April is National Foot Health Awareness Month! According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), 20% of Americans experience at least one-foot problem every year. This is no surprise as the human foot contains 26 bones and is a complex part of the body composed of muscles, ligaments, tendons and small bones. Your feet serve as the foundation for the rest of your body. If your feet are not well, problems within the ankles, legs, knees, hips and lower back may follow. Despite their important role, the feet are often overlooked…But not for long! This month, we would like to take time to educate our community about how to take care of your feet as healthy feet can lead to a happy life!
The average person takes at least 10,000 steps a day, which can add up over the years since your feet carry the weight of your body. Needless to say, avoiding foot problems should be a top priority. Indulging in a pedicure or a new pair of shoes this month is a great way to begin, but don’t stop there. Here are our recommendations on how to keep your feet in the best shape possible:
1. Inspect your feet daily
Be sure to check the bottom of your feet, between toes, and the heel. If needed, use a mirror to check for any cracks, fissures, injuries, peeling, or dry skin. This is especially important if you are diabetic as you want to avoid infection and non-healing wounds.
2. Practice good foot hygiene
Remember to dry your feet and between the toes after showers or water sports to prevent infections. Then, moisturize your feet and heels with a good lotion.
Trim your toenails regularly by cutting straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Make sure to trim above the skin, meaning toenails should not extend over the tip of the toe.
If you like to wear nail polish, practice healthy habits by remembering to let your nails “breathe” during the month. For those who wish to have their nails painted more frequently, we recommend having polish on for up to three weeks and removing the polish for at least one week every month. If you can go longer without having your nails polished do so as polish can lead to brittle nails or fungal infections.
3. Create a foot care regimen
Pamper yourself and keep your feet healthy by maintaining a proper foot care regimen. Regularly exfoliate your feet and moisturize them before bed. If your feet have had a long day or week, soak them in Epsom salt and massage with a good moisturizer before heading off to bed.
4. Wear appropriate footwear
Make an effort to wear shoes with shock-absorbent soles, good arch support, and firm heel counters. Wear the right shoes for each activity and when your shoes show signs of wear on the heels or soles be sure to replace them. Your feet can sweat a lot, especially now with the temperature rising, so be sure to wear moisture-wicking socks to prevent excess moisture.
We also recommend using orthotics to properly position your feet within your shoes and provide you with additional support and cushioning. Orthotics should be changed every 6 months to make sure they maintain their integrity.
5. Change your shoes often
Avoid wearing the same shoes every day. Your feet sweat quite a bit and even if you wear moisture-wicking socks your shoes will absorb a lot of moisture. Allow your shoes to dry out after each use so you don’t develop any infections or other foot problems. Remember to replace your shoes every six months if you wear a pair regularly.
6. Exercise regularly
Maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise is important for your feet too! Even gentle exercises such as walking, stationary bikes, or treadmills can help reduce excess body weight which also decreases your risk for foot pain, heel pain, stress fractures, and circulatory problems.
Stretch your feet, ankles and lower legs daily especially before exercising to keep your muscles limber and to avoid injury.
7. Don’t walk around barefoot
While it might feel nice to walk around barefoot, try to limit walking around without the proper footwear. It’s important to always wear shoes in public places, especially areas like gyms, pools, and locker rooms as these are areas that increase your risk of developing infections. Even at home, you should wear socks or footwear to help decrease your risk from absorbing harmful microorganisms that can easily enter through your feet.
8. Protect your feet from the sun’s harmful rays
The warm weather means many of us will begin to flock to pools, beaches, lakes, and rivers for some relief from the heat. In addition to wearing appropriate footwear, be sure to protect your feet with a broad-spectrum sunblock that has SPF 30 or higher.
9. Visit your podiatrist regularly
An annual foot exam conducted by a board-certified podiatrist is vital to tracking changes and checking for proper sensation and circulation within the foot. Podiatrists are also able to call attention to any abnormalities and can often detect problems early on allowing for more effective treatment results.
Whether you suffer from flat feet, hammertoes, ingrown nails, pain, or injury, we are here to help you with all your foot needs. We hope that our recommendations will help to get your feet back in shape. For more information on how you can keep your feet healthy and happy, contact Martha P. Aponte, DPM today.