The human foot is an evolutionary marvel because of its complexity. Your feet account for an astounding one-fourth of all the bones in the body and they also contain well over 100 muscles, tendons, ligaments and over 60 joints. Unfortunately, the complexity of this structure also makes it vulnerable to injury, stress and damage.
Problems with the feet can have a considerable effect on your mobility as discomfort and pain in the feet will affect the way you walk and even cause you to restrict movement. The consequences of foot pain can be far reaching as it can even contribute to problems with the knees, hips and back.
It should come as no surprise that there is an entire medical specialty concerned just with the health of your feet! Podiatry is the branch of medicine that specializes in foot care and treatment. In most cases however, such problems wonít arise and you wonít need the services of a podiatrist if you take adequate care of your feet.
Common Foot ProblemsOur feet can often develop problems because everyday life subjects them to a great deal of pressure, whether on the job front or in our efforts to conform to fashion. Physical activities like standing, walking, running and jogging, wearing high heels, using shoes that are tight or too narrow and using footwear that doesnít offer proper support are just a few of the ills that we subject our feet to.
In addition to all of the abuse that our feet must endure, they are also the farthest extremity from the heart, which also means that they are the first to be affected by circulatory diseases and conditions like peripheral artery disease.
There are numerous other health conditions that can specifically affect the feet. Some common conditions include:
- Athlete's Foot: This is a fungal infection that causes inflammation and severe irritation of the skin on the feet, especially on the bottoms of the feet and between the toes.
- Plantar Warts: This is a type of viral infection that affects the soles of the feet. Although often asymptomatic, plantar warts can be quite painful.
- Hammertoes: This is a condition that most of us havenít heard of but it is rather common. The condition develops because of ill-fitting shoes and results in a few of the toes, like the second, third, or fourth toes being bent in the middle and pointed at an odd angle.
- Blisters: Blisters can form on the skin for various reasons, but this most commonly affects the feet because of ill-fitting shoes. Such blisters can be painful and can make walking rather unpleasant.
- Corns & Calluses: This is a condition of thickened and dead skin that forms as result of friction or pressure because of ill-fitting footwear or bone spurs.
Foot Care TipsTo minimize the risk of various infections and health conditions that can affect the feet, it is advisable to follow certain foot care practices. When it comes to the feet, preventive foot care at home is most effective. Most of these foot care home remedies donít even require any special foot care products or supplies so it shouldnít be too hard for you to maintain those beautiful feet!
- Foot Hygiene: If youíve been outside or have been wearing shoes most of the day, make it a point to wash your feet before calling it a day. Either way, it is always a good idea to wash your feet thoroughly with soap and water before you get ready for bed. Dirt that remains on the skin increases the risk of infection.
- Get rid of excess moisture: There is always a risk of unsightly fungal infections on the feet, so dry your feet after washing. Fungal infections tend to take hold quite easily in skin folds and between the digits.
- Moisturize: After you dry your skin, use moisturizer on your skin to keep it soft and healthy. Dry your skin first and then moisturizing may seem pointless, but thereís a difference between wet skin and moisturized skin. If you donít moisturize regularly your skin will dry out and it will increase the risk of cracked heels.
- Exfoliate: Get rid of dead skin and thickening skin by using a pumice stone or foot file on a regular basis. This will also help to prevent blemishes like calluses and corns.
- Nail cutting: Always exercise caution when trimming your toenails. Ingrown toenails almost always develop because of improper nail cutting techniques. Always trim straight across and never at an angle.
- Shop for footwear in the afternoon: The heat might kill you, but those shoes to die for will actually fit you well tomorrow. Your feet tend to swell as the day progresses and this swelling is usually at its peak in the afternoon. If your shoes fit you at this time, odds are theyíre going to be comfortable at all other times.
- Utility over style: High heels and stilettos may be the rage but thereís scarcely anything thatís worse for your feet. If you must wear high heels at your work place, make sure to only use them while youíre at work. Using them for your commute isnít the best idea as they certainly arenít meant for walking. Try to use comfortable shoes while travelling and bring out the heels once you get to work.
- Change those socks: Socks should be changed daily, no matter how clean you think they are. Avoid wearing closed shoes with socks for an extended period especially if your feet tend to get sweaty. Make it a point to change your socks as frequently as possible. This is important, not just to avoid any unpleasant odor, but also to minimize the risk of fungal infections.
- Choose the right socks: Cotton socks are always the best choice because the fabric allows for better air flow and itís also more absorbent, which means moisture from the feet doesnít stay trapped within.
- Beware of the germs: You donít need to have Adrian Monkís mysophobia to be wary of the germs in public places like locker rooms, gyms and swimming pools. The flooring in such environments is often contaminated with germs and there is a high risk of picking up infections like athletes foot. Make sure that you carry and use your own footwear and never exchange or share footwear with others.
- Give your feet a rest: If youíve been on your feet most of the day, it would be a good idea to give your feet a rest when you get home. Nothing beats a foot soak in a tub of warm water, although if you could throw in a foot massage as well, there would be nothing like it.
- Minimize barefooted walking: While it may feel natural and free, walking barefoot isnít a great idea in most surrounding today. Footwear doesnít just prevent your feet from getting dirty; it also protects it from puncture wounds and infections like athleteís foot and plantar warts, among others.
- Foot support: Make sure that your footwear offers proper foot support and isnít just comfortable. Flip flops and osho sandals may feel liberating but they donít offer much support and leave you vulnerable to arch and heel pain if used excessively.
Foot Care Concerns for DiabeticsPatients who suffer from diabetes donít just have to contend with fluctuating blood sugar levels. Diabetes affects circulation and there is reduced blood flow to the feet. This means the wounds on the feet can take a lot longer to heal and infections can also set in a lot more easily. Even small cuts and bruises take time to heal and can easily get infected.
Diabetic neuropathy also affects most diabetics and is a condition in which there is damage to the nerves, resulting in a loss of sensation in the feet. This has serious consequences as it means that minor injuries and trauma to the feet are likely to go undetected, which becomes a serious problem because of the greater time required for healing and the elevated risk of infection. Keeping this in mind, diabetics should be extra cautious about their foot care routine. In addition to the foot care tips mentioned above a diabetic foot care routine should include:
- Annual checkup with a podiatrist.
- Inspect your feet daily to check for any cuts, bruises, blisters or other injuries that may have gone unnoticed.
- Avoid any self-treatment for foot conditions, whether dealing with corns or warts. Check with your podiatrist before initiating any treatment.