Seventy-five percent of Americans have serious foot problems at one point of their lives, although only a small portion of the population is born with foot problems. Others who were born with perfectly good feet develop problems due to inattention and lack of awareness of the importance of well-maintained feet. The 52 bones of a pair of feet is 25% of the body’s total number of bones. Together with 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles of each foot, the feet absorb about five times the body weight in pressure everyday.
Typical foot problems include sores, athlete’s foot, cuts, ingrown toenails, bunions, calluses and plantar warts. To avoid most of these problems, good foot care should be a habit, including but not limited to daily inspection of the feet, toes and toenails. This is especially true for people with diabetes, because the nerve damage and compromised blood flow may keep them from discovering cuts that could develop into serious wounds and perhaps amputations because they also do not heal as fast. Other diseases will manifest in the feet as well, including arthritis, nerve disorders and circulatory ailments.
The first measures to be undertaken for preventive foot care is the selection of shoes, socks and stockings that fit well. Some feet do not match in size so if this is the case, buy shoes that will fit the larger foot. Women are four times more likely to develop foot problems, due in part to the use of high heels, so avoid wearing them as much as possible or remove them at every opportunity to prevent sore feet. Put feet up whenever possible to keep the blood flowing and wriggle toes for up to 5 minutes, much like toe crunches.
Walking is considered good for the feet as well as for general health, provided proper shoes and socks are used. Purchase socks that absorb sweat away from the feet to keep from developing sores as well as fungal growth (athlete’s foot) and change socks every day. Choose footwear made of leather or canvass that will allow the feet to breathe and shoes should be changed at intervals. Foot powder can also be used to minimize sweating. Avoid hot or cold for your feet, and avoid the use of electric blankets and heating pads which may burn your feet inadvertently.
Wash feet daily, rinse and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. Nails should be trimmed straight and not too near the nail bed to prevent infections. Avoid digging out and cutting at corners; this could result to ingrown toe nails. Remove rough skin gently by first soaking feet in warm water then gently scrubbing with a small towel or loofah, but scratch it if you are diabetic and you have a wound in your foot, soaking will make it worse. Indulge in feet massage as regularly as possible, and have a pedicure about once a week to keep toes pretty but make sure the implements used are clean.
There are many foot care products, especially for athlete’s foot, tendinitis and calluses. For the last two, consult your physician before purchasing. In general, chemical preprations for the removal of calluses are not recommended. A podiatrist or other health care professional can trim them for you safely. For those who may need special shoes, there may be Medicare coverage so ask your physician.
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