How can I keep my feet healthy?

Looking after your feet can keep you free of problems that may lead to pain and even disability. These ideas can help your feet feel great:
  • Alternate the shoes you wear each day. That may mean having two pairs of your favorite everyday style, but shoes need time to air out to avoid triggering foot odor or infections. Change socks or stockings more than once a day. If you have a problem with smelly feet, soak them in a mixture of vinegar and water.
  • Your feet should not hurt -- ever. Tight shoes can worsen bunions, distort toe shape and cause painful foot growths. If you wear high heels, choose heels that are wide, stable and no higher than two inches. Toe boxes should be wide; pointed toes shouldn't begin their narrowing shape until well past the ball of the foot. To protect your Achilles tendon from shortening, alternate heel heights regularly.
  • Flip-flops and completely flat shoes don't provide arch support. Neither does walking barefoot. Women are especially prone to developing flat feet, which can lead to other foot problems. To keep feet strong and healthy, minimize the amount of time you wear shoes that lack supportive arches.
  • Pregnancy, aging and diabetes all affect your feet. Pregnant women need shoes with broad heels, arch support and good shock absorbency. Added pregnancy weight may cause your shoe size to change, so get your feet measured. Older women lose some of the cushioning fat on the balls of their feet; choose shoes that provide more shock protection. People with diabetes can develop serious conditions related to the feet and lower legs. Check feet for any problems daily and see a podiatrist at least annually.
  • Be cautious about having a pedicure in a salon, where cleanliness of tubs and instruments is vital. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor before having a pedicure.

Here are tips for having healthy pedicure sessions this summer and happy feet all year round:

  • Bring your own instruments. Avoid infection by bringing your own tools. This includes bringing your own sandals to avoid contracting fungus like athlete's foot.
  • Avoid deep cuts. Do not let your pedicurist cut deep into the corners of your nails. Also ask your pedicurist to cut your nails straight across instead of curving the edges. This will help avoid ingrown nails.
  • Don't use sharp instruments on calluses. Do not have your calluses cut. Instead, use a pumice stone. Also helpful is a cream or lotion product with urea or a lactic acid derivative on the affected area twice a day. Wrap with saran wrap and a sock to dissolve thick or calloused skin.
  • Avoid Flip Flop Tendonitis. Adapting to flip flops or sandals from closed shoes creates stress on the shin muscles as they try to balance the shoe on the foot. When transitioning to open shoes wear them gradually and give your muscles a chance to adapt. This will help avoid painful shins or tendonitis of the leg.
  • Avoid heel and arch pain. After a long winter you may be enthusiastic to return to the outdoors and exercise. Heel and arch pain can occur when starting to exercise without proper stretching. Sneakers should have a rigid heel counter and flexible ball of the foot. Shoes should have a comfortable toe box, be well padded, and have a cushioned sole. Stretch the calf muscles for several minutes every day and before exercising. Stand two to three feet behind a counter or wall placing your hands there. Keep your heels planted on the ground firmly and bring your body forward thus stretching the back of the calf. Hold for one minute and repeat several times.

Hillary B. Brenner, DPM
Podiatric Medicine

1) Soak the feet for 10-15 min. two to three times a week in Epsom salt. Take 2 cups of Epsom salt for every gallon of luke warm water. The Epsom salt will help decrease swelling, soreness, and deep clean the skin therefore decreasing the risk for fungal/bacterial infections. 2) After soaking your feet in the Epsom salt, remove thickened skin (calluses) by using a pumice stone. If the calluses are too thick you can visit with a podiatrist who can shave them or perform a chemical peel which will leave your feet baby soft. The chemical peel is pain free and takes less than 2 min. One Important point is to not use a razor at home which can remove too much skin therefore making the feet prone to an infection. 3) Use an exfoliate scrub all over your feet to eliminate dry flaky skin. St. Ives apricot scrub is gentle on the skin.4) Apply a rich hydration skin cream all over the feet to help add moisture or use a massage oil which will help increase circulation to the foot. Make sure not to apply cream in-between toes which can cause fungal infections. 5) When cutting toe nails use a straight edge nail nipper and cut the nails straight across. Don't cut or dig into the corners which will cause an ingrown nail. 6) When applying nail polishes make sure the nail is healthy and don't leave the polish on for long periods of time or else your nails will turn yellow. Try to buy nail polishes that don't contain harsh chemicals. Over the past few years there is an increased market for anti-fungal/natural nail polishes. 7) If any skin, nail conditions or generalized foot pain occur in your feet, see a podiatrist right away. Remember foot pain is not normal and if you can catch something before it gets worse you will be saving yourself time and aggravation. 8) Make sure to buy supportive shoes and not wear the same shoes every day. We sweat up to 8 oz. each day in our shoes therefore it is important to give your shoes a chance to dry. Another important point I want to make about wearing shoes is to use the analogy of dieting. When dieting we count calories, so when wearing shoes we should count the hours they can be worn. For instance, high heel shoes should be worn for 2 hours (try to not go above 2 inches in the heel height), flats should be worn for 3-4 hours (make sure the flats have good arch support), sneakers with inserts can be worn from 8-10 hours, and boots up to 6 hours.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.