athlete’s foot.
Put vanity to good use instead by visiting a local spa or salon for a pedicure. A good pedicurist will cut your toenails properly by trimming straight across to avoid painful ingrown nails, and exfoliate rough patches and callus. Best of all, many pedicures conclude with a foot massage. Your feet will feel refreshed and invigorated.
Preventative foot care at home walks a long mile. However, make sure that persistent conditions are looked at by a podiatrist who can advise you on the most optimal way to take care of your feet.
Need foot care for yourself or a loved one?
Our roster of expert chiropodists and foot care nurses ensures you and your family get the best foot care possible. Whichever problems arise with respect to your feet, whether it is pain, discomfort, or fungus, our foot care staff will provide personalized management plan for your particular needs.
Give us a call at 1-800-856-2836 to discuss how your family and loved one may benefit from our foot care services. We would love to serve your family.