Pamper your feet
The soles of your feet contain thousands of nerve endings, making them extra-sensitive. For that reason, you may discover that giving this often-neglected body part some attention is well worth the effort. Try these pleasurable foot-care routines:
- A massage. Warm some oil in your hands and apply to your feet. Massage from ankle to arch to toes, rotating thumbs over sore spots.
- A soak. Fill a basin with warm water, add some aromatic bath oil and soak your feet. Watch TV, read or write a letter while you relax.
- A walk. Believe it or not, taking a stroll is one of the best ways to get blood flowing to the feet, improve their flexibility and keep bones and muscles in shape.
Diabetics, take special care
For most of us, a corn, callus or blister presents nothing more than a minor, passing discomfort, but for people with diabetes those annoyances can become quite serious, sometimes leading to gangrene and, in severe cases, amputation. That’s why it’s extra important for diabetics to devote a few minutes each day to foot care:
- Wash your feet carefully each day with warm water and mild soap and dry thoroughly with a clean, soft cloth.
- Wear soft, clean socks made of natural fibers. Hose should also be clean and as unconstricting as possible.
- Avoid tight shoes or any footwear that causes your feet to perspire excessively.
- Examine your feet, looking for cracks, cuts, blisters, corns and any sign of redness or inflammation. See your healthcare provider if you notice any sore spots. (Don’t forget to check between toes and tops of feet as well.)
- File toenails straight across with an emery board. Scissors or clippers can cause injury.
“Oh, my aching feet!” It’s a familiar refrain from anyone who’s ever walked!
And no wonder, since over the course of a normal day, each of your feet pounds the pavement about 5,000 times. Most of the time, foot pain is a condition we bring on ourselves by choosing fashionable footwear over sensible shoes. Here are some common foot complaints and what you can do to avoid them or treat them if it’s too late for prevention.
Sometimes bunions—swollen, bony protrusions leading up to the big toe, which cause it to overlap adjoining toes—cause only minor discomfort, but if bursitis develops in the joint it can become extremely painful and stiff.
Best prevention: Choose footwear that allows a great deal of room at the toe. Forgo pointed toes for boxy styles, and avoid heels higher than one inch. Look for flexible, well-cushioned walking shoes made of breathable material like leather.
These simple precautions generally keep bunions from forming, even in those genetically predisposed.
Best treatment: Get rid of shoes that don’t fit properly or have them stretched if you can’t bear to part with them. Sometimes a protective pad helps, but if bursitis develops you may have to cut a hole in the side of your shoe. More drastic measures include draining a bunion or a bunionectomy, surgical removal that requires up to six weeks’ recovery time.
Corns and calluses
Repeated pressure or friction on the toes can cause thick, protective layers of dead skin, called corns, to form. Calluses, larger patches of dead, thickened skin also caused by rubbing and pressure, usually develop on the soles or heels. Both corns and calluses may be painful if footwear literally rubs them the wrong way.
Best prevention: It’s a rare person who goes through life without developing a corn or callus. But like bunions, they can be avoided by forgoing narrow, pointy shoes for roomy styles. High heels are notorious for crowding toes together and applying more pressure on toes and the ball of the foot, where corns and calluses are likely to form.
Best treatment: Soak your feet in warm water for about 20 minutes or until hardened skin is softened. Then, using a pumice stone, gently rub corns or calluses away. (Caution: Do not apply so much pressure that you actually rub the skin raw.)
When the sharp end of a toenail grows into the flesh surrounding the nail bed, pain, redness and swelling is the outcome.
Best prevention: Wear properly fitted shoes and trim your toenails straight across, leaving a margin at the edges. Never tear a nail, clip it too short or cut it to match the curved contour of the toe.
Best treatment: If an ingrown toenail becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic and trim the portion of the nail that has become embedded.
Hammertoe, which usually affects the second toe, causes the digit to take on a bent, claw-like appearance, and makes movement painful. Long-term diabetics with nerve and muscle damage are susceptible to the condition.
Best prevention: Wearing shoes that are too short can cause hammertoe, so make sure your shoes are not only wide enough but long enough.
Best treatment: You may need an orthotic appliance to help keep your toes in the proper position and relieve pain. Sometimes surgery is necessary.
If a foot problem won’t go away, see your healthcare provider. He or she may refer you to an orthopedist, a medical doctor who treats bones and joints, or a podiatrist, a doctor trained to diagnose and treat foot problems. Podiatrists may also prescribe drugs and perform surgery, but only for problems involving the foot or ankle.