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Reducing Your Risk of Foot Pain
Follow these foot care tips from the American Podiatric Medical Association:
Depending on your foot concerns and lifestyle, there are a variety of steps you can take to protect your feet. These include:
Selecting Proper Shoes
In general, the best shoes are well-cushioned and have a leather upper, stiff heel counter, and flexible area at the ball of the foot. The heel area should be strong and supportive, but not too stiff, and the front of the shoe should be flexible. New shoes should feel comfortable right away, without a breaking in period. There should be plenty of room for all five toes.
Getting the Correct Fit
The best way to prevent nearly all foot problems is to choose well-fitted shoes with a firm sole and soft upper. You should purchase them in the afternoon or after a long walk, when your feet are at their largest size. There should be a ½ inch of space between your largest toe and the tip of the shoe, and the toes should be able to wiggle upward. You should stand when being measured, and both feet should be sized, with shoes bought for the larger foot. It is important to wear the same socks as you would regularly wear with the new shoes.
Ideally, your shoes should have removable insoles (See below: Insoles). If you are an older person, thin hard soles may be the best choice. Elderly people wearing shoes with thick, inflexible soles may be unable to sense the position of their feet relative to the ground, which increases the risk for falling.
High heels are the major cause of foot problems in women. If you insist on wearing high heels, look for shoes with wide toe room, reinforced heels that are relatively wide, and cushioned insoles. You should also keep the amount of time you spend wearing high heels to a minimum.
The way shoes are laced can be important for preventing specific problems. Laces should always be loosened before putting shoes on. If you have narrow feet, you should buy shoes with eyelets farther away from the tongue than people with wider feet. This makes for a tighter fit for narrower feet and a looser fit for wider feet. If, after tying the shoe, less than an inch of tongue shows, then the shoes are probably too wide. Tightness should be adjusted both at the top of the shoe and at the bottom. When high arches cause pain, eyelets should be skipped to relieve pressure.
Breaking In and Wearing Shoes
If your shoes require breaking in, place moleskin pads next to areas on your skin where friction is likely to occur. Once a blister occurs, moleskin is not as effective. Change shoes during the day. As soon as the heels show noticeable wear, you should replace the shoes or heels.
Exercise and Sports
The shoes you wear for exercise should be specifically designed for your preferred sport. For instance, a running shoe should cushion your forefoot, while tennis shoes should emphasize ankle support. Buy your shoes at a store with knowledgeable sales people.
A number of occupations put the feet in danger. If you are in a high-risk job, you should be sure your footwear is protective. For example, nonelectric workers at risk for falling or rolling objects or punctures should wear shoes with steel toes and possibly other metal foot guards. Electric workers should wear footwear that does not have metal parts (or insulated steel toes) and rubber soles and heels. Chemical workers should wear shoes made of synthetics or rubber, not leather.
An insole is a flat cushioned insert that is placed inside the shoe. They are designed to reduce shock, provide support for your heels and arches, and absorb moisture and odor. People respond very differently to specific insoles. What works for one person may not work for you. The thickness of your socks must be considered when purchasing insoles. You do not want insoles to squeeze your toes up against your shoes.
Insoles can be purchased in athletic and drug stores. Shoe stores that specialize in foot problems often sell customized insoles that are more expensive. In general, over-the-counter insoles offer enough support for most people's foot problems. Most well-known brands of athletic shoes have built-in insoles.
Practicing Correct Walking and Exercise
In addition to wearing proper shoes and socks, you should also walk often and correctly to prevent foot injury and pain. Your head should be erect, your back straight, and your arms relaxed and swinging freely at your sides. You should step out on your heel, move forward with the weight on the outside of your foot, and complete the step by pushing off the big toe.
Caring for Toenails
Toenails should be trimmed short and straight across. Filing should also be straight across using a single movement, lifting the file before the next stroke. The file should not saw back and forth. A cuticle stick can be used to clean under the nail.
Preventing Toe Pain
Corns and Calluses
To prevent corns and calluses and relieve discomfort:
Preventing Foot Disorders in Diabetes
Preventive foot care can reduce the risk of amputation in people with diabetes. Some tips for preventing problems include the following:
Preventing Foot Problems in Childhood
The first year in a person's life is important for foot development. You should cover your baby’s feet loosely, allowing plenty of opportunity for kicking and exercise.
Children generally walk between 10-18 months; they should not be forced to start walking early. Wearing just socks or going barefoot indoors helps the foot develop normally and allows the toes to grasp. Going barefoot outside, however, increases the risk for injury and other conditions, such as plantar warts.
Children should wear shoes that are light and flexible. Since their feet perspire greatly, their shoes should be made of materials that breathe. Footwear should be changed every few months as the child's feet grow.
High-impact sports can injure growing feet. You should be sure that your children's feet are protected if they engage in intensive athletics.
Using Skin Creams and Foot Baths
Skin creams can help maintain skin softness and pliability. Taking a warm footbath for 10 minutes, two or three times a week will keep your feet relaxed and can help prevent mild foot pain caused by fatigue. A pumice stone or loofah sponge can help get rid of dead skin.
Having Massage Therapy
Here is an exercise you can use on your own feet:
Using your thumb, index, and middle finger, rotate each toe in a circular motion. Then, make a fist and rotate it slowly around the bottom of your foot. Finally, gently twist each foot, as if wringing wet clothes, moving the top and bottom in opposite directions.
Adult foot health. American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society website. Available at: http://www.aofas.org . Accessed December 31, 2012.
Foot care. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabete... . Accessed December 31, 2012.
Footcare 101. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.org/files/FileDownloads/myFEETFootCare101.pdf . Accessed January 10, 2013.
Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your feet and skin healthy. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/ . Updated May 2008. Accessed December 31, 2012.
Tips for healthy feet. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.or... . Accessed December 31, 2012.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
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