The warm weather has arrived and everyone is baring their toes to the world so I thought it was an opportune time to write about caring for your feet and keeping them healthy.
Every foot contains 26 bones, which are held in position by hundreds of ligaments, tendons and muscles, making it an extraordinarily complex mechanism. The total force accumulated on feet every day is well over one million pounds for the average adult. The foot however, acts as an amazingly versatile and complex set of shock absorbers that protect the body with every step.
Some of the common conditions and ailments that can affect your feet are: athlete’s foot, blisters, bunions, corns/calluses, hammertoes, ingrown nails, neuromas, warts, heel pain, and heel spurs. If you experience problems with your feet, you are well advised to consult with a podiatrist.
As a senior, you already have about 100,000 kilometres on your feet, but that does not mean it is too late for comfort and healthy tootsies. Try some of the following practices to keep your feet in good condition: (Canadian Podiatric Medical Association – www.podiatrycanada.org)
- Wear good quality running shoes or shoes designed specifically for walking.
- Have corns or calluses treated by a podiatrist.
- Perform gentle exercises such as moving your feet in circles or up and down to help improve mobility, flexibility, and circulation.
- Do calf-stretching exercises to reduce tightness in the back of the lower leg muscles. Lean against the wall (with your hands) and place one foot forward and one foot back; bend the forward knee and you will feel the calf muscle of the opposite leg stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Change the position of your legs and repeat the exercise.
- Use insoles to add cushioning to the soles of your shoes. As you get older, the fat pad under the bones at the ball of the foot tends to get displaced forward and reduces the cushioning at the ball of the foot.
- Have your foot mechanics evaluated by a podiatrist. Structural imbalances that can lead to bunions and calluses can be corrected.
- Treat any ingrown toenails. A podiatrist can painlessly clip away a segment of the nail to provide immediate relief or permanently remove the offending nail border.
- If you have varicose veins, elevate your feet when you can and walk as often as you can. Compression stockings may be beneficial too, but consult with your healthcare professional first.
- Get involved in a walking program. Consult with your physician, start gradually, and be certain to wear appropriate footwear.
People with diabetes are at greater risk of foot problems and need to be especially vigilant with appropriate professional foot care. The key to amputation prevention in diabetic patients is early recognition and regular foot screenings. Be aware of the warning signs of a problem so you can act promptly. The warning signs include: skin colour changes, swelling of the foot or ankle, pain in the legs, open sores on the feet that are slow to heal, ingrown and fungal toenails, bleeding corns/calluses, and dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel. From the first baby steps you take and in all the phases throughout your life, having healthy feet is important. You only have one pair of feet to last a lifetime so take good care of them!