Are you treating your feet right?
For most of my life I’ve had trouble keeping my feet happy. I have a wide foot with a small heel which usually means many shoes hurt or fall off. I inherited toe nails that want to grow down into my toe. I have dry heels which can crack. Need I go on? I know that feet need to be strong, flexible, and healthy. Dare I hope that my feet can be pretty? Today I’m discussing 7 practical, simple things we can do to keep our feet happy.
I. Eat The Good Stuff!
I know, I know. I always start health discussions with diet. Your diet doesn’t just impact your weight, your heart…..it impacts every single part of your body. Believe it or not, the foods you consume on a daily basis can have a major impact on your feet’s overall health. The average American diet often includes plenty of sugar and trans fats which contribute to inflammation. Inflammation can appear in your foot as plantar fasciitis, which causes pain in the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, in your heel, or elsewhere in your foot. An excessive intake of sugar and fat could even lead to diabetes which harms your feet by damaging the arteries that bring blood to your lower extremities. A healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and low levels of saturated fats can help protect our hearts, our feet, and everything in between. For omega-3 fatty acids, include wild salmon, walnuts, flax-seed oil, mustard seed, anchovies, tofu, winter squash, grass-fed beef, wild rice, and chia seeds.
Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for our feet include magnesium, proteolytic enzymes, and vitamin B5. Magnesium can help alleviate foot pain, while simultaneously diminishing inflammation. For magnesium, eat nuts, spinach, bananas, legumes (lentils, kidney beans, black beans), whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa. If you fail to get a sufficient amount of Vitamin B5, you’ll experience pain and muscle inefficiency. Vitamin B5 also helps to improve nerve function. And finally, this vitamin can help to dramatically speed up the healing process. Add more avocado, eggs and salmon to your diet to acquire this essential vitamin.
II. Keep Your Feet Clean & Dry
Check your feet for signs of problems and wash your feet daily with warm soapy water. Dry your feet thoroughly. Make sure to dry with a towel especially between the toes. Our shoes, especially in the winter, can be dark, humid environments where fungus can make a home. Make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on socks and shoes.
III. Follow The Do’s & Don’ts of a Pedicure
Whether you get a pedicure in a salon or do it yourself,
- Use clean equipment. At home, clean your tools frequently. If you get a pedicure in a salon, take your own tools or make sure the salon’s tools are cleaned between clients. Bacteria and fungus are easily transmitted if instruments have not been sterilized.
- Soak your feet before working on calluses. To remove the thick, dead skin build-up, soak your feet in warm water for at least 10 minutes. New York podiatrist Isaac Tabari, DPM, recommends a warm foot bath made of black tea (tannic acid). Tannic acid, he says, is a natural antibacterial agent that may reduce the chance of getting athlete’s foot.
- Try DIY Potato Heel Cream, a natural, easy, recipe to remove dead cells and soften your rough heels. Then use a pumice stone, foot scrub, or foot file to gently smooth calluses and other rough patches on the heel, ball and sides of the feet. Calluses don’t happen overnight and neither does the treatment.
- Keep your toe nails trimmed using a toenail clipper with a straight edge. Be careful to not cut the nails too short. Uneven nails and rounded corners increase the chance of ingrown toenails. If your nails grow too long or have sharp edges, they can cut the surrounding tissue.
- To smooth nail edges, use an emery board. File lightly in one direction without using too much pressure, being sure not to scrape the nail’s surface.
- After exfoliating and trimming your nails, apply a rich foot cream or balm containing shea butter or cocoa butter. This will maintain the proper moisture balance of the skin on your feet. Remember our feet have NO oil glands.
- If you suffer from thick and discolored toenails, which could be a sign of a fungal infection, don’t apply nail polish to cover up the problem. Nail polish locks out moisture and doesn’t allow the nail bed to “breathe.” Remove nail polish frequently to examine your nails for fungus. Once you fix the underlying issue, then it is safe to paint your nails.
IV. Massage Your Tootsies & Stretch Your Foot Daily
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is take a good, long stretch. This allows me to stretch out my tendons, muscles, and get them warmed up for the day ahead. Well, the feet are just like any other part of the body. They need to be stretched on a daily basis, as well to help prevent injuries. Most of us probably use the towel stretch. Check out Active.com for 5 different ways to stretch your feet.
Massage your tootsies honey. Try doing the 5 minute tennis ball roll under a foot. Start the ball under the toes and work the whole foot down to the heel. Change to the other foot. This will not only give you a more relaxed foot and it will relax your legs and even your back. Several decades ago I began doing something very simple. At least 3 or 4 times a week after bathing, I sit and bring one foot up to my lap. I put lotion in the palm of one hand and begin to spread it and rub on the bottom of the foot. I especially rub and work on the sore spots. I flex and gently pull on my toes. I alternate legs and repeat for the 2nd foot. Feels good!
V. Wear Breathable Footwear
Athletes and active people who enjoy playing sports, walking or running should buy breathable footwear. When shoes trap the sweat, they create a moist environment that fosters Tinea pedia or athlete’s feet. Warm, humid pockets make micro-organisms happy. Choose shoes that not only support your foot but also offer maximum breathability. Running shoes designed from mesh, genuine leather, and other breathable materials will be your best option. There are many athletic designs that will keep your feet cool and dry, even in the most extreme conditions. These breathable designs will allow the air to circulate throughout the interior of the shoe creating a micro-climate so your feet stay dry all day. .
VI. Always Wear The Appropriate Shoe Size
Have you ever found yourself in terrible pain because you had to have that beautiful shoe that doesn’t quite fit? I remember in my 20’s I had the prettiest high heels for more formal occasions. I rarely wore them because of the discomfort – who can dance when your feet are killing you? Stuffing your feet into a pair of heels or dress shoes is not the smart way to go. If you have this problem often, make sure that you are wearing the right sized shoe and the right style shoe for YOUR foot. Poor fitting shoes can lead to the development of calluses, blisters and corns. Nothing pretty about that!
VII. Provide Seasonal Care
We’re in the dog days of summer right now. If you’re spending a lot of time swimming, boating, or just spending time outside, you should be wearing sunscreen on the tops of your feet. Many people are faithful in wearing sunscreen on their faces, arms, and backs, but they don’t think about the top of their feet. Last month my niece posted a photo of her sunburned feet with the caption” This is what happens to really pale people who don’t use sunscreen on their feet.” Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to the top of your feet when you’re going barefoot or wearing open sandals. If you spend time at a pool or gym, do not go bare foot but wear flip-flops to help prevent athlete’s foot. If you are walking in the yard, don’t go barefoot but wear sandals to protect the soles of your feet.
In the winter, wear appropriate shoes for the weather. Every winter I see photos of people who tip toe through snow in their yards wearing flip-flops. Exposing your feet to extreme cold can result in injury and frost bite. See Healthy Winter Feet Info & Recipes for more information on winter foot care and cracked heels.
Remember for happy feet, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and wash your feet often. Pamper your tootsies with a pedicure and massage. Keep your feet happy, healthy and fabulous!
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