Your feet are the foundation of your body, and we cannot overstate just how important it is to keep them healthy.
Too often, foot issues are ignored for long periods of time, which can lead to the development of other problems throughout your body. More than that, the longer you let a problem go unaddressed, the harder it becomes to fix.
Think about your car for a second. If you start to hear an unusual noise, you might need only a minor adjustment. Keep driving without having a mechanic look at it, though, and what would have been a minor adjustment now becomes a major—and expensive! —repair job.
Well, in some ways, this is a lot like with your body—only your health’s importance is greater than that of your car’s!
Foot health might be easy to look past, but this can be a big mistake. After all:
Healthy feet lead to a better quality of life.
Your feet take you where you want to go and allow you to do things you want to do. And, as we alluded to just a moment ago, there’s a connection to foot health and your overall wellbeing. In fact, early discovery of problems in the lower limbs can actually indicate an onset of other, life-threatening medical issues—including heart disease and diabetes.
Clearly, this is an important issue!
As we talk about foot health, it’s worth taking some time to understand what you should expect from your feet as you age. Doing so helps you know what’s normal and what is a reason for you to come see us at our office.
Even though feet can show health problems, not all changes to your feet over time are actually a sign of an existing or developing issue. There are normal changes feet go through as we age, including things like:
- Feet become longer and wider.
- The fat pads on the bottom of the heels thin out, causing loss of natural padding and spring in the step.
- Feet and ankles lose some of their normal range of motion and become stiffer.
- For various reasons, there can be a certain degree of loss of balance while walking.
Whereas those are “normal” changes, they can be problematic in their own respective ways.
Changes in foot shape can lead to ill-fitting footwear and stiffness and/or balance loss can make walking more challenging than it previously had been.
And yet many foot problems we see can be avoided by taking measures like addressing ill-fitting shoes or using a pair of custom orthotics for better support and foot function. Things like these—and other measures—aren’t that complicated, either. Following some simple daily behaviors can make a world of difference in keeping your feet in their best shape—even as you start to age.
With that in mind, here are 10 ways you can keep your feet healthy (even if your birthday cake starts to require enough candles that you should probably alert the fire department):
- Inspect your feet daily — This is something we strongly recommend for our diabetic patients, but it also applies for anyone who is starting to reach advanced ages. A big part of this is finding issues at their earliest, most treatable stages. Make sure you take a couple of minutes to look for any changes in the general appearance of your feet every day. While doing so, be mindful of foot color and texture, and stay alert for changes in your toenails and unusual swelling in feet, ankles, and toes.
- Practice good foot hygiene —Wash your feet well on a daily basis. Dry them thoroughly after you are done to reduce your risk for issues from microscopic organisms, like bacteria and fungi.
- Moisturize your feet — To reduce your risk of developing dry, cracked skin—which becomes increasingly likely as we start to age—you should hydrate the skin in your feet with an appropriate moisturizer. When you do, make sure you target the tops, bottoms, and sides of your feet, but avoid the areas between toes (because otherwise you may encourage fungal or bacterial growth).
- Wear appropriate footwear — When you buy new shoes, make sure you are buying ones that are appropriate for your activities—and it’s important that you are active on a regular basis (especially if you are starting to get older!). Along with activity-appropriateness, you need shoes that fit correctly. Sure, this reduces your risk of a variety of common foot issues, but it also means your shoes will actually be comfortable to wear!
- Trim your toenails — Toenail maintenance is an important hygienic consideration, but it’s also one that’s important for reducing your risk of ingrown toenails. To help lower your risk, make sure you clip your nails straight across and keep them roughly even with the edge of the respective toes. Now, that being said, sometimes ingrown toenails happen for reasons unrelated to how you trim your nails. If you have this problem, contact our office and we will be happy to provide professional care so you can find relief and reduce your risk for potential infections!
- Change your shoes often — Your feet have hundreds of thousands of sweat glands, which means they produce a lot of sweat. And if you have a condition like hyperhidrosis, those sweat glands work overtime to produce even more. Since this dampness is like a fun party for fungi, you should give your footwear time to dry out completely between when you wear them. A good target is to alternate between at least two pairs of shoes on an “every other day” basis.
- Exercise regularly — Exercising is better for your feet than you probably realize. Simple exercises can be done at home, like walking on a treadmill. Foot exercises improve good pedal circulation, preventing many disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Going beyond cardiovascular exercises, you should also take just a couple of minutes to stretch your lower limbs every day. Keeping your tissues limber will lower your risk for problems that, when left unaddressed, can become quite intense and debilitating in the future!
- Do not walk barefoot — This is actually a tip that is geared more towards those who have diabetes, and especially if neuropathy is in the picture! Even when you are at home, always wear the appropriate footwear. There are a lot of harmful microorganisms that can easily enter the bloodstream through the feet through even the smallest of openings. Taking measures to protect your feet can help you avoid having serious problems, and this doesn’t require a tremendous amount of effort on your behalf.
- Apply sunscreen — Applying sunscreen with a considerable amount of SPF in the summertime (and, yes, we realize this won’t come up again until summer—unless you go on vacation to warmer places this fall or winter) will help prevent painful sunburns and blisters. More than that, it can help lower your risk of dangerous skin cancer!
- See us as soon as you become aware of issues — If you notice or feel anything unusual in your feet, do not hesitate to come and see us immediately. We will evaluate the situation, determine what is wrong, and then find a way to resolve it!
Those first nine tips can help you lower your risk for problems, but keep that tenth one in mind in case something does develop. Even the best prevention tips will not completely eliminate the chance you end up with a foot or ankle issue. But when you do, early intervention is best for optimal recovery. So if you do find that an issue develops, come see us and we’ll be happy to provide the care you need to resolve it!For more information, or to request an appointment with our El Paso podiatrist practice, contact us by calling (915) 533-5151 (to connect with our Curie Drive office) or (915) 856-3331 (to connect with our George Dieter office).