We use our feet so often, but how many of us take care of them properly? Just like your teeth, you want to make sure to maintain regular upkeep of your feet, so as to avoid injury or protracted difficulties, which will be costly to treat down the road.
First things first, feet are not so well designed. They developed from appendages that were used to help our predecessors walk on all fours, and they had to make the leap (no pun intended) to help us walk upright. So there’s a lot of pressure on feet for which they haven't quite adapted! That’s why people develop calluses and bunions: no one walks in the exact tread you're meant to follow. That's why the skin literally compensates: if more pressure is put on a certain area when you walk, the skin builds itself up to take the pressure off your bones. Unfortunately, too much buildup causes discomfort. And, if the area isn’t kept clean, it’s likely to develop an infection or, worse, an ulcer.
So what do we do? Here’s a list of some easy ways to maintain healthy feet, without going overboard.
5 Keys to Protecting the Feet
1. Wear comfortable shoes
This is a big one. So many people wear shoes for style, ignoring the terrible impact that an unsupportive shoe will have on your foot. If your shoes hurt, that should be a sign that you’re not wearing something good for your foot. You shouldn’t come home at the end of the day with scratches at the back of your ankle, or with the balls of your feet killing you. Make sure to buy shoes that are not too tight, or too short, or too raised. Contorting your feet in these ways just compounds the original problem of feet not being so well designed.
2. Wash and dry your feet carefully
It’s not enough to simply lather on some quick soap and then let them air dry. When bathing, treat your feet as you would your hands after a messy meal. Really scrub the nooks and crannies, and then when you dry them, make sure to leave nothing wet. Not only will leaving water on your feet cause them to dry out and flake—which may lead to further tearing or infection—but it increases the likelihood of developing athlete’s foot, or contracting some other fungal infection. Dry very carefully between your toes! That’s where pockets of moisture hide out and cause the most damage. Also, if you use a public locker room or showers, always wear water-shoes or other waterproof footwear. Like a surgical mask for your mouth, covering your feet will keep them out of contact with the fungi and viruses that can cause infection.
3. Cut your toenails regularly
An important part of foot hygiene is making sure your toenails don’t get too long or bent out of shape. Not only will they take up too much room in your shoes, making the space cramped and leading to problems like calluses and corns, but if the toenail breaks, it may never properly heal. Be careful, too: toenails are susceptible to infection. If you see your toenail thickening, turning an odd color, or developing grooves, see our podiatrist right aways. These could be infections, or your body's way of signaling other health-related issues such as heart disease. Keeping an eye on your toes will help you avoid these complications. But be careful when you cut your nails! They are not meant to be cut to the red—some white should be left behind as a toe-guard, in case you bang your foot. Toenails, while seemingly precarious, are there for our feet’s protection, so don’t defeat their purpose by cutting them too short.
Massing your own feet (if you can’t afford to have a professional do it!) is a great way to keep them healthy and happy. Not only can the time double as a foot exam during which you may discover patches of dry skin or injuries, but bringing the flow of blood to different parts of your foot relaxes the muscles and allows them to re-energize. It feels good for a reason! Our feet carry us around most of the time, and that is a lot of weight to carry. Give your foot muscles a break, and loosen up any tension in them at the same time. Besides, being mindful of your feet, and every part of them—your toes, your arch, your heel, the top—can help you feel centered and even reduce your anxiety.
5. Seek medical attention when necessary
While there’s so much you can do to keep your feet healthy, they are just as important to seek medical attention for as any other body part. If you are feeling pain or discomfort, see your podiatrist before the pain gets worse. Don’t allow a problem to fester; ignoring foot problems can, in the worst case scenario, lead to a foot amputation! So be serious about your feet.
The main thing is to remember—don’t ignore your feet! They are too important and too fragile to not treat them right. Sure, they can take a beating—runners will attest to that—but they need the care that comes after the hard work they do for us. So do it for yourself and, when necessary, get a helping hand from your friendly neighborhood podiatrist!