Our feet are perhaps the most underrated part of our bodies. They carry our weight and get us from one place to the next–but how much attention do we really give them? Having healthy feet is a quality of life issue. Pain, irritation, and dryness of the feet are not just uncomfortable; they can lead to serious medical problems if left untreated.
Like any medical condition, the best way to avoid problems with your feet is through proper preventative care. You can take control of the situation by implementing these tips for healthy feet:
Footwear That Fits
There’s really no reason to be uncomfortable in shoes, not even in the name of fashion. You should be able to find shoe manufacturers that develop well-fitting, easy-to-wear shoes for even the most typically uncomfortable styles, like high heels. Avoid footwear that pinches your toes because these can not only cause feet cramps, but can lead to ingrown toenails. A good rule of thumb is to try on new footwear toward the end of the day so your feet have time to adjust for things like swelling. If you are planning to buy footwear for athletic pursuits, go to a specialty store and have your feet evaluated based on the way you walk so your shoes are sure to be the right fit.
Footwear That’s Breathable
Look for shoes that are either made of leather or of mesh materials so that air circulates better around your feet throughout the day. If you know that your feet are prone to getting sweaty, this is especially important. Look for athletic shoes with mesh openings to give your feet the chance to cool off during the course of your workout.
Did you know that your toenails can house millions of bacterial germs in just a few centimeters? Be sure you keep them trimmed and short in order to avoid any bad germs from wreaking havoc on your feet. You should also scrub under your toenails with a nail brush to get rid of any excess dirt.
Your entire body operates more smoothly when it is hydrated and your feet are no exception. Drinking the right amount of water in a day will lead to less swelling throughout the entire body, including the feet and ankles. This will make it easier to do everything from walking to your car for work to running in a race.
There will always be times that your feet get sweaty or that you accidentally step into the giant rain puddle outside your car door. Too much moisture around the feet can lead to dry, cracked skin which is uncomfortable. Moist feet are also ripe for fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Remove wet footwear and socks as soon as possible and use a towel to dry the entire foot – even between your toes. For regular daily wear, be sure you have socks that absorb your typical sweat capacity. If you are doing something active, like running, avoid cotton socks and go for a lighter, more breathable material instead.
You can easily pass fungal infections back and forth by sharing shoes so avoid this risk by simply not doing it. If you participate in activities that require shoe rentals, like bowling, you should consider investing in your own pair instead. You wouldn’t share a toothbrush with someone else because of the bacterial risk. So why would you share shoes? Keep your own pair separate from others and avoid the temptation to slip into anyone else’s, no matter how comfortable or cute they seem.
Just because you walk a lot or are on your feet at work does not mean that your feet are actually getting a workout. You should plan at least a few targeted exercises to help keep your legs and feet healthy and strong. Target your calves, ankles, and the feet themselves through stretching and strengthening exercises. If you sit behind a desk all day, get up at least once per hour to walk for a few minutes and incorporate some simple stretching exercises during the break. It’s also vital to integrate a stretching routine at the end of a workout (not just the beginning) to be sure the muscles get the right attention before the lactic acid starts to set in.
When you notice that a toe nail is cracked or misshapen, don’t just coat more nail polish over the top of it. Go get checked out by a podiatrist. Discoloration or uneven thickness of toe nails can be a sign of infection and should never be ignored. People with diabetes need to be even more vigilant because the disease can lead to higher incidences of foot infections and sores. Pain is another area that people tend to just muscle through, but some conditions require medical care for the person to truly recover. By going to see a professional, you can avoid having any of your minor problems turn into major ones.
Knowing When to Rest
If you are struggling with any redness, pain, or swelling in your legs or feet, it’s time to put them up for a while. If you are athletic, sometimes it can be tough to voluntarily bench yourself from your activities but it is necessary if you want to recover and perform at optimal levels. By trying to run or workout on an injury, there is the potential that you will actually make it worse. Give your feet and legs a break when they start to cause you discomfort or pain and you’ll come back to the task more refreshed.
Your feet are important to your overall health and comfort so take the time to make them feel loved. If you wait until you are having problems with your feet, it may be too late to avoid damage or discomfort. By taking a few small actions every day, you can keep your feet healthy and strong and avoid being sidelined with any discomfort, pain, or injury.