If you’ve never experienced painful feet or foot problems, you may take for granted that you’ll always have healthy feet. Most people tend to overlook their feet as crucial parts of the body, and many ignore pain or other issues with their feet until it becomes serious. But keeping your feet healthy should be part of your daily routine as healthy feet are essential for mobility.
As anyone who has experienced foot pain can attest, pain or injuries to your feet can be debilitating. That’s why it is so important to take care of your feet to prevent problems in the first place.
The Complex Foot
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, your two feet consist of more than 50 bones, which accounts for one-fourth of all the bones in your body. Along with all of these bones, your feet have more than 60 joints and 200 muscles, tendons, and ligaments that hold them together and help them move.
Feet play a big role in your body, as just the daily effort of walking puts wear and tear on your feet over time. Add to that the stress on your feet of a job that requires you to stand or walk for long periods of time, or exercise such as running, that can impact the condition of your feet. Also, many people don’t realize that the type of shoes they wear can affect foot health. For women especially, spending a lot of time wearing high-heel shoes or even flip flops, can cause foot problems down the line. And exercising using improper footwear can cause pain or injury to your feet.
Oh, My Aching Feet!
Because your feet take a beating daily, and because they are such a vital part of your body, foot pain and problems are quite common. Eight out of 10 Americans have experienced a problem with their foot or feet, according to a 2014 survey. Problems can range from an ingrown toenail to chronic foot pain, such as plantar fasciitis.
Foot pain can impact your health and quality of life, and if you’re in pain, you’re less likely to exercise. People with diabetes are also more susceptible to foot problems that can become serious if not treated. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s important to regularly examine your feet at home and to have them checked by your doctor on a routine basis.
No matter how minor, you should never ignore pain in your feet or other problems, such as fungus, corns, or bunions. If foot pain is keeping you from exercising or other activities, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine what the problem is and the best treatment plan to get you back on your feet, comfortably.
Treat your Feet
To keep your feet healthy, follow these tips:
- Inspect your feet daily, and look for any changes in appearance; check the skin, and look for problems such as blisters, corns, or bunions.
- Wash your feet daily, paying special attention to washing and drying between the toes.
- Keep feet moisturized by using appropriate lotions or creams. Dry, cracked skin on the feet is more prone to infection or other problems.
- Wear good shoes. Make sure you buy the proper shoe size and that shoes are supportive and comfortable for whatever activities you’ll be doing. For example, get fitted for running shoes by a professional if you’re a regular runner. If your job requires you to be on your feet all day, make sure you have the proper footwear. Alternate the shoes you wear daily.
- Never ignore foot pain. If pain doesn’t get better in a few days, it’s time to see the doctor.
- Keep toenails trimmed properly. Cut toenails straight across, and never cut into the corners to prevent ingrown toenails.
- Don’t go barefoot to protect your feet from injuries and infections.
- Before spending time outdoors, apply sunscreen to your feet as well as the rest of your body.
- Exercise regularly. Walking is one of the best activities to keep your feet healthy.
- Stretch your feet regularly, especially before and after exercise.
Stretch Those Feet!
Stretching your feet and ankles regularly can help to keep your feet strong and flexible, and help improve overall health. Performing the proper stretches before and after exercise can help alleviate soreness and prevent conditions like plantar fasciitis, which can cause pain in the heel or arch of the foot that can sometimes be severe. Additionally, stretching and exercising your feet regularly can help increase the range of motion in your feet, which can help keep you active as you age.
Most foot exercises and stretches are simple and can be done at home, without special equipment. Some people like to use a rolled towel to help with stretches or a tennis ball or golf ball to roll out the foot. The right foot stretches and exercises can help with flexibility and mobility, strength, and pain.