Odds are dancers Savion Glover, MC Hammer, and Dancing With the Stars’ Julianne Hough know something about caring for their feet. Good thing, because feet contain about one-fourth of all the bones in our bodies. Statistics tell us we spend two-thirds of our lives on our feet, logging 75,000 miles by the time we reach age 50. According to experts, foot problems can alter the foot’s structure and create pain and issues in other parts of the body — like a domino effect.
Getting feet ready for summer and good foot health in general involve more than a great pedicure and the right shade of polish. Maintaining this integral appendage can include proper nutrition; the right exercises to help loosen and tone muscles, tendons and ligaments; adequate support (not tight, pointy high heels, flimsy flip-flops or other improperly fitting footwear); soothing products (natural is always a good way to go); and recognizing indicators of disease.
Eat for Your Feet
First, no matter what the season, experts say foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, for a great example) can reduce inflammation everywhere — including our feet — whereas refined sugar and grains and trans fats found in many processed baked goods and corn, soybean, and sunflower oils can cause inflammation. Doctors say inflammation in the body is at the root of many diseases. According to the National Institute of Health, inflammation can appear in your foot in diseases such as plantar fasciitis which causes pain in the thick band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, your heel, etc. Also, artherosclerosis (where plaque builds up in artery walls — often due to years of poor dietary choices) can in turn lead to peripheral artery disease (PAD), with symptoms that include foot or toe wounds that heal slowly or not at all. Type 2 Diabetes — which has been linked to poor dietary choices — can also impact foot health by damaging arteries that bring blood to your lower extremities. In short it’s best to research and stick to a healthy, fresh, whole food diet — one that is free of processed items.
Yoga for Your Sole
Those who practice know that when it comes to the foot, yoga stretches out muscles that lead to a greater range of motion. As an added benefit, when you treat your feet to yoga, you end up favorably impacting back, hip, and other kinds of structural pain. Focusing on the feet, certain yoga postures teach you how to better connect with the earth by distributing your weight more evenly. This creates a stable, supportive base (rather than standing unevenly on one portion of a foot, which many of us tend to do). Yoga can strengthen feet and help modify problems with fallen arches, as well as improve circulation to tired, overworked ankles and soles.
A Walk on the Wise Side
As a rule, many of us wear shoes that are attractive and fashionable but don’t provide the best support. Flat feet and high arches are just two of the conditions that determine what kind of shoes may feel and work best, and people who fall into the categories of overpronators (a gait that rolls inward from the heel strike) and supinators (rolling outward) also need to examine what kind of footwear can help compensate for these tendencies. (Just look at the bottoms of your shoes to see which area wears down the fastest: this will indicate where you are distributing your weight and how you walk.)
Squeezing our feet into severe pointy-toe shoes also does nothing to promote healthy feet. And towering heels may look great for a magazine cover shoot (ever notice how the model is generally seated?!), but over time can result in malformed bones, bunions, etc. While few of us have the desire to be seen in the same sturdy pair of Oxfords we may have worn in grammar school, today we tend to spend a lot of time in athletic shoes. But not all are created equal, and according to sports medicine experts, price doesn’t always ensure that one brand or style trumps another. In addition to visiting a podiatrist or orthopedist to address any foot problems (better to nip them in the bud), some running shoe stores offer detailed, computer analysis of your feet, which may tell you a lot about shopping for shoes accordingly.
Finally, while some consider pedicures a luxury (and let’s face it: a warm, velvety, fragrant soak can do wonders for both the sole and the soul!), a good pedicure is about more than aesthetics. By scraping away dead heel skin and trimming overgrown cuticles, pedicures keep feet in good walking order. Just make sure the esthetician is licensed and highly skilled at properly cutting and shaping toenails to prevent ingrowns, and that equipment is appropriately sterilized between customers to prevent fungus and other infections from developing.