You know your friends — your feet. They get you everywhere you need to go, whether it’s down a flight of stairs to the laundry room, over to the copying machine at work, across the mall for holiday shopping, or around the park for leisure. They’re arguably the most underrated part of the body. We are always bombarded with talk about “heart health” and “skin health,” but let’s not forget about foot health. It may be the end of the month, but it’s not too late to review a few key points for National Foot Health Awareness Month.
Basic Foot Hygiene
– Wash your feet: Good foot hygiene starts with washing the feet each day. ABC News reports that the soles of our feet are among the most germ-infested parts of the body. In fact, the heel alone hosts 80 different types of fungi! It’s best to wash that down the drain if you can.
– Moisturize: Moisturizing the feet is important in preventing cracks that may allow bacteria and fungi to gain access to the rest of your body. Celebrity pedicurist Skyy Hadley, owner of As U Wish Nail Spa, recommends giving yourself a “milk pedicure” by mixing half a cup of hot water, one cup of milk, and a spoonful of sugar for a 10-minute foot soak that can help prevent calluses. You can scrub off dead skin with a diamond file (rather than a pumice stone, which can trap bacteria). Lastly, Skyy recommends slathering on Shea butter or Vaseline to really moisturize dry heels.
– Check ’em out: Be sure to look over your feet each evening for signs of abuse — cracks, blisters, dryness, wounds, bruises, inflammation, ingrown nails, rashes, or pain. See a podiatrist at the first sign of trouble!
– Wear the right shoes: A 2006 study of 44o Americans found that only 25% of participants were wearing the proper size footwear. Over time, tendons stretch out and fat pads thin, causing the foot size to change, experts say. Shoes that are too tight can lead to painful bunions, neuromas, or blisters. Also, remember to wear the right shoe for the activity you’re doing. Don’t try to power-walk the mall in heels or wear your slippers out in the yard.
– Consider orthoses: Custom orthoses fitted by a podiatrist can alleviate a lot of aches and pains. Since each person’s anatomy is unique, it is unreasonable to presume that a generic sole can adequately serve all feet. Keep in mind that foot pain is not normal!
– Ingrown toenails are one of the most common foot problems in America, affecting more than 7.1 million Americans. They are largely caused by a combination of genetics, ill-fitting shoes, nail trauma, and improper nail trimming techniques. Be sure to trim your nails straight across. Try applying a small piece of cotton soaked in antibiotic ointment and covering the painful area with a Band-Aid.
– Beware of foot fungus: Athlete’s foot is commonly picked up from pools, locker rooms, and hotels. If you develop a red, itchy rash, you’ll need over-the-counter medication to treat it. Fungus can also get beneath the nails, often requiring several months worth of treatment with oral antifungal medication which can be hard on the liver, or laser toenail therapy, which is very expensive. Yellow, thick, crumbling nails are tell-tale signs of a fungal infection.
– Don’t sweat the small stuff: Foot odor is caused by bacteria overgrowth that thrives in the dark, warm, moist environment of your shoes. Using an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer will prevent bacterial buildup in your shoes. It’s also recommended that you change your socks midday and alternate shoes every other day to allow full drying time between wears.
– Consider ultraviolet light treatment: Many issues can be cleared up by the daily use of ultraviolet light for sanitization purposes. If you worry about diabetic foot ulcers, toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, systemic infections like cellulitis or MRSA, or foot odor, then try the SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer. In just 45 minutes, 99.9% of the bacteria, fungus and viruses are eradicated. Since we can’t just throw our shoes in the washer and dryer, a shoe sanitizer is just what the doctor ordered!
April may be National Foot Health Awareness Month, but maintaining proper care of your feet is important year round. It’s good practice to make foot hygiene, inspection, and pampering part of your everyday routine, along with regular yearly visits to a podiatrist. When receiving the attention they deserve, your feet will be sure to support you and be there for you every step of the way.