It’s important to pamper your feet! They carry us far and wide, and yet we often overlook them in our personal care routine. While the majority of people are born with healthy feet, most of us will eventually develop foot problems, particularly when we reach an advanced age. If you want to increase your odds of landing on your feet, start taking care of them now!
Healthy feet are essential for balance, which in turn is a key element in preventing falls – the cause of many hospitalizations and deaths among the elderly.
A foot care regimen can help you prevent problems or avoid having them worsen if they do develop.
Here are a few good habits to get into:
- Wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- If your skin tends to get dry, apply a moisturizing cream to your feet.
- Examine your feet every day. Don’t wait until you feel pain. Take a few moments to check if you have any cuts, blisters, bruises, lesions, infected nails or swelling.
- Make your feet work! They are made for walking, which is the best way to maintain good overall health and strong feet as well.
- Take care of your toe nails. Cut or file them regularly with the proper tools, without ever having them shorter than the tip of the toe.
Diabetes? Exercise extra caution
Persons with diabetes must take even better care of their feet, as the disease damages nerves, which can lead to the progressive loss of sensitivity to pain from injuries, heat or cold. Moreover, diabetes decreases blood flow to the feet, which slows the healing of minor injuries. This is why some individuals may have a harmless-looking blister, but it doesn’t heal properly and worsens to the point that it can pose a real threat to their health.
If you have diabetes, you should do the following in particular:
- Examine your feet daily. Look for swelling, raw skin or blisters. If you have trouble seeing the soles of your feet, use a mirror or get someone to help.
- To reduce the risk of complications, ensure that your blood glucose levels reach therapeutic targets.
- Protect your feet from heat and cold. Don’t walk barefoot, even on the beach, as diabetic individuals often have a weakened perception of pain and extreme heat. It is also recommended that you test the bath water temperature with your wrist before putting your feet in.
- Get blood flowing to your feet. Don’t keep your legs crossed for extended periods and stretch them once in a while when you have to sit for a long time.
- Don’t wear sandals, as they increase the risk of getting small cuts, which can prove serious in diabetics.
- If you smoke, consider quitting. Smoking hinders blood circulation.
Choose shoes wisely
According to a study involving over 3,000 men and women (average age: 66), the type of footwear you choose can have a significant impact on your future quality of life. For example, women who most often opted for shoes that provide good foot support, such as running shoes, had a 50 percent lower risk of experiencing foot pain than women who wore shoes that provide less support. Women who favoured high heels, sandals, ballerina pumps or slippers had a high risk of pain to the back of the foot, ankles and Achilles tendon.
Our feet support our whole body weight. We love pretty shoes, of course, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect the comfort and well-being of our feet.
- Ask that both of your feet be measured each time you buy footwear. Your feet may not be the same length. Choose shoes that are about 1.5 cm longer than your longest toe. Shoes that are too small often cause blisters, ulcers and bunions.
- Buy shoes at the end of the day, when feet tend to be swollen.
- The inside of the shoes should be smooth, with no stitching or rough spots that could cause blisters.
- The best footwear materials are leather and canvas, since they are breathable and flexible.
- If the shoes seem too tight when you are trying them on, don’t buy them in the hope that the leather will stretch over time.
- Pay attention to your socks. Avoid textured or overly elastic socks, which could irritate the skin and impede blood circulation. If you have very sweaty feet, consider changing your socks more than once a day.
- Whenever possible, choose antiskid soles in order to prevent falls.
- Favour shoes with high, wide tips (avoid pointy shoes). The heel should be the same width as the foot and must not be higher than 3 cm in order to avoid sprained ankles and lower-back pain. High-heeled shoes should only be worn for special occasions.
- If your feet tend to swell, select shoes with laces or Velcro closures that can easily be adjusted.
- Orthopedic shoes may be the solution for individuals who have foot deformities or other special needs.
When should you see a doctor?
See your physician if you notice:
- a lesion on your foot that becomes infected or doesn’t seem to heal
- coldness, cramping, numbness, prickling or discomfort in your feet
- a loss of sensitivity
- a change in your foot’s skin colour or shape
Your feet can also suffer from various little aches and pains such as athlete’s foot, corns, dry skin, warts and blisters. When you experience these problems, speak to a health care professional, who will be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment for your specific situation.