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.”