When it comes to neglected body parts, the feet are, arguably, the clear winner of this dubious achievement.
If they could talk, they would probably say to us, “It’s not fair how you treat us!”
Think for a moment what our feet do for us on a daily basis: they literally carry our weight day after day, year after year throughout our lives. More often than not, we pay them back by stuffing them in ill-fitting shoes and only paying attention to them when they bother us.
What a pity because when it comes down to it, few body parts deserve more pampering than our feet. Ask anyone who has ever suffered from bunions, hammertoes or aching arches and they can tell you that if our feet aren’t happy, we aren’t happy—period.
As a podiatrist extraordinaire, Dr. Suzanne Levine points out in her best-selling book, My Feet Are Killing Me, many women spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on clothing and beauty treatments, hoping to look young and fresh when few things are more aging than a shuffling gait as a result of various foot woes.
Luckily, healthy, happy feet are within reach. With summer approaching, many of us may be more aware of our feet than usual since strappy summer shoes and walking barefoot on the beach tends to put them on display. Read below for some tips on how we keep our feet not just looking good but feeling good as well.
1. Pay careful attention to dry skin, especially on the heels.
Dry skin isn’t just aesthetically unappealing, but it can leave the skin prone to infection. In some cases, dry skin leads to cracks or fissures which can allow harmful germs or bacteria to enter.
In many cases, body lotion may not be enough to remedy the problem and instead may require a cream made especially for the feet containing a high level of glycolic acid to exfoliate tough dry skin.
While many people reach for pumice stones, Dr. Levine warns that the holes in some of them many trap dead skin and encourage the growth of bacteria.
When in doubt, ask a doctor or a podiatrist.
2. Don’t use polish to mask nail problems.
Like many, I love painting my toenails when they are on display. However, many use nail polish as a way to mask various nail problems. Much like our fingernails, the toenails can tell us a lot about our health. For example, discolored toenails may be the sign of a fungal infection which if left untreated, can lead to an infection of the nail bed.
If you suspect a fungal infection, then don’t delay. See a health care professional immediately.
3. Look beyond appearance when picking out summer shoes.
When it comes to summer shoes, many think of flip flops or ultra thin sandals. While these are okay to wear by the pool or at the beach, wearing them day in and day out may be problematic especially for those of us who walk a lot. The big reason for this is that most of these shoes offer little or no arch support. For people like myself who have flat feet, these cute summer shoes can quickly become cute torture chambers. (For those who have never experienced aching arches, you are lucky. Few things are more painful.)
Contrary to popular myth, the best shoes for most feet aren’t those that are perfectly flat. Flat footed or low arch people in particular usually benefit from some height. However, if your favorite pair of sandals don’t offer any support, there are orthopedic inserts that can one can purchase and slip into most pair of shoes.
For those with problem feet, it may be worthwhile to see a podiatrist and get custom-made inserts. Often, these cost less than a new pair of shoes and in some case, insurance may even cover them. Even better, thanks to advances in plastics and other materials, most of these aren’t even noticeable.
4. Apply sunscreen to any parts of the foot that are visible.
Many of us who are vigilant about applying sunscreen completely forget about the tops of our feet or other exposed areas such as toes. However, melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, often occurs in obscure places. Given the number of sunscreens out there—including sprays which leave no stick residue, fear of greasy or slippery-feeling feet is no longer a valid an excuse. As with any other part of the body, apply sunscreen frequently and often especially when out in the sun for long periods of time.
In conclusion, healthy feet are important at any time of the year but this summer, we should all make an effort to give our feet the pampering they need and deserve. Given all the work they do for us, don’t they they deserve it?
Personally, I know happy feet equal a healthy me. Try it yourself and see if that isn’t the case.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: markus spiske/Flickr