Keeping Your Feet Fit
Our feet. We may not pay much attention to them, except to see if they’ve taken the requisite 10,000 steps. But if they hurt, it’s difficult to think about anything else.
Throughout our lives, we may encounter various foot problems, and attending to those quickly is an important part of maintaining foot health and overall comfort.
Common Foot Problems by Age
For newborns and children, the most frequent problems are related to growth, development and heel pain.
School-age children may be troubled by ingrown toenails, plantar warts and heel pain.
Adults may find that as they age their bodies are not as flexible, and they encounter fatigue issues, stress injuries — especially in athletes and active people — as well as plantar fasciitis and mechanical issues such as hammer toes.
Older adults may notice arthritis or vascular changes such as varicose veins. They may have conditions due to medical complications such as sclerosis or diabetes, which bring secondary changes to the feet, ranging from mild achiness and soreness to loss of blood flow and ulcers.
When to See Your Doctor Because of Foot Problems
Pain is not normal at any age, and any pain that doesn’t subside or improve in a few days needs to be evaluated. If you have pain while walking or standing — leg pain, heel pain, shin splints, wounds or irritations that don’t respond from home care within a day or so — you should see your physician or podiatrist. Sometimes the pain may have an obvious source, such as an ill-fitting shoe, but it also can be caused by subtle changes in physicality or lifestyle. For example, a move from a ground-floor to second-floor apartment or a new push to run farther or faster can create irritation as well.
Ways to Protect Your Feet
Regular hygiene is a good start to taking care of your feet. Wash your feet with soap and dry them well. Some foot problems, such as athlete’s foot, can be caused by excessive moisture — and can be eradicated with good hygiene.
Keep your toenails trimmed by cutting them straight across to avoid ingrown toenails, which is a common foot issue.
Maintain flexibility of your feet with calf and hamstring stretches to prevent tightness of the calf and ankle.
Wear proper shoes to protect your feet. Shoes protect your feet from stepping on dangerous objects and the heat of sand or pavement on a summer day. They also protect your toes from falling items or getting stubbed as you walk around your house.
The Right Shoes
Running shoes typically provide good cushion and support. Be sure the shoes fit well, and if you’ve had them for a while, check to make sure the heels and insoles are not worn down in any areas that would put your foot in a different position, such as to over or under pronate. Check to make sure the upper part of the shoe hasn’t loosened, allowing your foot to slide forward in the shoe.
Flip flops can create a lot of problems and should be avoided. Their loose fit causes tripping and falling, and the bareness of the shoes leaves the toes unprotected.
By taking care of your feet and not taking any pain for granted, you’ll be taking important steps to maintain your overall foot health.
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