Since the invention of the Fitbit, and other pedometer-type devices, the notion that you need to take 10,000 steps a day has become commonly accepted by most fitness-conscious consumers. Studies have since shown that in taking 10,000 steps a day, you improve your blood pressure, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, improve weight loss, increase mental well-being and improve your overall health. Of course, this is only a baseline guide, and for many people, the more exercise you get, the better for your health. But while we spend so much time focusing on how, where and when to exercise, have you stopped to think about how to care for your feet, which are literally at the soul of most fitness routines?
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 8 out of 10 Americans experience some form of foot pain. And those who suffer with chronic foot pain, more often than not, experience pain in other parts of their body as well. Yet only one third of those surveyed sought the care of a podiatrist. There are 52 bones in the feet and ankles. You need to keep them healthy and strong!
Foot pain not only restricts your ability to participate in physical activity, but it can cause problems with walking, standing and even while you’re trying to fall asleep. It is important, for the sake of your overall health and quality of life, to take care of your feet. Vice President of academic affairs and Dean at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, Michael J. Trepal, states that “People unable to move about suffer numerous physical, psychological and social afflictions as a direct or indirect result of foot dysfunction.”
Here are the easiest ways to treat your feet well and keep them healthy:
Buy shoes that fit
Do not buy a pair of shoes and make them fit – buy shoes that fit properly now. The idea of breaking shoes in around the home is not good practice, and neither is the use of stretching tools to make your shoes bigger or inserts to make your shoes feel tighter. In order for a shoe to fit properly, the ball of your foot should fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe. If it does not, many companies now make wide-fit options. Your toes should never rub on the top of a shoe or at the front of a shoe, no matter the style.
If you are shopping for high heels, be sure to walk around the store for long enough to ensure that the height of the heel does not negatively impact your calves, knees or lower back. While high heels may make your legs look good, they sacrifice the health of your feet. High heels change the natural position of the foot in relation to the ankle, which ultimately causes chronic knee, hip and/or back pain. If you insist on wearing high heels, wear them for limited periods of time. If you wear high heels around the office, for example, change into them at your desk in the morning and out of them before you head home.
When shopping for running shoes, utilize the in-store guide to help you make a selection based on your intended activity (i.e. running shoes, walking shoes, aerobic shoes, etc.). The Wellness trend in running shoes this year is towards a minimalist feel, in other words, as close to the feeling of bare feet as possible. If you are interested in going this route, be sure to transition slowly. The APMD recommends that you keep your existing running shoes while you increase your usage of minimalist shoes over time. Reports have shown that those who shift from traditional running shoes to minimalist shoes too quickly experience calf and shin pain.
No matter what kind of shoes you wear, inspect them regularly for wear and tear and never share shoes!
Keep your feet healthy
Taking care of your feet is not a lot of work, but it reaps big rewards for the rest of your body. Keeping your feet clean, dry and well-maintained is an important part of your health regimen. If you are not one to enjoy regular massage treatments, you can easily massage your own feet by rolling a tennis ball underneath your feet at the end of the day, while you eat dinner or watch television. You can also recharge your legs by placing them up the wall while you lie on your back, after a long day on your feet (do not do this if you have any existing medical conditions as this yoga pose is not for everyone).
Soak your feet often. Use a foot-soak from your grocery store or make your own. There are plenty of recipes available on-line that use ingredients found around your home, including the use of essential oils for aromatherapy. Use a pumice stone, once your feet are supple, to remove tough skin and calluses, dry your feet properly and remember to moisturize afterwards. Keep your toenails trimmed, straight across the toes, and keep your toenails clean.
If you develop any form of fungal infection, such as athlete’s foot, or foot odor, be sure to treat it right away. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to more serious medical issues. There are many over-the-counter options available to treat foot fungus. Speak to a pharmacist or your family doctor if you are concerned.
Far too many people, typically younger generations, sacrifice comfort in favor of looking good and keeping up with trends. Making that mistake is not something you can fix later in life. You only get one pair of feet! Dean Trepal states “Feet tend to mirror the body as folks age. We see things such as decreased circulation, thinning of skin, brittle bones, muscle atrophy and arthritis. Many of these conditions can initially manifest in the foot and ankle.” Don’t wait for pain and discomfort to start before you prioritize the health of your feet. Start including your soles in your overall health care today.