by Dakota Murphey
Your feet are some of the hardest working parts of the body. Located at ground level, they literally have to carry your entire weight and keep you mobile. You use your feet to walk and run, dance and jump – in fact not a day goes past when you don’t use them.
Over a quarter of all the bones in the body are in the feet, which should give you a pretty good idea of how intricately they can adapt to the weight of the rest of the body as it moves around. And did you know that your feet will take you the equivalent of 3 times around the world over a lifetime? That’s hard work!
And yet, we mostly take our feet for granted, don’t we? When was the last time you lavished some TLC on your feet that went beyond a perfunctory toe clipping followed by some nail varnish? As a woman, you are more than likely to have at least one pair of high heeled shoes in the cupboard while many females routinely wear heels, often all day every day.
But however fashionable you want your look to be, it stands to reason that squeezing your feet into tight, high heels with little foot support on a regular basis is bound to have consequences. That’s why so many older women are suffering serious long-term and often painful health problems involving the foot, knee, spine and general posture.
And that’s just the women.
A recent survey has shown that as many as 2/3 of Brits suffer from foot pain, though many simply ignore the problem out of lack of knowledge about what to do to prevent or cure the problem. Issues range from minor disorders such as ingrown toenails to severe deformities of the feet.
The obvious answer is to give your feet the respect they deserve. Not just on the odd occasion when you want them to look nice for you, but as part of your regular health routine. Here’s what to do.
Be very picky about your footwear
Well fitting shoes and boots are vital for providing a healthy environment to support your feet. And it’s not all about devil-may-care stilettoes either. Even the most sensible footwear can cause problems if the shoes don’t fit properly.
“The best shoes are well fitted, have a firm sole, are well cushioned with a still heel counter that is strong and supportive, while the front of the shoe should be flexible,” says one footcare expert. When it comes to the right size and fit, “shoes should be long enough and deep enough to avoid any pressure on the tips of the toes. The shape and the width of the shoe should be more or less the same as your feet, and soles should be made of non-slip resilient materials.”
Next time you go shopping for shoes or boots, take heed. Aesthetics are important, of course, but comfort is key. A cavalier attitude towards the long-term health of your feet will have detrimental consequences a few months or years down the line, so bear this in mind and make an intelligent purchase decision that gives proper respect to your feet. While you can always buy another pair of shoes, your feet will have to last you a lifetime.
Give your feet some tender loving care
Just as you would have a beauty routine for your face and body, look all the way down your body and remember your poor, overworked feet! A footbath followed by a home pedicure can work wonders as a general pick-me-up while paying attention to the health of your feet.
Start with a relaxing bath, shower or just a footbath (ideally using a foot spa for extra bubbles). Exfoliate with a foot scrub of your choice, massaging it on damp feet and focusing on any hard skin areas. Rinse and thoroughly dry your feet one at a time and pay particular attention to in between your toes where Athlete’s Foot (myocosis), a fungal infection, can easily develop. Finally apply a good moisturiser all over, including the soles, to nourish the skin.
Next, take a pair of nail clippers and trim your toenails, making sure you cut straight across and leave the corners a little longer. Long toe nails are prone to fungal and bacterial infection while overly short nails can cause ingrown toenails. To finish off, gently smooth down the nail edges with an emery board to get rid of any jagged bits.
For all out pampering, a foot massage can be heaven. What’s more, it can increase blood flow to the lower extremities and prevent hardened arteries in the feet. There’s no reason why you can’t learn to do this yourself but if you’re after complete relaxation, it’s best to have a willing helper on standby. Here’s how it’s done.
Be proactive about foot health problems
With regular care and attention, you will get to know your feet well and be in the best position to spot when anything looks wrong. Ingrown toenails, for instance, can be caused by incorrect toenail trimming, shoe pressure or repeated impact trauma to the feet from everyday activities. In most cases, a minor toenail procedure at your local podiatrist is all it takes to rectify the problem.
Fungal infections are also very common. If you notice any discoloration of the front of the nail, thickness, brittleness or the nail lifting off the nail bed, you should go and see a podiatrist immediately. Left untreated, even minor fungal infections can cause serious nail bed infections.
Calluses and corns are caused by continuous pressure on one particular area of the foot, usually as a result of ill fitting or inappropriate footwear including high heels. Bunions can also be caused by badly fitting shoes as well as overpronation (excessive rolling of the foot in the shoe). This can cause a bony growth on the outside of the big toe as the bone under the toe moves. It’s a painful condition, often with blisters, skin irritation and joint redness as well as bone deformity.
If you notice any of these foot health issues affecting your feet, there’s much a podiatrist can do. As always, early effective intervention is recommended, so don’t delay in making an appointment.