It is not just about having beautiful feet. Foot health is essential to prevent long term health and mobility problems especially if you have joint pain.
Even if you don’t have joint pain, what you are about to read can still serve you well and help you to age gracefully.
In this blog post, I will be focusing on the following:
- Benefits of Overall Foot Health and why overlooking it can cost you dearly.
- Foot Care Basics that everyone should know.
- The Simple Foot Soak that anyone can use
- Pain reducing Tips for persons who suffer from joint pain.
Benefits of Foot Care
Why should you take care of your feet?
From balance to fatigue
Have you ever been walking about doing your thing when suddenly you almost lose balance and fall? Just like that, your foot starts to hurt and you can’t walk properly.
Just that quickly, you go from walking normally to limping awkwardly trying to move about but you are severely hampered by your painful foot or feet.
Or maybe you have spent hours on your feet. Either way, you immediately become very conscious of how much we depend on our feet.
Yet on a daily basis, most of us give little thought to the two feet soldiers take us from one point to the next under pressure.
The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) considers your feet a marvel of engineering. Together, your two feet contain more than 50 bones, accounting for about one-fourth of all the bones in your body. And somehow they also make room for more than 60 joints and 200 muscles, tendons, and ligaments that hold them together and help them move. Eric Metcalf, MPH
Dr. Brezinski DPM, a Chicago-area podiatrist and president of the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association, states that “The health of your feet, despite their distance from your heart, can affect your overall health.”
Many of us are familiar with issues such as tingling and numbness in the legs and feet.
These can occur due to the distance away from the heart combined with poor circulation. Here oxygen rich blood is not reaching the further extremities and disrupts the removal of wastes and organ functions at the cellular level.
Also, some suggest that the feet are an integral part of the body’s monitoring and communication system. Poor foot health can affect the nerves in the feet and hence interferes with the signals sent to the brain cause actions that might become adverse to the body.
The feet provide foundation and structure for balance and alignment. You can see this where poor posture if left unchecked can cause foot, knee, and back pain. Believe it or not, back problems can affect your breathing which can lead to other health problems.
In my research I found many foot problems, however, for the purposes of this blog, I will focus on arthritis, well known cause of foot pain. I have personal experience with arthritis and is one of the main problems for my clients.
For arthritis sufferers, common foot problems include bunions which are misshapen joints in the big toe, plantar fasciitis or heel pain.
Injury, overuse or conditions causing inflammation involving any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the foot can cause foot pain. Foot pain can influence a person’s ability to walk, jump, stand, dance and exercise which can ultimately lead to ankle, knee, hip, and back pain.
Issues like ankle pain and flat feet in osteoarthritis or pain in the toe from an attack of gout are also frequently observed. Rheumatoid, juvenile and reactive arthritis can also cause swelling and stiffness of the foot joints.
Some persons also experience swollen ankles, midfoot pain, arch pain, clawed toes along with a decreased range of motion.
Your Feet and Age
Foot Problems With Ageing
I read somewhere that our feet are the first to age I am not sure if that is true.
All the same, it is natural for your feet to change with time. They tend to become broader and go through several other changes.
As you age, the skin of your foot gets thinner and drier and over time you lose the padding of your feet. ( pain in your heel)
You can also expect natural changes to the shape of your feet like the loss in the arch as ligaments become weaker. It is therefore not surprising that many elders complain about arthritis in their feet.
Dry skin, ageing and lack of foot care can cause cracked heels and calluses.
If you wear steel tips or similar shoes for long periods, you may find that you form calluses very quickly.
Not only can cracked heels become uncomfortably unsightly, but can become bad enough to make standing painful be deep enough to harbour bacteria.
A sure recipe for infections in your foot.
This can be unnoticed if you have decreased sensitivity due to age arthritis or damaged nerves from diabetes. One such infection is called cellulitis.
Daily Foot Care Basics
- Check the foot ( evenings) for cuts, bruises, red spots, swelling, discoloured or infected toenails. If you have trouble bending over, use a mirror when doing the inspection.
- Check the sense of feeling or sensitivity in your feet.
- Ensure that you rest your feet.
- Create a foot care kit: nail clippers, pumice stone, emery board, plastic mirror, talcum powder to absorb moisture, foot lotion or cream ( lotion to keep the skin and toenails smooth and soft).
- Avoid getting creams or lotions between the toes to prevent infection.
- When trimming your toenails, cut straight across and smooth the corners with a nail file. This prevents the toenails from growing into the skin. Avoid into the corners of the skin.
- Gently Scrub dry skin to avoid potential infections.
- Do not cut corn or calluses. It is better to gently smooth the corn or callus with the pumice stone ( use in one direction in case you have sensitive skin and you tear it, causing infection)
- Avoid harsh or drying soaps.
- Stay hydrated to keep the feet moist.
If you have diabetes or reduced feeling in your feet, most foot doctors do not recommend using razor blades, corn plasters,liquid corn and callus removes due potential damage to the skin and the risk of infection. ( which you may not feel or notice immediately)
- Add foot exercises to your day especially if you sedentary lifestyle such as being at the computer desk all day.
From Healthline, here are a few strengthening exercises for your feet:
- Try an Achilles stretch with the help of a wall.
- Pick up marbles with your toes.
- Pull a towel from the floor toward you with your feet while seated. Hold that position for at least 1 minute.
These exercises can prevent cramping and promote flexibility:
- Repeat this toe exercise ten times: Flex your toes, point them, and then curl them for a handful of seconds.
- Warm up your feet by sitting down and extending your legs. Move your toes around. Point your toes toward your body and away from it. Move your ankles in a circle in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions.
- Continue to stretch your feet by shifting your weight from your heels to your toes by taking turns lifting the front and back of your feet off the ground while in a standing position.
- Stretch and strengthen your arches.
- Try lying flat with your feet extended off the end of the bed. With your legs held still, move your feet up and down and then around in circles; repeat for a total of 10 times. Do your foot-stretching exercises at least once every day.
The Simple 20 Minute Foot Soak That Anyone Can Use
Now, who can’t benefit from a foot soak and a good foot scrub? It can help relieve stress while easing the muscles in your feet. At the same time, your feet can remain moist and soft.
Foot soaks are much more than just beauty treatments. They help stimulate the natural pain management system and healing process in the body. Thereby aiding in restoring the normal mobility and flexibility of tissues and joints.
In contrast, most pain relievers do not reduce inflammation. They simply increase your tolerance for pain by altering the sensitivity of your tissues or alter the pain messages sent to your brain. You can find out more about the danger of your popular medications for arthritis or joint pain here.
“Heel fissures and cracks occur when the skin loses its moisture content, dries out and cracks,” says Alan K. Mauser, DPM, a podiatrist in Louisville, Ky.
Hydrating our feet will not only soften the nails and skin to prevent bunions, corns, cracked heels and ingrown toe nails; it can also reduce the bacteria build up associated with foot odor and athlete’s foot.LifeHack
Please avoid extremely hot water as it dries out the skin.
The following mixture can be used for either a warm or cold foot soak.
- Vinegar or Apple cider vinegar
- Sea Salt
- Baking soda
- Peppermint oil
Add ingredients to your basin of water and soak your feet for about 20 to 20 minutes.
Gently scrub feet.
Rinse feet and dry thoroughly.
Massage feet with olive or coconut oil and put on socks to lock in moisture.
Products like foot rollers or textured cylinders can also be used to massage the foot by you rolling it on the floor with your feet. Some foot spas have them inbuilt.
When to use hot or cold foot soak?
A hot foot soak is great to increase blood circulation and move fluid from inflamed or congested areas. Use for foot and leg cramps, sore throat, cold, flu, insomnia and chest congestion. Also useful for chronic aches, joint pain or arthritis and swollen feet.
A cold foot soak works similar to ice therapy. It constricts the blood vessels, decreasing blood flow ( internal bleeding) sensitivity to pain and discomfort. It also helps to reduce the irritation and swelling while improving mobility. Useful, sprains, twisted ankle or inflamed skin too sensitive to heat.
The Foot Care Tips For Persons Who Have Joint Pain
1. Get comfortable proper fitting shoes. Flat, padded and shock absorbance should be features of focus. Ensure your shoe has adequate toe space. Yes, ladies, you need to wear the right size of shoes. No more squeezing your feet into a size smaller.
2. Avoid high heels or other types of footwear that has your feet at sharp ankles or place pressure on your feet. For example, high heels put a lot of pressure on the ankles, legs, knees, hip and back. Like heels, pointed shoes put enormous pressure on your toes.
3. Go in the evening when buying shoes, since most feet are Largest ( slightly swollen) and give a better fit.
4. If the shape of your feet has been significantly affected over time then you might want to consider depth shoes which are similar to walking shoes but have more space.
5. Getting custom made shoes with inserts are another option. Custom shoes may be recommended to redistribute body weight on the feet, thereby offering some pain relief. A person with severe arthritis may require prescription shoes and orthotics. Orthotics can relieve pain in the foot arch.can keep your feet stable while standing or walking, eliminating pain.
6. Ensure that your shoe is made from breathable material. Avoid shoes made from plastic, vinyl or similar types of material that do not stretch and allow your feet to breathe.
7. If your ankles are weak or painful, get shoes with high ankle support or consider ankle splints.
8. You may be able to address foot pain while you’re sleeping using night splints. These braces keep your feet in a locked position overnight so you don’t sleep with your feet pointing, which can cause foot pain.
9. Ensure you have the proper footwear to support the activity you are engaged in.
10. When sitting, place feet flat and hip-width apart.
11. Avoid crossing the legs when sitting for long hours as it may reduce circulation. ( you should be getting up and moving between breaks.
12. When possible have legs elevated when sitting.
13. Move the feet, wiggle your toes, lift your ankles periodically to maintain good blood flow to the feet through the day.
14. Walk, dance, swim but get moving.
15. Avoid tight fitting socks, elastic or rubber bands around your legs. If you are using compression socks, ensure they are the right size.
16. Massage the feet before sleeping every night. This is particularly important if you experience tingling and numbness in either or both your feet. This stimulates blood flow and improves circulation. Massages can also help to reduce pain.
17. Wear socks, stockings with your shoes to reduce the occurrence of blisters and sores.
18. Make sure to use Epsom salts in your foot soaks to reduce inflammation.
19. Going barefoot sometimes, walking on the sand and grass may alleviate pain and improve sleep. ( This may not be advisable if you have diabetes) Some suggest that this happens due to connection with the earth which allows the transfer of electrons into our bodies. Walking in nature is also therapeutic and calming.
20. If you live in a temperate country, then you need proper footwear based on temperature for instance lined boots during the winter and sunscreen during the summer.
21. Throw out shoes once they have lost their padding and structural integrity. This can increase the shock on the knees and ankles. For example, your sneakers may wear out after 400 or 500 miles and no longer provide the support you need.
Ultimately, if you take care of your feet daily, you can avoid losing a toe, foot or leg and have good looking feet at the same time. Foot care can also affect your mobility, overall health quality of life.
Imagine not being able to dance or do your favourite physical activity. Imagine not being able to participate in your family outings and other activities. How would that make you feel?
Arthritis is a major cause of foot pain. It leads to varying degrees of reduced mobility and quality of life. Common foot problems include swollen ankles, midfoot pain, arch pain and clawed toes. Some simple tips you can use to improve this condition are :
1. Address joint pain or arthritis at the root cause, inflammation.
2. Ensure you check your feet daily for swelling, sensitivity and discolouration.
3. Make sure you exercise your feet often throughout the day ( at least 3 times)
4. Have regular foot soaks and use gentle foot scrubs.
5. Wear proper fitting shoes, suitable for the activity you to engage in.
Finally, not being able to move has many consequences such as life-threatening diseases, from heart disease to cancer, are associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Yep, foot health although overlooked is that important.
Do you have any favourite foot care tips, share them below.