Take steps to avoid sandal scandal: Foot health awareness day
When we think of taking “steps,” we tend to focus more on the activity trackers attached to our wrists and trying to hit our daily goals rather than focusing on the things making us take those steps: our feet!
Similar to the cars that we drive, we may not think of our feet very often—they just get us from point A to point B—unless there’s a problem we usually don’t make them a high priority. But just like routine car maintenance, we should be thinking about our soles, too! And because April is Foot Health Awareness Month, we think this is the perfect time to get started.
Did you know that both your feet have 52 bones altogether? They also have a complex system of joints, ligaments and muscles that propel us through our daily lives. And problems that may arise in our feet can work their way up to other parts of our bodies if not taken care of. Take heart disease, for example. Blockages that can lead to heart disease affect more than just the coronary arteries, but can affect other arteries in our bodies, which is a condition referred to as vascular disease. Signs and symptoms of this disease often start in—yep, you guessed it—our feet.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), most Americans will log 75,000 miles on their feet before age 50. People with diabetes, skin disorders and a history of foot-related injuries (runners, we’re looking at you!), aren’t the only ones that should be taking care of their feet. If you enjoy wearing heels, stand on your feet all day at work, or tend to only wear $1 flip-flops from your favorite store at the mall, then you may want to take a moment to think about the implications these activities have on your feet.
Avoid a flip-flop fiasco
We love a good pair of flip-flops. They’re easy to slide on when you’re running around doing errands or housework, walking the dog or simply lounging. The problem with flip-flops is that they rarely offer the support we need from our shoes to safeguard our posture. If your flip-flops fold in half or you’ve had them for over a year, you may want to consider going shoe shopping for a new, sturdier pair made from better materials. And if your feet hang off the sides at all, this can expose your feet to germs and athlete’s foot! And don’t even get us started on the dangers of wearing flip-flops while mowing the lawn or playing sports (please don’t do that).
And if you love a good pair of wedge sandals, be sure to step carefully to avoid twisting or spraining your ankles. When sandal shopping, try to find pairs with wider, flatter soles with good traction. And if possible, try adding APMA-accepted inserts. Your feet will thank you!
Nail that mani-pedi appointment
Next time you decide to treat yourself to a day at the spa, there’s a few things you may want to do to safeguard your feet before getting them properly groomed. Perhaps one of the best things you can do is avoid shaving your legs! Really. Freshly-shaven legs or any small cuts leave your skin susceptible to bacteria entering the wounds and causing infection.
Do you have rough calluses on your heels? Soak your feet in warm water for five minutes before using a pumice stone, foot file or an exfoliating scrub to get your feet back in tip-top shape (and never use a foot razor! These can cause permanent skin damage and infection).
And if you have problems with thick or discolored nails…don’t cover them up with pretty nail polish—this locks out moisture that is important to letting the nailbeds “breathe.” And having discolored nails could be a sign of a fungal infection that you may want to talk to your podiatrist about.
Put your best foot forward
If you’re having some issues with your feet such as swelling, pain, numbness or other skin changes, it could be a sign of something bigger. Many systemic diseases are diagnosed by podiatrists because the patients experience early symptoms in their feet. Diabetes, hypothyroidism/hyperthyroidism, renal failure, and nutritional deficiencies are a few things that can cause your feet some grief.
Most of all, it’s important to remember that just like your car, your feet are here to help you get around. Show them some love by wearing good shoes (or good inserts/orthotics!), finding a good shoe cobbler when those soles just won’t go another step, and being conscious of any signs or symptoms that make you scratch your head. As the saying goes, life is all about the journey, not the destination, and your feet are the ones taking you there—so be nice to them!