Proper Foot Care
Did you know that the average person walks nearly 10,000 steps per day ? In a whole lifetime, that equates to roughly 115,000 miles on your feet. Not everyone takes the time to make a check – up on their feet every single day, but studies have proven that daily foot care can help to reduce and prevent diabetes, circulatory disorders, and even amputation risk. From a periodic pedicure to shoe selection and health education, there are many things that can be done to prevent, control, and do away with foot problems altogether.
General Foot Care
Foot care commonly brings to mind the peaceful aura of a local day spa, lounging back while receiving a luxurious foot massage and pedicure. This experience is not only a relaxing way to spend an afternoon, but also helps lead to healthier feet and well being all around. When combined with other daily actions to improve the health of your feet, they can’t help but to jump for joy – literally.
Can the routine pedicure truly improve a person’s health? Studies have shown that the answer is yes, and this is why.
Pedicures usually consist of a gentle wash, rub, and toenail cleanup. The most obvious benefit of these things is simple – it feels good. But more than just the obvious, these foot care practices help to promote health to the foot, leg, and even the heart.
A. A deep cleansing of the foot removes sweat, skin and bacteria that may be lingering. A thorough daily wash with lukewarm water and mild soap is the first thing you can do at home to keep your feet healthy and clean. Always remember to completely dry your feet – especially between the toes which can become a warm, moist breeding ground for bacteria if left damp. Once dry, apply moisturizer to the foot to prevent unhealthy dryness and cracking. However, avoid putting moisturizer between your toes – as we mentioned, it becomes a warm, moist place where infection will thrive.
B. Secondly, a routine toenail clipping will do more than just improve the life of your socks – it will drastically increase the health of your feet. The underside of your toenails is full of dirt, lint and especially bacteria. One of the leading causes of foot and toe amputations is because of bacterial infections . The toes are especially vulnerable to onychomycosis – or simply fungal infection of the nails. This fungal infection can easily spread to the entire toe, other toes, and even up to the hands. Nails become brittle and flaky, not to mention discolored and painful. This and many other infections can be prevented entirely by simply keeping your nails trimmed and cleaned.
C. The best feeling part of the pedicure – the massage – is actually the part that promotes the most overall health to the body. When feet become sore and painful from the activities of life, their circulation is dramatically affected. Massage is an ancient technique that physically forces blood flow out of the area while realigning and lengthening the muscle fibers to reduce tension and knots. Once the muscles are able to relax, blood vessels dilate and blood flow is restored to the foot. In response to this, the heart is not required to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body. Less stress on the heart means better overall health, so in turn, foot massage promotes a healthier heart, more comfortable foot, and a happier you.
Taking the Steps to Prevent Foot Problems
Pedicures and massages are excellent ways to take care of your feet from the outside, but the inside is just as important, if not more. Stretching and strengthening your foot, ankle and lower leg will improve the durability and resiliency of your foot to any mechanical threats. Here are a few stretches and exercises that will drastically increase the health of your feet and lower legs:
Calf Stretch: Stand facing a sturdy wall, place your toe roughly four inches (more or less as needed) up the wall with your heel on the ground. Slowly lean forward, keeping your front leg straight, until a stretch is felt throughout the calf and lower leg. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat three times on each foot.
Dorsiflexion/Plantarflexion Strengthening (The Pointing and Pulling Exercise): Sit comfortably with your heel propped up on a stool or the floor. Keeping your heel in place and knee locked out straight, pull your toe toward your kneecap, pause, then push your toes down and point as far as you can. Repeat ten times each, switch feet and complete three sets on both sides.
Booster Tip: To add resistance to this exercise, see your physical therapist for Theraband tubing, OR complete the exercises standing up with a firm hold on a stable counter top or cane. First go up on your tip – toes, then back down and pull your toes up toward your knees, putting all your weight on your heels. Use EXTRA CAUTION if you have any problems with balance.
Marble Pickup: Place a bowl of marbles on the ground, dumped out. Sit in a chair and use your toes to pick up the marbles and place them back into the bowl. Alternate toes. IE first pick up a marble between your first and second toes, then between your second and third, and so on.
Toe/Heel walk: First, stand on your tip – toes as high as possible. Stay up and walk on the balls of your feet for a comfortable distance, 20 – 40 feet. Then, walk back the same way, but put all pressure on your heels, pulling your toes up in the air. Alternate toe walk and heel walk three times each.
FROM THE SHOE GUY: Information provided by The Althetes Foot in Eagle Idaho.
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