“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
Of course, Thoreau was speaking of the beauty of the natural world all around us, the earthly realm under our feet.
However, it isn’t very heavenly when feet are tired and sore.
Our feet take a beating every day. Studies and walking app data confirm that the average American walks somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 steps a day. Five thousand steps is about 2.5 miles and equal to about 912 miles per year. Active folks may be walking 5 to 7 miles a day, upping the yearly total to 2,500 miles or more!
During a lifetime, walking, running, dancing, climbing and hiking can take their toll on the delicate, complex structure of the foot. The foot is comprised of 26 bones, 19 muscles, 107 ligaments and 33 joints.
Keeping feet healthy and pain free is important for everyone’s activity level, independence and life quality. In addition, understanding foot care is essential for diabetes patients.
Common causes of aching fee
1. Abnormal foot anatomy: Common problems include flat feet, an excessively high arch, and arthritis or joint restriction.
2. Obesity: Carrying excess weight results in increased strain on ligaments, muscles and joints.
3. Pregnancy: In addition to the stress caused by increased weight, pregnancy hormones cause the ligaments that stabilize your feet to relax. These two factors together result in excess strain on your feet.
4. Poorly-fitting shoes: Your shoes need to be the right size and shape or you can have issues. You need a larger shoe size as you age, and your tendons and ligaments stretch. You may have developed a bunion or hammertoes and need a wider shoe.
A sloppy fit is also bad, overworking your muscles as your feet shift around in the shoe and increasing the risk of blisters and black toenails.
Shoes that are lacking in support and cushioning can leave your feet feeling fatigued and sore.
Overuse: Increased walking or standing, especially when combined with other contributing factors, can cause even the healthiest feet to become sore.
Also, walking or standing on hard surfaces, such as concrete, can stress your feet. This can be a problem for those who stand all day at work or are generally on their feet for long periods.
Tips for maintaining healthy feet
Properly cleanse your feet daily, including between your toes and underneath the nails. Dry the foot and between the toes thoroughly to avoid developing a fungal infection.
Trim toe nails properly. Trim them straight across, rather than rounding or curving; a podiatrist can show you how to trim your nails to avoid developing ingrown nails or damaging the nail bed.
1. Avoid walking barefoot as often as you can. This will minimize the risk of injuries to your foot such as cuts or stubbing your toes.
2. Stay active throughout the day. Get up and walk often to increase circulation in your legs and feet. This is especially important for office workers and the elderly.
3. Wear clean, dry socks daily and do not re-wear used socks.
4. Apply sunscreen to your feet if you are wearing sandals.
5. Stretch your legs and feet daily to minimize strain on muscles and increase flexibility.
6. Don’t ignore foot pain. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. See a podiatrist.
Typical foot ailments include athlete’s foot, corns and calluses, ingrown toenails and plantar fasciitis. Often, these conditions can be treated with home remedies on the advice of your physician.
However, some foot problems are complicated and require a medical team approach. For example, diabetes wreaks havoc with the feet. A diabetic may require a team including a primary care physician, podiatrist, and endocrinologist. High blood sugar over the course of time causes several issues including inadequate blood supply (peripheral vascular disease), inadequate nerve supply (neuropathy), foot ulcers and foot infections. The good news is controlled blood sugar levels in coordination with regular preventive care significantly reduces a person’s chance of diabetic limb amputation by up to 85 percent.
Specific foot care instructions for diabetics
1. Inspect feet daily. Look for cuts, cracks, bumps, or bruises, discharge, changes in skin or nail color, changes in skin temperature, or swelling of the foot or ankle.
2. Wash feet daily in lukewarm water with mild soap and dry gently, especially between the toes.
3. Walking is the ideal exercise for diabetics unless there are complications.
4. Protect your feet and legs. Never walk barefoot and avoid extreme temperatures.
5. Use moisturizing lotion daily to avoid dry skin but do not apply between toes.
6. Apply foot powder daily between the toes.
7. Cut toenails straight across even with the skin on the end of your toes. If you have poor eyesight, shaky hands, or have trouble reaching the toes, ask a podiatrist to trim your nails.
8. Never perform “bathroom surgery.” Never use razor blades, knives, scissors, or medicated corn/wart removers to remedy a foot problem on your own. See a physician.
9. Avoid things that diminish circulation such as smoking, sitting with legs crossed and elastic garters.
10. Change socks daily. Discard frayed, torn, or stretched out socks.
11. Wear soft leather shoes that conform to the shape of the foot. Women should not wear tight, high-heeled shoes.
12. Wear appropriate shoes for exercise and walking. Lightweight sneakers with good cushioning and ventilation will help reduce muscle fatigue.