To paraphrase the late Rodney Dangerfield, feet get no respect.
They literally carry our weight and more often than not, we repay them by cramming them in tight, ill-fitting shoes and neglecting them unless they start to ache.
As a yoga instructor, I have a lot of students with foot issues. While former dancers—especially former ballerinas—tend to have the worst problems, I’ve seen women barely out of their teens suffer from bunions, corns and other maladies. When most people think of “damaged feet,” they immediately think of feet crammed into high heels, but they aren’t the only culprit. Even those comfy flip flops and athletic slides can lead to problems. (The problem with those shoes is the lack of arch support.)
Therefore, given all that your feet do for you, shouldn’t you do a little something for them?
Also, keep in mind while some of these tips are directed specifically at women, men are not immune from foot problems either and many of these tips apply to both sexes.
1. Get both of your feet measured.
Many are surprised to learn this, but your foot size can continue to change into adulthood. Weight gain and pregnancy may cause you to go up a size or two. (The reason for this is that extra weight can put pressure on the arch causing it to flatten. In some cases, this may be permanent.)
Another surprising fact is that quite a few people have feet that are two different sizes. If you’re one of these people and you don’t wish to buy two pairs of shoes—and who does?—then buy the larger size and get a special insert to place in the shoe for the smaller foot. A good shoe shop or a podiatrist can recommend ones.
2. Throw out any worn out shoes.
Worn-out, misshapen shoes not only look bad, but they can be bad for your health. Worn-out shoes may result in the shoe being stretched thus making it too big for your foot. A too-large shoe may rub against the heel resulting in a friction burn and/or a blister. Anyone who has ever had one of those can tell you they’re no fun.
Also, be sure to check the soles. Worn-out soles can easily result in slips and falls. Unlike a misshapen shoe, ones with a worn-out sole may be able to simply be resoled for far less than the cost of a new pair.
One thing to keep in mind before you start your cull and immediately toss any shoes that you’ve owned over a certain number of years is that even newer shoes may be worn out if you tend to wear them a lot.
Also, old does not automatically mean worn out especially in the case of shoes you tend to wear only on special occasions. (Think of those shoes you only wear to interviews or the heels you bought for your sister’s wedding.) You can keep shoes indefinitely as look as they are in good shape and fit you.
3. If you wear high heels, be sensible about them.
I won’t deny it—many women love their high heeled shoes. When watching old episodes of Sex and the City and seeing Sarah Jessica Parker skip around Manhattan in her Manolos, I often feel a mixture of envy that anyone can actually move like that in heels and genuine concern for her feet.
Of course, the series was make-believe and Ms. Parker was in character, but many women wear high heels every single day for personal or professional reasons. It’s not just an urban myth, but constant heel wearing can cause muscles in the legs to shorten making it very uncomfortable to wear flats or go barefoot. If this is the case, see a doctor or podiatrist who may recommend specific exercises and/or stretches to elongate those muscles.
If you insist or must wear heels everyday or several times of week, try to wear flats part of the time. If you live and/or work in a city and walk a lot, then try to wear flats at least for the commute to and from the office.
4. Be on the look out for any changes to the feet including changes in the toenails.
Many people are familiar with those Lamisil ads that feature that little animated monster that represents a common foot fungus that can turn the toenails yellow. However, there are other changes to be on the look for which may indicate something serious about your overall health.
For example, numbness in the toes may be a sign of diabetes as can a cut that is taking an unusually long time to heal. In cases like these, run—don’t walk—to the doctor’s office. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to these things.
5. Give your feet some TLC.
When it comes to caring for their feet, most people do little more than trim their toenails and occasionally rub some lotion into them when the dreaded dry heel syndrome arises. If possible, try to set aside a few minutes each day to pamper your feet. This may mean soaking them in some Epsom salts, massaging them, or just letting them “breathe” by taking them out of their shoes and socks and letting them rest on a cushion or pillow. None of this requires a lot of time or effort and taking just a little time to devote to your feet may pay off in the future in terms of your long-term foot health.
In the meantime, try to treat your feet with the love and respect they deserve. Science may be able to replace hips, joins, and other things but currently, you only get one set of feet to support you for your entire life.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise
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