By Connie Colbert
GCU Director of Health Services
Now that the weather is warmer and we will be wearing more sandals, open-toed shoes and even walking around in our bare feet, it’s a good reminder to become more aware of how pain or problems with our feet can affect our health.
It is important not to ignore your feet, especially if you have foot pain. If your feet hurt, it is time to see your health care provider or podiatrist. As a matter of fact, your feet should be checked regularly even before there is a problem.
Your feet contain more than 50 bones, 200 muscles, 60 joints, tendons and ligaments. Feet are truly miraculous. They keep you moving and literally bear the brunt of the weight of everyday life.
According to a study by the Institute of Preventative Health, about 80% of people age 21 and older have at least one problem with their feet. Many times, foot issues are indicators of other problems happening to your body.
There are three important reasons to take care of your feet: quality of life, productive work and regular physical activity.
Your quality of life is directly linked to your ability to be self-sufficient. Activities such as working, shopping and walking are just a few of the daily living activities that make you self-sufficient. If you have foot problems or your feet hurt, you will not be functioning at your best.
Even if you have a desk job, you still need to get up occasionally. Poor foot health can impede work performance and even result in lost time from work.
And with poor foot health, you are less likely to engage in physical activity. The result is a higher risk of disease, such as heart disease and diabetes, reduced endurance and loss of muscle mass. And if you already have a chronic condition such as diabetes, you will want to check with your health care provider to be certain that you are doing everything possible to keep your feet healthy.
Here are some good foot habits:
- Don’t wear shoes that are too tight. Make sure they fit right.
- Don’t share shoes.
- Don’t share pedicure utensils with your friends.
- Inspect your feet regularly. Take a good look on the soles for any scaling and between the toes for peeling areas. Also, look for discoloration of the nails. If you have diabetes, inspect your feet daily – diabetes can lead to a higher risk of foot sores and infections.
- Don’t hide discolored nails with polish. Let them breathe and treat the underlying issue.
- Don’t shave calluses on your feet. Use a pumice stone to soften calluses.
- Moisturize your feel at night.
- Do not perform “DIY surgery” on an ingrown nail.
- Stretch your legs after a long day or a hard workout.
- Give yourself or have someone else give you a foot massage.
- Roll a tennis ball under your feet to stretch the muscles.
- Soothe irritation with a vinegar foot soak. Vinegar has several helpful properties: It is a mild exfoliator, can reduce foot odor and can be used as an antifungal treatment and prevention.
- Avoid excess moisture in your shoes. This could be a precursor to a fungal infection (more commonly called athlete’s foot).
Keep an eye on your feet for changes, pain or irritation. Do not wait for pain and discomfort to catch up to you! See a podiatrist or health care provider if you are experiencing foot pain that does not go away, seeing a change in the skin in your feet or have a wound that does not heal. This could be a sign of a greater issue.