Posts for: November, 2016
Don't let sore feet trip up your travel plans
Whether you travel for business or pleasure, whether you fly, drive, or take a train, there’s one other mode of transportation you’ll almost certainly use on your trip: your feet. During the course of a regular day, the average person walks 8,000 to 10,000 steps, but that number can increase dramatically when you’re traveling. From inappropriate footwear to long stretches of inactivity in cramped cars or airplane seats, traveling can be hard on your feet.
“Exploring a new destination with family and friends, or getting to that important business meeting on time, should not involve having to struggle with foot pain,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “By following basic foot care practices, travelers can help ensure foot pain doesn’t slow down their enjoyment of the journey.”
If you're planning a trip, the APMA recommends you take a few steps to ease the wear and tear on your foot muscles and joints:
Start out with the proper footwear. If you’re flying, shoes that slide on and off easily make sense, but don’t sacrifice health and safety for convenience. Choose footwear that is comfortable and supportive. Business travelers—especially women—may want to pack their dress shoes in their carry-on and wear comfortable footwear while traveling. If you’re driving, and don’t have to worry about speedy shoe removal, go with a comfortable, supportive athletic shoe that will allow your feet to breathe and provide ample cushioning.
Never go barefoot through airport security. While current security regulations require all travelers to remove their shoes, you’re not required to remove your socks unless a security officer asks you to. Keep your socks on to help protect your feet from dirt and bacteria.
If possible, get up and walk around every 45 minutes. Sitting for long periods of time restricts blood flow to the legs and feet, which can lead to swelling and, in extreme cases, blood clots. If walking around isn’t possible—if you're in a car for a couple of hours or stuck in your seat during a turbulent flight—exercise your legs, ankles, and feet while seated. Roll your ankles and point your toes up and down to encourage blood flow. If you have the room to do so, raise each knee and hold it for a few seconds while tensing your thigh muscles. If your feet begin to swell, unlace your shoes.
Even with the best precautions, vacation walking can create a foot emergency. Pack a foot care emergency kit that’s equipped with adhesive bandages, antibiotic cream, tweezers, and nail clippers. You can also include foot lotion for a soothing massage.
Finally, travel time is no time to try breaking in new shoes. In fact, new shoes should never have to be “broken in” before they feel comfortable. Shoes should be comfortable, without chafing or pinching, from the first time you put them on. If they are not, don’t buy them. “Our research tells us that most Americans say they have foot pain at least some of the time,” Dr. Gordon says. “"When you're traveling, it’s no time to contend with foot pain. Travelers can protect their foot health by following simple precautions.”
In the New Year, don’t forget to keep your feet in tip-top shape while following through with your resolutions to get fit. Reston, Manassas and Leesburg foot and ankle surgeon Shaun Hafner, DPM, FACFAS, offers tips for foot safety while at the gym.
Start new workouts gradually— Increase your stamina and the length of your workouts gradually to avoid overuse injuries such as stress fractures or tendon strains and sprains. Stretching your muscles before and after workouts also helps prevent these types of injuries. “If you do feel you’ve sprained your ankle, be sure to seek treatment right away,” Dr. Hafner, a member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons explains. “Untreated or repeated ankle sprains may lead to chronic ankle instability, a condition that causes persistent pain and a ‘giving way’ of the ankle.”
Wear the right shoe and sock—Wear well-fitting athletic shoes designed for the exercise or sport. According to Dr. Hafner, shoes that don’t support the arch of the foot and provide cushion for the heel can cause heel pain (plantar fasciitis). Shoes that are too small can also cause a neuroma or a thickening of the nerve tissue, in the foot and may require injections, medication or physical therapy. Wearing cotton or non-slip socks are also key to help avoid painful blisters, which can become infected and cause more serious issues.
Use good technique— Improper exercise techniques can result in injury to the tendons or ligaments in your feet and ankles. “Incorrect posture or misuse of exercise equipment can cause decreased stabilization in the foot and ankle, leading to joint sprains and muscle strains,” Dr. Hafner says.
Protect yourself from bacteria—Sweaty shoes, public showers, exercise equipment and the pool deck at the gym are breeding grounds for fungus, viruses and bacteria, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) which has become increasingly more common. Never go barefoot while in public areas; water shoes can provide a great barrier between your feet and the wet surfaces. “It’s also best to cover cuts and cracks in the skin or ingrown toenails since these minor tears in the skin’s surface can act as entry points for bacteria. If you have a cut or scrape that becomes red or swollen and is not healing in a timely manner, don’t hesitate to see a foot and ankle surgeon for an examination,” Dr. Hafner says.
Tips to keep feet happy this holiday season
Holiday shopping, decorating, parties and traveling are all part of our holiday revelries. But while you’re making all that merriment, how happy are your feet?
You may be doing a lot of walking, dancing, standing, and sitting in one position throughout the holiday season. “Half of all Americans report experiencing foot pain at some point in their lives, according to a survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA),” says Steven Gordon DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and APMA member. “No one wants soreness or injuries to slow them down during the holidays, so it’s important to care for your feet so they can carry you through all those seasonal celebrations and chores.”
APMA offers some advice for keeping feet healthy (and happy) this holiday season:
Moisturize—Dry winter air and cold temperatures can take a toll on skin. Moisturize feet daily to help avoid dry, cracked, and irritated skin.
Exercise your feet—Stretching is a good way to avoid muscle cramps. Stave off toe cramps by raising, pointing, and curling your toes for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Rotating your ankles can also help relax feet. Cup your heel and turn each ankle slowly five times to loosen ankle joints.
Massage—Foot rubs not only feel good, but they’re also a great way to release tension, boost circulation, and refresh skin after a long day on your feet. Take a few minutes to massage your feet at the end of a day of shopping and celebrating. Use lotion and take care of moisturizing at the same time!
Pedicure properly—Picture-perfect toes are part of a great holiday wardrobe for many women. Whether you do it yourself or go to a salon, be sure your pedicure is done properly. “Never use a razor to remove dead skin—opt for a good pumice stone instead,” says Dr. Gordon.Don’t cut cuticles; push them back gently with a rubber tool made for this purpose. Use toenail clippers with a straight edge to cut nails straight across.
Raise your legs—Feet and ankles can swell from sitting too long in one position (taking a long flight to grandma’s house for the holidays, for example) or if you’ve been on your feet all day (shopping, baking, or cooking). Elevate your legs to reduce swelling. Lie down or sit and lift your legs above your heart.
Wear smart shoes—Okay, so you’ll never give up your sparkly high heels when it’s time for that special soiree. But for other holiday activities such as shopping, traveling, or cooking, ditch the high heels. When you know you’ll be on your feet all day, wear comfortable shoes with good arch support and a padded sole. See which types of footwear have received the APMA Seal of Acceptance for promoting foot health by visiting www.apma.org/seal.
Feet shouldn’t hurt all the time. “Persistent foot pain can be an indication of injury, irritation, or illness,” Dr. Gordon adds. “See a podiatrist if you experience pain; don’t wait until the holidays end!”
As they transition from open-toed sandals to closed-in boots and shoes, foot and ankle surgeon Shaun Hafner, DPM, FACFAS, says he notices more women seeking relief for painful bunions. Dr. Hafner has offices in Reston, Manassas and Leesburg. He says this trend plays out in the examining rooms of many foot and ankle surgeons every autumn.
"Some of my female bunion patients are in agony," says Dr. Hafner. "They describe a constant, throbbing pain, even when they take their shoes off."
While the changing weather brings more bunion patients into his office, Dr. Hafner says some women inquire about surgery in the fall because they're less busy than in summer months. Many are also closer to meeting their insurance deductibles.
Dr. Hafner emphasizes that surgery is a last-resort treatment for women with painful bunions.
"For many women, simple changes like wearing shoes with wider toe boxes can significantly reduce bunion pain," he says. "Custom shoe inserts, gel- or foam-filled padding and anti-inflammatory medications may also provide pain relief."
When the pain of a bunion interferes with a woman's daily activities, it's time to discuss surgical options, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
The College provides answers to frequently asked questions about bunion surgery on its Web site, FootHealthFacts.org.