7 things doctors wish you knew about your feet

Published: December 17, 2015
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You’re hard on your feet, utilising them day in and day out. And let’s be candid, do you really treat your feet with care except for getting the occasional pedicure? It’s time to start paying more heed to your tootsies. As compiled from Prevention magazine, here’s how you can put your best foot forward by following advice from experts.

1. Don’t go barefoot in a public shower

You’ve heard it before but it’s worth mentioning — gym showers and locker room floors are a big-time breeding ground for the fungus that causes Athlete’s foot and nasty blisters, so be sure to wear flip flops, says Casey Ann Pidich, an associate at Big Apple Foot & Ankle Care in New York City. Take extra care drying your feet too, working the towel in between your toes. Using powder all over your toes and heels before putting on your sneakers works like magic to keep them dry and sanitary. Also, if you book a pedicure, try to grab the first appointment of the day when the tubs are likely to be the cleanest.

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2. Pointy pumps are the worst

Okay, we admit, they look chic and sophisticated but they do have a dark side. Shoes that push the big toe into smaller toes set you up for bunions, which are bumps that form over the bone at the base of the big toe, explains Pidich. The skin overlying the thick bunion may become irritated, red with inflammation and swollen, making walking an absolute nightmare. Your ideal high heels: ones with a wide toe box and heels under two inches. If you want to don high heels, make it for a short duration or keep taking breaks by taking them off every half an hour.

3. The length of your toes is a big deal

If your second toe is longer than your first toe, you’re at increased risk for bunions, hammer toes (ones that are bent downward), and even back problems due to how you distribute pressure throughout your body, says Robert F Weiss, director of the Foot & Ankle Institute at Stamford Hospital in Connecticut. “All the weight should push off your first toe, but when the second one is longer, it rolls and flattens, causing all kind of foot problems,” he explains. If you do have this condition, talk to your podiatrist (foot expert) about the best kind of footwear for the shape of your feet, since ill-fitted shoes make the condition worse.

4. Your feet really are getting bigger

Even if you didn’t put on weight, chances are you went up at least a half-size in the last decade. Feet become both longer and wider as you age because the tendons and ligaments that link tiny bones lose elasticity. Get your feet measured at least once a year so you know your true size, suggests Timothy Swartz, chief of podiatry of Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic region. Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly can cause more than discomfort — they can create or fast-track bunions and painful blisters, among other issues.

5. Diabetics should take special care

If you have diabetes, check your feet daily for blisters, cuts, redness and ulcers. If wounds or other foot concerns are neglected, you might catch an infection, which could lead to serious repercussions, including amputation. Fact: it’s not rare. Every year, more than 70,000 people with diabetes lose a foot. “Diabetics who lose a foot have a 50% chance of dying within five years,” warns Bradley A Levitt, a podiatrist in Virginia Beach.

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6. You may not be lacing your sneakers right

Do you find yourself hurting after a workout? Do your feet feel sore? If you have high arches and get redness and pain on the top of your feet, skip the two middle holes in your lacing and loop them vertically on the sides of your shoes instead, suggests podiatrists at The Centre for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City. You’ll lose a little stability but what you gain in comfort will make it worthwhile. Plus, hitting the treadmill won’t seem like a chore.

7. Toenail fungus is stubborn

If your toenails have started to discolour or are becoming thicker and more brittle, chances are that fungus is the case. “While nails clear up in time by taking antifungal pills, your risk of a reoccurrence is high, so I recommend a topical cream to help prevent it,” suggests Dr Swartz. Keeping your feet ultra-dry and changing out of sweaty socks immediately after work or a workout can help prevent the fungus, which thrives in warm, moist environments and can invade your skin through tiny cuts or the small separation between the nail and nail bed.

By Umnia Shahid

Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2015.

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