Tonics for tired feet

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Techniques for reviving tired feet include simple stretching exercises, soaking in Epsom salts and warm water, mini-whirlpools, foot massages and foot lotions. Wearing shoes that are the right size is the best way to avoid foot pain.

Hours spent pounding the floors of the Metropolitan Museum or the rocky terrain of a hiking trail may leave your spirits soaring – but your feet sulking. Tense, tired tootsies are crying for the comfort of stretching, soothing and extra circulation. So we called our favorite foot does for “you-can-do-it” answers to the minor swelling, cramping and stiffness that overworked feet can suffer from. They’re not a substitute for medical care and they won’t do much for bunions, fallen arches, heel pain or a host of other problems that your feet may fall prey to. (You’ll still need to see your doctor for serious foot problems.) But these tried-and-true tonics can ease you through a temporary bout with ordinary, achy feet:

  1. Roll your foot back and forth over a wooden roller or an old wine or Coke bottle. A tennis ball works really well, too. This works great at relieving cramping and arch strain.
  2. Raise a board or platform to an incline of 15 to 25 degrees (a book – about an inch and a half thick – and a wooden board do the trick for me). Stand facing “uphill” with your heels touching the board. This stretches he calf muscles. Stand facing “downhill” to stretch the shins. Then stand with each side facing downhill to stretch more muscles in the lower leg. Whenever you do these, stretch only until you feel tightness; don’t go to the point of pain. Having lower leg muscles that aren’t too tight is very important to foot comfort.
  3. Go for a swim. Both the cool water, the antigravity effect and the paddling action of the foot will release tension and soothe your feet. If you can’t swim, hanging on to the side and kicking is just as good.
  4. Soak your feet in Epsom salts and warm water (1 tablespoon per quart). This balanced salt solution can help drain swollen tissues and relieve pressure on your feet.
  5. Hop on your exercise bike. Set it on the lowest resistance so you can pedal freely and wheel away for 5 or 10 minutes. This light workout helps reduce swelling and aids circulation.
  6. Soak your feet in a mini-whirlpool bath, the kind made just for feet (available in department stores). Relaxing to your feet and your head!
  7. Get a foot massage from someone who cares.
  8. Rub on any type of foot lotion (some herbal ones nowadays smell great! ). The rubbing can increase your circulation and the whole comforting, relaxing experience can be good for you, good for your feet.
  9. Try a pair of “nubby” sandals that massage your feet as you walk.

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Of course, achiness will always nip at your heels unless you take steps to prevent it. First step: the measuring device at the shoe store. The number one cause of foot pain is too-small shoes. According to research from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS), most women haven’t had their feet measured in at least five years. Which means they don’t have a clue about their true shoe size. Your feet widen and lengthen as you age and also as you gain weight.

To get the right measurement, step up to these other tips:

  • Shop at the end of the day when your feet are largest.
  • Stand when your feet are being measured and have them both measured.
  • Fit the shoes to the largest foot.
  • Make sure there’s at least a half inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Never wear a heel higher than 2 1/4 inches.

Walking or other athletic shoes sometimes fool you because their cushioning allows them to feel comfortable at first, even when they’re really too small. To make sure you don’t get temporarily fooled, try this trick: Create templates of both your bare feet by standing on a piece of cardboard and having someone trace your feet. Cut them out and take them to the shoe store. Before you try on any shoes, hold your templates over the soles. They should match up with the soles or be slightly smaller. In fashion shoes, you could fudge it a half centimeter, but that’s just in a pinch. No more, or it will be a real pinch! If the shoe fits, you may not even have to try our tired-feet tonics.

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