Feet can be the key to unlocking all the possibilities life has to offer. If you don’t believe it, try standing up without them!
Of course, your feet do so much more than allow you to stand. You use them to walk, run, jump, and even operate the gas and brake pedals in your car.
We’ll bet you probably didn’t think about how important your feet are before. Don’t worry – that’s completely normal. We all take our bodies for granted. Well, at least until things start to go wrong.
When foot and ankle issues arise, they can cause pain and keep you from your favorite activities. We have some good news, though – following certain foot care guidelines will keep your feet healthy and functioning at their very best. In turn, they will allow you to do the things in life you want (and need) to do!
With that in mind, here are some essential foot care guidelines:
- Wear appropriate footwear. When it comes to shoes, they need to be activity-appropriate, constructed from durable materials, breathable, and fit properly. If you are a runner, wear running shoes that work with your pronation pattern. Footwear should have ample arch support, cushioning, and solid heel counters. Shoes that are too big can lead to problems, and so too can tight footwear. Your toes should be able to wiggle freely and there should be roughly a thumb’s width of space between longest toe and front of shoe.
- High heels are okay – as long as you save them for special occasions. High heels have gotten a bad rap over the years, but only some of it is actually warranted. To clear up a common misconception, they don’t actually cause bunions. That said, they can exacerbate an existing condition. Also, pumps and stilettos do put feet into an unnatural position. As with virtually anything in life, the key with high heels is moderation. Wear sensible shoes most of the time, follow a stretching program, and you won’t have too many issues from your shoes.
- Don’t over-train. Exercise is good—actually, it’s essential for optimal health and wellbeing—but too much force from high-impact activities (like running long distances) can cause and/or contribute to certain injuries. You can lower your risk by cross-training! Simply swap out a couple of running sessions for low-impact options like cycling, swimming, yoga, or even walking (which is a vastly underrated form of exercise).
- Stretch. Some of the most common foot and ankle problems are soft tissue injuries that have root causes found in tight muscles and connective tissues. Stretching for just five minutes on a daily basis can go a long way toward keeping your feet healthy and pain-free.
- Keep your toenails trimmed properly. Too short and too long are both problems, so clip your nails even with the edge of their respective toes. Also, avoid rounding them off as this practice can increase the risk for ingrown toenails.
- Keep your feet dry. Fungal spores love warm, damp environments. Feet rely on hundreds of thousands of sweat glands to moisturize the skin. Certain materials—like cotton—can trap in moisture. Combine those facts and you have a recipe for fungal growth and infection! Instead, wear moisture-wicking socks, dry your feet completely before putting on your footwear, and change your socks when they become damp.
- Don’t keep your feet too dry. Too much moisture is bad, but so too is excessive dryness. When the skin on your feet starts to dry out, your heels can become cracked and fissured. Use moisturizer on the tops and bottoms of your feet (avoiding the areas between toes) to prevent that from happening.
- Above all else, attend to problems at their earliest stages. This is always best practice for medical issues, including those that develop in the lower limbs.