Feet are much more than the things you walk around on. They’re the foundation upon which many parts of your body rest.
Many people compensate for sore feet by changing their gait, which affects the knees, hips, spine, or worse, a combination of them all. Each body part that hurts gets compensated for in a different way, leading to a whole slew of musculoskeletal problems that are difficult to overcome.
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These aches and pains can discourage us or even impair us from getting the activity we need. Limited mobility has a great number of physiological repercussions — weight gain, high blood pressure, higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, poor blood circulation, joint pain, and more.
Aside from the physiological health issues caused by limited mobility, it can have a major psychological impact as well. People who are physically limited may struggle with a loss of independence, loss of confidence, and difficulty with usual tasks, such as parenting or employment.
Prevention is the best and most effective method for keeping your feet happy and healthy. Let’s find out some of the best ways to treat your feet.
One of the things that you have the most control over when it comes to the health of your feet is hygiene. Feet sweat, and being tucked away in shoes, a lot creates opportunity for bacterial and fungal growth.
Here are the best practices for healthy foot hygiene.
- Wash and dry your feet every day: Scrub your feet with soap every time you take a bath or shower. If you have dead or peeling skin, scrub it off with a pumice stone. After bathing, dry them off well with a towel, making sure to dry in between your toes. Excess moisture encourages fungal growth, so it’s essential to keep them as dry as possible to discourage fungus from thriving.
- Cut your toenails straight across: Using a clean nail clipper, cut your toenails in a straight line. Avoid cutting the corners, as this could cause an ingrown toenail, which is when the corner of a toenail grows into the skin, causing pain, redness, swelling, and sometimes infection.
- Alternate shoes every day: Feet can sweat a lot each day, especially if you’re active. Shoes absorb sweat, and they need a chance to dry out between wears to prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Wear shoes in public areas: Avoid going barefoot in public places, such as locker rooms, gyms, and public pools. These areas are breeding grounds for fungi that can cause infections on your feet and toenails, so be sure to wear water shoes or flip-flops.
- Get ahead of the sweat: Your feet have approximately 250,000 sweat glands. Cotton socks absorb sweat, preventing it from evaporating into the air. When socks stay wet all day, bacteria growth begins, causing foot odor. Instead of cotton socks, opt for fibers engineered to wick away moisture.
- Avoid sharing footwear: Sure, sharing is caring — but not when it comes to footwear. It’s best to wear your own socks and shoes to avoid bacteria or fungi that may be present in someone else’s.
- Wear shoes that fit properly: Shoes that are too tight are uncomfortable and can cause health problems. If your toes reach the ends of your shoes, this may cause ingrown toenails. If your shoes are too tight, they can cut off circulation to your feet. The problems caused by too-tight shoes can be long-term, so choose shoes that have plenty of room for your toes and wide and stable heels.
- Wear breathable footwear: When shopping for shoes, keep in mind that you want breathable fabrics that will allow your feet to stay dry all day. Shoes made from leather and mesh are two excellent choices for keeping your feet dry.
- Choose supportive shoes: Supportive shoes are not just good for your feet — they’re crucial for healthy ankles, knees, hips, and spine. Proper support can help to encourage correct posture and prevent long-term musculoskeletal problems.
- Go shoe shopping in the afternoon: Feet swell during the day, so it’s a good idea to wait until the afternoon or evening to go shoe shopping to make sure your shoes fit when your feet are at their largest.
Take a few minutes once a week to perform a thorough self-examination of your feet. As you’re drying off your feet after the shower, look in between your toes and at each toenail. Scan for scaling, peeling, and discoloration of the skin or nail. These symptoms can indicate an athlete's foot or nail fungus.
If you have a lot of cuts and cracks in the skin, this may be a sign that you have dry feet, in which case you should be applying moisturizer daily.
People with diabetes should inspect their feet daily since they have a higher risk of developing foot sores and infections.
Feet tend to be forgotten when doing self-care and taking preventative health measures, but they’re just as significant as any other part of the body.
When applying sunscreen, take off your sandals and put it all over your feet. Once it is absorbed, put your sandals back on.
When you go to the dermatologist for your annual body scan, ensure that your feet are scanned as well — top, bottom, and between the toes.
Every evening after you remove your shoes, take a few minutes to stretch your feet, making sure to do flexion and extension.
It’s important to do self-care and treat your feet well at home, but it’s just as beneficial to know when to see a doctor. If you have pain, redness, swelling, or discoloration in your foot that persists, make an appointment with a podiatrist. Treating a problem while it’s still minor can prevent it from becoming major.