Who would pound on someone 10,000 times a day, with a force greater than that person’s weight? Not you? Well, if you could ask your feet, they would tell you how you inflict that torture on them every day!
Each foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons. No wonder your feet scream with pain every once in a while. Common foot problems can cause misery, but they also can be treated fairly easily.
Thick Layers of Skin
When the skin on your foot is pressed between a tight shoe and a bone, your foot protects itself by forming thick layers of dead skin called corns and calluses. One way to treat them is to soak your foot in warm water to soften them and then remove the thickened skin with a pumice stone or callus file. You can put a special pad with a hole in the middle over the corn. But the best treatment is prevention: Make sure your shoes fit properly and are wide enough.
Blisters are fluid-filled sacs that come from friction and moisture. You can cover a small blister with a bandage and wait until it disappears. A larger blister should be popped with a sterile needle so that the fluid drains out. Blisters often form when you get a new pair of boots and go off on a daylong hike. To avoid this, wear new boots around the house for a day or two, and be sure to wear thicker socks.
Fungi live in warm, dark, wet places, and the fungus that causes athlete’s foot lurks in locker rooms and swimming pools. Often the first sign of athlete’s foot is a painful blister between your toes. There are several over-the-counter (OTC) medications you can use to clear up the infection. To prevent another infection, make sure the area between your toes is dry, and wear dry shoes and clean socks. Also sprinkle OTC anti-fungal powder in your shoes to absorb extra moisture.
Stress on Your Heal
Your heel absorbs the force of each step. Taking a pounding step, jumping on hard surfaces, or wearing poorly made shoes can put too much stress on your heel. A special insert in your shoe will make walking easier. Another heel problem, heel spurs, occurs when calcium deposits build up on the underside of your heel. These deposits can be prevented by exercises that stretch the bottom of your feet.
A band of tissue, the planter fascia, nuns from your heel to the ball of your foot. When this gets inflamed, often when you’re doing an aerobics routine, the whole bottom of your foot hurts. Be sure to wear shoes that give your foot support in the arch and stability for all the side-to-side movements that you do in aerobics, and include foot stretching exercises in your warmup.
Hammertoes and Ingrown Toenails
Hammertoes bend up and look like a claw. One cause is a bunion (a misaligned big toe joint) that pushes the second toe out of position. Tight shoes make the problem worse and cause corns, so make sure you get a shoe that gives you enough room. If shoes don’t help, surgery can sometimes make the toe straighter.
When the side of your toenail cuts into the skin, it’s called an ingrown toenail. While you may spend time shaping your fingernails, a toenail is better off being cut straight across with special clippers that are designed for toenails. Leave the nail slightly longer than the tip of your toe. If you do get an ingrown toenail, soak your foot to soften the nail and then put a small piece of cotton between the nail and the skin. If it continues to hurt, see a doctor.
Your foot has 250,000 sweat glands, and some of them may be overactive, as anyone who has experienced a locker room knows. But if at a shoe store you hesitate to try on new shoes because you’re afraid the odor from your feet will vacate the store, you need to take some preventive measures. To help keep that odor under control, alternate shoes each day to let them dry out thoroughly, use deodorizing foot powders and antiperspirants, and change your socks frequently.
Be kind to your feet, and they’ll reward you with a lifetime of support.