Best Foot Forward: Tips to Keeping Feet Healthy
With proper care, you can minimize the stress your feet take on when holding you up and getting you around, an expert says.
“Common problems that people face include hammertoes, blisters, plantar fasciitis and bunions. Some of these are easily solvable, but others may need the involvement of a specialist,” said Dr. Ronald Lepow. He is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
Foot issues are most often caused by friction and pressure. Choosing the correct shoe for daily activities can help.
Your shoes should have a toe box that is wide and deep so that your toes can freely move. They should be breathable for sweat and odor control.
People who have low or high arches may benefit from shoes with orthotic inserts.
You can find your foot’s arch — which is the area between your heel and the ball of your foot — by placing your foot on flat ground and taking a photo to look at it.
“X-rays of the foot reveal what kind of foot arch you have along with the structure of the foot,” Lepow said. “If you are experiencing pain, knowing these two things will help dictate a care plan.”
Bunions can form at the big toe, causing the toe to turn inward.
Some get bunions because they run in families. Others can get them from arthritis conditions. Pain and severity can increase with bad footwear.
Lepow recommends that people avoid wearing shoes that constrict the foot. Opt for wide shoes and avoid high heels. You may need surgery if the pain continues, he added.
Some people will also develop hammertoes. These happen when a tendon in the toe contracts and bends at the first joint, causing the toes to overlap and rub against each other.
Hammertoes can lead to corns, blisters or calluses. Toe spacers or toe straighteners can help alleviate this problem, but they’re not a cure.
And, of course, stinky feet can be a problem. This can be the result of sweaty feet or bacterial infections that form when coming into contact with bacteria at an unsanitary foot salon or on the ground, Lepow said.
Athlete’s foot is a common infection. You may have itchiness between the toes and stinging skin that can blister.
Nail fungus is another common infection, Lepow said. It causes discoloration of the nail.
You may use an over-the-counter antifungal treatment. Keeping feet dry with socks made of moisture-wicking material such as Merino wool can prevent fungus from growing. Topical or oral antifungal medications may be prescribed for treatment of severe symptoms.
Older adults may be at higher risk of foot issues.
Osteoarthritis, common with age, can cause deformations of the joints. This allows bone spurs to form in the heel or other parts of the foot.
Shoe inserts or alterations, cortisone injections, physical therapy and custom-made orthotics may help.
“If you’re experiencing foot pain, visit a specialist so we can examine the pathology of your foot,” Lepow said in a Baylor news release. “This gives us a bigger picture of what issues you face and how we can best help you.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on foot hygiene.
SOURCE: Baylor College of Medicine, news release, Oct. 17, 2023