Every year in Australia, the Australian Podiatry Association hosts Foot Health Month in October to raise awareness about foot health. Far too many of us neglect our feet even if we’re disciplined about our regular check-ups and doctor visits. But the health of your feet is very important too. Here are a few things your podiatrist wishes you knew:
Change up your shoes to give your feet a break
If you wear the same pair of shoes every day, your feet and legs are using exactly the same muscles and not exercising the rest. By switching up your shoes often, you give your muscles a chance to stretch and flex.
If you wear high heels every day, your Achilles tendon gets shorter over time, and you’ll feel pain when you try to wear sneakers or flats. But don’t go from a high heels habit straight to flats or you’ll risk an injury – move to a shorter heel first, and then to flats. And remember to stretch your calves often.
If you wear formal shoes with tight pointed toes (men and women, this applies to both of you) every day, you might develop ingrown toenails or bunions, both of which can be very painful. Your podiatrist would recommend that you switch to shoes with a wider toe so that your toes have space to wriggle.
Keep your feet dry and your toenails clean
If your feet remain moist or sweaty for hours, they’ll be more prone to developing fungal infections and toenail infections. When you take a shower, don’t neglect your feet. Use soap and a scrub to get them clean. When drying off, wipe your feet dry and dry between your toes too.
Don’t attempt “bathroom surgeries”
For those with chronic ingrown toenails, this is a tough one. While there are some home remedies to ease the pain of ingrown toenails, you should not attempt to cut the ingrowing edge on your own. A simple outpatient procedure with your podiatrist can fix the problem for you, and as a bonus, you’ll also get some tips from the expert on how to prevent future ingrowth.
The most frequent reason for bathroom surgeries are ingrown toenails. When chronic, these can be very painful and can even get in the way of your daily routine. Read our blog post about ingrown toenails, how to manage the pain, and when it’s time to visit your podiatrist.
Avoid walking barefoot in public areas
Whether you’re at the shower or locker area in the gym or swimming pool, or walking to your massage room at the spa, make sure you have slippers on. Communal areas receive high traffic and are full of bacteria. It’s easy to pick up fungal or viral infections from here. If you know you’re going to be stopping off for a quick workout, slip a pair of flip flops into your bag.
Visit your podiatrist before you develop foot problems
When it comes to ingrown toenails, bunions, pain in your arch, or any other foot problem, head to your podiatrist before it becomes severe. If you’ve injured your foot or ankle or are experiencing pain in your feet when performing daily activities, consult a podiatrist first. You might have flat feet or fallen arches, or you might be wearing the wrong shoes – not every foot problem requires medical or surgical intervention.
Follow good foot health when you exercise, go running, or work out
Going to the gym, working out with your personal trainer, or going for a run can have immense benefits for you. But if you’re not taking care of your feet, you’re going to have problems in time.
To start with, choose well-fitting shoes that are suited for the purpose, which means you should not be running or working out in athleisure sneakers. Most sports stores will measure your foot size, ask what you’ll be using the shoes for, and then recommend the right pair.
Break your shoes in over time, and avoid wearing brand new shoes (even if they’re the same brand and size that you know fits you) for long runs. Most runners have two or three pairs of running shoes that they alternate between.
Wear sports socks when working out or running. They’ll wick the perspiration away from your feet so that your feet are not moist and humid.
Wear the right shoes and socks
Many foot problems stem from wearing badly fitting shoes or the wrong kind of socks. Shoes that force your toes into each other can lead to bunions or other structural problems.
Here are some footwear rules to follow:
Don’t wear ballet flats every day. Ballet flats do not usually provide enough support for your arches, and may be putting undue pressure on your heels or on the fleshy part under your toes.
If your shoes are worn out, you should replace them with a new pair. Shoes with worn soles cannot protect and support your feet as they are meant to, and can cause foot pain later.
Avoid wearing sneakers without socks, especially for working out or running.
If you wear flip flops all day for all activities, you might not be getting the right kind of support for your ankles and arches. Choose a pair of comfortable shoes that you can wear all day, and save the flip flops for wearing at home, or for beach day.
Avoid walking barefoot on cement, hardwood floors, tiled floors or stone floors for extended amounts of time. The natural pad of fat on your soles will be hardened and depleted, causing foot pain in the years to come. A pair of flip flops will absorb the shock of the hard floor and keep your feet in good health.
Neglecting your feet (which includes your toes, toenails, ankles, calves, and arches) can lead to a number of foot problems like ingrown toenails, bunions, plantar fasciitis, fungal infections, and a range of other conditions. Foot care is essential to your health, especially if you’re older or have diabetes. But no matter what age you are, you should be looking after your feet.