As adults, we take an average of 2.3 million steps per year. So naturally, over the years, and especially in our more mature years, our feet start to show wear and tear in various ways … from thickening of the skin that can build up to calluses and corns, to stretching of the ligaments, deformation of the joints (such as bunions and hammertoes) from shoes that don’t fit well or don’t offer proper support, to just name a few. These changes can be, at the very least, annoying, and more frequently very painful and hindering our ability to perform our daily activities.
The foot has been called the mirror of health. So in addition to issues stemming from our use and abuse of our feet over the years, many early signs of systemic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and circulatory problems first appear in the feet. Among these signs are dry skin, brittle nails, numbness, tingling, discoloration, loss of leg hair and cramping. If you experience any of these conditions, your podiatrist can discuss and recommend possible treatment options.
Problems can evolve before we realize it! And as we age, the aches and pains that would disappear if we ignored them long enough, start to last longer, ache stronger. Our feet become more sensitive, and more and more often prevent us from participating in the activities and routines that we want to, which negatively affects our overall health.
Here are some foot care tips to increase the longevity of our feet into our mature years:
- Check your feet regularly, or have your podiatrist check them.
- Don’t sit for long periods of time (especially with your legs crossed).
- Keep blood circulating to your feet as much as possible. Do this by putting your feet up when you are sitting or lying down, stretching (if you’ve had to sit for a long while), walking, having a gentle foot massage, or taking a warm foot bath (but make sure you thoroughly dry them).
- Use moisturizer, but avoid leaving cream between the toes where the skin can harbor fungus.
- Keep toenails trimmed, but do so very carefully: never clip them shorter than the end of the toe. Cut straight across or lightly follow the natural curve of the toe. Use an emery board to smooth and avoid rough edges. Soak brittle nails before clipping or filing them.
- Control the use of nail polish and use non-acetone nail polish remover.
- Avoid exposing your feet to cold temperatures.
- Don’t smoke because it decreases blood supply to the feet and increases the chance of swelling and other circulatory and health problems.
- Keep your feet warm and dry.
- Exercise carefully but often; walking is one of the best forms of exercise.
- Wear comfortable shoes and high-quality socks that fit well. This can prevent many foot problems.
- Inspect the insides of shoes before wearing them for any rough spots that are present and can lead to a sore.
- Wear your prescription orthotic inserts in all of your shoes to provide each of your feet additional support exactly where they need it.
- Have regular visits to the podiatrist.
At the Santa Monica Podiatry Group we have a unique program for our patients for foot comfort and maintenance. We first give your feet a special therapeutic hydro-massage and whirlpool treatment. This treatment prepares your feet for medical care by softening the skin and nails.
Next the podiatrist will reduce the areas of painful thickened skin (corns & calluses), as well as treat problematic issues such as small growths, removing any ingrown edges of your nails, and reducing thickened irritated toenails—a podiatrist is medically trained to trim them properly, especially after they have been softened in the whirlpool—a pedicurist is not able to treat this problem and may cause more harm. This treatment is pain free and if provided on a regular basis will limit return of chronic problems and keep your feet comfortable all the time. Especially for those of us who are not flexible enough to take proper care of our feet, periodic visits to the podiatrist can easily reduce a great deal of pain and discomfort from your feet. We can contact your health insurance to see what additional services you have coverage for, such as prescription orthotics, which can provide additional comfort and support to your feet.