Posts for: February, 2017
How to keep your morning run healthy—for your feet
Love isn’t the only human experience that may make you wonder, “How can something so good hurt so bad?” You might find yourself asking that question after your morning run, afternoon power walk, or other physical activity that demands a lot from your feet. Physical activities like running, brisk walking, and playing sports can be great for your body; exercise improves cardiovascular health, burns calories, and builds muscle strength. Summer is a great time to stay—or get—active, but you still need to take precautions to ensure your exercise routine is also healthy for your feet.
“Let’s face it—we all have a lot riding on our feet, and we demand a great deal from them, especially when we’re engaging in strenuous exercise,” says Steven Gordon DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Foot health is a key component of overall health and well-being. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to take the right steps toward protecting your feet when you run, jog, power walk, or engage in other exercise.
“Be aware of common ailments of the season like athlete’s foot, blisters, nail fungus, foot odor, and warts, and the summer foot fixes that can help cure them,” says Dr. Gordon
You can also take these steps to minimize the risk of injury or other problems when running or exercising:
Stretch before and after activity. Lactic acid is the chemical by-product of exercise that causes muscles to ache after a workout. Stretching improves your circulation and decreases the buildup of lactic acid; it can also help relieve stiffness and prevent strain. Simply flexing the hamstrings and stretching calves, Achilles tendons, and shins can help ensure your workout is safe.
Choose an appropriate running shoe. The only real expense of running or walking is buying shoes, so it pays to invest in a good pair that will provide the support you need to have a safe, successful workout. If you’re prone to swollen feet later in the day, try on athletic shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are most swollen, to ensure a proper fit. Shoes should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned but with enough room to wiggle your toes, and snug to the heel. You can find a list of healthy footwear that carries APMA’s Seal of Acceptance on the organization’s website, www.apma.org/seal.
Be aware of the surface. The surface you’re running on makes a difference in how hard the activity is on your feet. Hard, uneven ground can lead to stress fractures, slips, and falls. Softer ground is more foot-friendly and causes less shock than harder surfaces. If possible, run or walk on grass or dirt paths that are flat, even, and well-manicured.
Think twice about running in inclement weather. If your feet are wet and cold, the ground will feel harder, and you’ll be more prone to slipping.
Listen to your feet. It’s not normal to experience pain or changes in the feet and ankles. If you experience foot pain that lasts for more than a few days, see a podiatrist for evaluation. He or she can tell you if the pain is a minor, passing problem or a symptom of something more serious such as injury or disease.
“With some simple precautions, you can ensure your walking and running activities remain healthy and enjoyable for your entire body, especially your hardworking feet,” Dr. Gordon says.
From slogging through snow, ice, and slush to being confined in heavy boots to fight the cold—if your feet could talk, what a tale of winter woe they might tell. You may be tempted to pull your sandals out of the closet and stuff your heaviest hosiery to the back of the sock drawer, but before you set your soles free to savor spring, some preparation is in order. Being cooped up in cramped footwear during winter months can cause feet to suffer from a variety of ailments, from dry, flaky skin and discolored toenails to pesky corns and unsightly calluses. Pampering your feet in preparation for warm weather can help feet look and feel their best when warmer weather calls for donning flip-flops and peep-toe shoes.
“Caring for your feet not only promotes good hygiene, but it can also alert you to any problem areas that may need attention before slipping into sandals this spring,” says Shaun Hafner, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Plus, it’s a good way to relax and de-stress after a tiring winter. When your feet feel good, you’re more likely to feel good all over.”
APMA offers these 10 tips for getting your feet spring-ready:
- Start with a soak. Immerse your feet in warm water with Epsom salts, herbal soaks, or oils for at least 10 minutes.
- Use a pumice stone or foot file to gently remove thickened, dead skin build-up (calluses) around the pre-soaked heels and the balls and sides of the feet. Never use a razor, as it removes too much skin and can easily cause infection or permanent damage if used incorrectly.
- Eliminate dry, flaky winter skin on the soles, sides, and tops of the feet by using an exfoliating scrub.
- Massage a generous amount of emollient-enriched skin lotion all over your feet. The lotion hydrates the skin, and the massaging helps to promote circulation. “Be sure to remove any excess moisturizer from under your toenails or between toes,” Dr. Hafner adds. “Build-up in those areas can provide a breeding ground for bacteria.”
- Use a straight-edged toenail clipper to trim nails to just the end of each toe to ensure nails don’t become curved or rounded in the corners.
- Help lock in moisture by wearing a pair of poly-cotton blend socks at bedtime.
- Forgo nail polish if your nails are not healthy. If you have healthy nails, remove polish regularly to keep them in top condition.
- Wash your feet daily with soap and water. Dry carefully, paying extra attention to the areas between your toes.
- Inspect last spring and summer’s footwear. Throw away any shoes or sandals that appear worn.
- If any skin or nail problems exist, see a podiatrist for a medical diagnosis. Today’s podiatrists are physicians, surgeons, and specialists trained to diagnose and treat conditions that affect the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg.
Foot care an important factor in healthy aging
For today’s baby boomers, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy and active as they age. While growing older causes some unavoidable body changes, more boomers are focusing on healthy lifestyles that can help them prevent problems associated with aging such as mobility issues related to the feet and legs. Impairment of the lower extremities is a leading cause of activity limitation in older people, according to the US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
“Foot problems are a health concern that can lead to further complications like knee, hip, and lower-back pain, all of which undermine mobility,” says Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “The human foot has been called the mirror of health. Systemic problems often related to age, such as diabetes, arthritis, and circulatory disease often can first be detected in the feet.”
Fortunately, boomers can do a lot to maintain and even improve their foot health. APMA offers the following advice to keep your feet pain-free.
Walking offers many benefits for both physical and mental health. If your feet hurt, however, you may find yourself less willing to get in the daily walking that’s good for your overall well-being.
To keep your walking regimen comfortable, choose a good-quality, lightweight walking shoe with breathable upper materials like leather or nylon mesh. The heel counter should be firm, and the shoe heel should have less cushioning in order to position the foot’s heel closer to the ground for stability. The front of the shoe should offer adequate support but also be flexible. For a list of footwear that has been awarded APMA’s Seal of Acceptance, visit www.apma.org/seal.
Shop for shoes in the late afternoon, because feet swell throughout the day, and have both feet fitted professionally. Wear the type of socks you intend to wear while walking and be sure the shoe fits snugly, but not tightly, over the sock. Your toes should have plenty of room to move around.
Deal with diabetes
“Diabetes symptoms often appear in the feet first, and the extremities can be hit hard by this chronic disease,” says Dr. Gordon.“In fact, diabetes complications lead to more than 65,000 lower-limb amputations each year.” Including a podiatrist in your diabetes care can reduce the risk of amputation up to 85 percent. Learn to recognize warning signs that often appear in the feet, including changes in skin color, swelling, numbness, pain, open sores that heal slowly, ingrown or fungal toenails, bleeding corns and calluses, and dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heels.
If you have diabetes, inspect your feet daily for cuts, bruises, sores or changes to the toenails. Wear thick, soft socks without seams that could rub or cause blisters. Always have new shoes fitted properly and never go barefoot, not even in your own home.
Arthritis can affect the structure and function of your feet. Common symptoms in the feet include joint swelling, joint pain or tenderness, redness or heat in joints, limited movement, early-morning stiffness, and skin changes, including rashes and growths.
Podiatrists are often the first to diagnose a patient’s arthritis. Treatment can take many forms, including physical therapy, exercise, and medication. Regular check-ups are vital to managing the condition successfully.
General foot health
In addition to shoes that fit properly, it’s important to choose socks, pantyhose, or stockings that also fit well. If you have corns or calluses, never cut them with a razor, pocket knife, or other sharp instrument. Consult a podiatrist and only use over-the-counter foot products if he or she advises it. Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm water with a mild soap that contains moisturizers, or use a separate moisturizer after your bath or shower. Trim or file toenails straight across and inspect your feet every day. If you notice redness, swelling, cracks in the skin or sores, see your podiatrist.