Healthy feet and your well-being
By Carol Higgins Taylor
Special to The Weekly
Summer is here. And it’s glorious. Can the same thing be said about your feet? Sandals, and the ever-dangerous flip-flops, are the norm these days so take a close look at your tootsies. If they haven’t had an overhaul from the harsh, heavy socked and booted winter, now is the time. Healthy feet are a necessary component to overall good health.
If you have never had a professional pedicure, I highly recommend it. Aside from pretty toenail polish, you will get a good scrubbing to remove the barnacles (my mother’s word for calluses) and a message. Caution: If you are diabetic or have circulation problems, be sure to tell the person doing the pedicure.
We expect a lot from our feet yet we abuse them daily. Just the act of walking, pounding the pavement as they say, can make your feet sore and tired. And being diabetic complicates things. The disease can cause poor blood circulation and nerve damage in the feet, making them vulnerable to developing ulcers, infections, deformities and brittle bones.
Here are some tips to protect your feet. Do them even if you are not diabetic. It’s just good practice.
— Don’t go barefoot. I know, it is my favorite thing but it is not a good idea. And you can only step on an abandoned dog biscuit or cat toy so many times before you get the message.
— Inspect feet daily for injuries that could lead to dangerous ulcers. Have those new sandals caused a blister? If there is loss of sensation in the foot these things can crop up without you realizing it.
— Gently wash your feet in lukewarm, not hot, water everyday, but don’t soak them as that can cause dryness, especially if you are diabetic.
— Moisturize your feet but avoid the area between the toes where the skin is thin. Be very careful about falling if you go barefoot after rubbing in cream.
— Never trim corns or calluses and this can lead to a serious infection. I remember seeing my grandmother going after her foot with regular kitchen shears. Just don’t.
— Trim toenails very carefully and never shorter than the end of the toe. Cut straight across or lightly follow the natural curve of the toe and use a high-quality but low-grade emery board to smooth rough edges. Some are like sandpaper which can spell trouble if you rub on your skin. Learned that the hard way.
— Inspect the insides of the shoes for any rough spots that may have developed. If the lining of the shoe has worn away, a blister can form.
— Wear shoes that actually fit and replace them when they are worn out. When buying new shoes, shop later in the day when feet tend to swell and put the new shoes on a flat surface before buying. Make sure they are level and don’t tilt in either direction, which could signal a manufacturer’s defect.
One of the most common foot injuries is plantar fasciitis or heel pain. If you experience this condition, talk to your health care provider. But there are three principles of treatments for plantar fasciitis.
— Reduce the inflammation with ice and ibuprofen.
— Protect the plantar fascia from further trauma, through taping the foot, shoe inserts or wearing a shoe with a stiff shank that doesn’t bend in the middle of the arch but across the ball of the foot.
— Stretch and strengthen the ankle, foot, and calf muscles. If symptoms persist, you may need physical therapy.
I found a couple of interesting websites to peruse if you want to find more information on caring for your feet: www.healthinaging.org and the American Podiatric Medical Association at www.apma.org.
Here’s to putting your best summer foot forward. And give serious thought to a pedicure. Guys too. Everyone deserves happy feet.
Carol Higgins Taylor is an advocate for seniors and owns Bryant Street Public Relations in Bangor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.