Are you giving your feet enough attention?
A quarter of our bones can be found in the feet and, given the strain we put them under every day, it really is no surprise that problems in this area are common.
To ensure you are best equipped to look after your feet, this blog covers:
- Common foot problems
- Effects of foot problems
- Risk factors for foot issues
- How to keep the feet healthy
- Ways to show your feet some extra love!
Foot pain is very common, particularly in older adults as wear and tear begin to take their toll. Below I have listed just some of the more common complaints the feet are prone to.
Athlete's foot – a fungal infection that causes cracked skin and itchiness, usually in between the toes.
Bunion – hard lumps that form on the side of the toes. These are often the result of wearing ill-fitting shoes, though hereditary factors may also play a part.
Corns – hard, painful areas on the skin, usually on the toe joints or soles of the feet.
Hammertoe – here, a bend forms in the middle joint of the toe causing it to fold in a hammer shape. This problem is very painful and is caused by a weakness in one of the tendons, muscles or ligaments that work to keep the toes straight.
Ingrown toenail – this is when the nail grows into the skin of the toe instead of outwards. It can be sore and infections are common.
Metatarsalgia – this causes inflammation and pain in the ball of the foot. It is very common in runners and other athletes doing activities that put this area under a lot of impact.
Plantar fasciitis – this causes pain in the arch of the foot and the heel. It is caused by inflammation in the plantar fascia, a part of the foot that connects the heel to the toes.
So, we've seen that there are a number of challenging issues that can affect the feet and, if you are familiar with any of these, you'll know all too well that they can have a severe impact on day-to-day living.
It may become more challenging to walk long distances, for example. We may have to take smaller steps and journeys will take longer. Some people may also find that they are unable to walk any more than a short distance.
When foot problems exist, it may also become more challenging to stand for long periods and the pain may make it harder to complete daily tasks.
Certain factors may increase the likelihood of developing foot problems, a few of which are listed below:
Activity levels – high-impact sports like running can make the feet prone to injury and conditions like metatarsalgia.
Age – as mentioned already, older adults are more prone to foot problems because of the strain put on their feet over the years.
Diabetes sufferers – this condition can make you more prone to developing foot problems. This is because raised blood sugar levels can affect sensation in the feet, as well as circulation. The latter can lead to cramps and slow wound healing. You should always consult your doctor if you experience foot issues and also have diabetes.
Footwear – ill-fitting or unsupportive shoes can cause issues. Wearing heels regularly is known to increase the incidence of bunions, in particular.
Obesity – carrying extra weight puts more strain on the feet, increases the likelihood of type 2 diabetes and can make you more prone to plantar fasciitis.
Occupation – professions that involve standing for long hours can put extra strain on the feet, particularly if supportive footwear is not provided.
How do I keep my feet healthy?
First of all, if you are concerned about foot pain, or any other issue, it is best to consult a podiatrist. They will diagnose any problems and can offer advice on treating them.
Often problems such as athlete's foot can be treated with creams or powders, both of which can be obtained from a pharmacist. Likewise, a pharmacist can recommend heel pads for corns, or they can be dealt with by a podiatrist.
On the other hand, inflammatory conditions such as bunions may benefit from a diet that includes plenty of anti-inflammatory foods, such as wholegrains, nuts and seeds, oily fish and green leafy vegetables like kale.
To soothe foot pain, including any caused by bunions or plantar fasciitis, it may also be helpful to apply a little Arnica Gel to the area. This is good for inflammation, joint pain and stiffness.
Other than this, I would suggest giving your feet a cool bath in the evenings, particularly if you experience the likes of bunions, as this can be very soothing and may ease inflammation further.
If there is no specific issue to address in your feet, I recommend these tips to give your feet a little tender loving care and prevent problems from occurring in the future!
Try a foot massager
I have one of these that cost just a few pounds. It's a ball shape with lots of grooves on the outside. I find it is nice to use after a big run or if I've been on my feet all day.
Buy supportive shoes
If you have any kind of foot issue, look for a shoe with lots of cushioning and a supportive ankle. Research shows that sufferers of arthritis, in particular, can benefit from specialised shoes to reduce the load on their joints. Speak to your podiatrist if you think this would be helpful for you.
Also, if you do regular exercise, look at getting your trainers fitted by a trained professional. They will look at your stride, how often you run and any previous injuries to find the right pair of shoes. Lots of sports shops offer this service for free.
It is particularly important to get running shoes right as, if they offer little support, aches and pains can develop in other areas of the body (not just the feet!). The knees, ankles and even the hips are just some areas that can suffer from poorly fitted running shoes. We should also be aiming to replace heavily used running shoes every year or so.
Massage in some body lotion
This keeps the skin on the feet soft and moisturised. Use a natural brand of body lotion so that the skin doesn't soak up nasty chemicals.
Taking this time out to care for your feet will also help to identify any possible issues that are developing.
Improve circulation and movement with regular gentle exercises. You could try some foot flexors, first of all.
Whilst sitting, simply raise your legs out in front with your toes pointed upwards. Begin by drawing small circles with your toes in one direction, then repeat in the opposite direction. You could also tip your toes forwards and backwards several times.
There are also tons of 'yoga for feet' videos on YouTube which are worth checking out.
With all these tips to implement, your feet will be healthier than ever!