A complex jigsaw of 26 bones, 19 muscles, and over 100 ligaments and 31 tendons, the foot is an engineering marvel that combines the best features of beanbag, lever, and concrete.
Slip off your shoes to give feet a breather during the day. Enhance this pleasure with a refreshing foot spray.
Go barefoot when you can, but protect your feet from sharp, craggy surfaces and during sports.
If, from time to time, you have to stand for hours at a stretch, try shifting your weight to the outer edges of your feet to reduce stress on the usual weight-bearing points.
Use feet instead of hands to turn the TV dial, pick up marbles, open a drawer. Rotate and flex your feet. Drop a pencil on the floor; pick it up with your toes.
To strengthen your arches, stand pigeon-toed and rise up on your toes. Repeat four times in succession. Do this several times a day.
FOLLOW A REGIMEN
Daily: In the shower or bath-tub, remove dry skin with a pumice stone (both pumice and skin must be damp). Rub gently over soles, heels, and sides of toes.
Dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes. (This is very important if you have diabetes. For more information on foot care for diabetics,) If feet perspire a lot, sprinkle them with talcum powder.
Feet need daily moisturizing. The skin on your feet is coarser than that on your hands, so use richer lotions.
Weekly: Give your feet a 15-minute soak in warm water to which you’ve added sea salt or plain table salt.
For problem feet, alternate soaks in warm and cold water; be sure to end with cold water.
Use a pumice stone; abrasive creams can be used as well.
To relieve dryness (caused partly because of the soles of the feet have no oil glands), apply a rich cream: Wrap feet with plastic wrap, and cover with towels that have been dipped in hot water and wrung out. Wait 10 minutes; then remove wrappings and smooth cream into the skin.
Monthly: Do a complete pedicure. If you walk a lot or participate in foot-pounding sports-
like running and racquetball give yourself a pedicure every two to three weeks.
SAWY SHOE SHOPPING
Most foot problems are caused not by disease but by improper footwear. Comfort able shoes tend to be on the squarish side, with wide toe areas and room for your feet to spread out.
Buy shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are a bit swollen.
Remember that no two feet are the same-including the pair that belongs to you. Buy length to fit your longer foot, width to fit the wider one. Allow no less than half an inch between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. If necessary, have the shoe for the smaller foot adjusted by a shoe repair shop, which can add inserts.
Don’t assume your shoe size is forever. As you age (or during pregnancy), your feet get bigger. The next time you shop for shoes, have the clerk measure both your feet.
Buy a shoe with a slight heel for added arch support. Avoid heels that exceed two inches.
If you like high heels, try to limit the time you wear them to three hours at a stretch.
Walking in three-inch heels greatly increases the pressure on the balls of the feet, which can lead to bunions, corns, and problems with knees, hips, and back.
The proper positioning of the foot within the shoe depends upon the area around the in-
step. If this area fits properly, it will feel snug and close to the foot all the way around.
Alternate between heels and fiats on different days.
Make certain new shoes have adequate cushioning. If possible, try them on both rugs and hard surfaces; the carpeted area in a shoe store may give you a false sense of comfort.
Look for rubber heels, which absorb shock better than leather or synthetic heels.
If you have flat feet or high arches, you may be especially prone to heel pain. Shoe inserts can bring relief in some instances.
The weight of the body is divided on each foot at approximately SO percent on the heel, 30 percent on the big-toe area, or ball of the foot, and 20 percent on the little-toe area. Therefore, a wide toe box with sufficient wiggle room is important. A nar row toe area squeezes the toes together, diminish ing your balance .
When you massage the thousands of nerve endings in the foot, you can feel relaxed throughout your body. Regular massage keeps the foot flexible and healthy.
Grip the foot in your hands, with fingers on the sole and thumbs on top. Work the bones by pressing outward with the heels of the hands, and up and in with your fingers. Then move one hand up the leng~h of the foot while moving the other hand down.
Hold your foot with your thumbs on the sale and fingers on top. Press in hard, firm circles over the sole. Repeat over the top of the foot. Be thorough, making sure to cover the entire area. Use your fingers to press near the ankle and heel.
Hold the heel firmly with one hand. With the other hand, push the toes forward and backward
(omit the little toe if you wish). Hold the stretch for several seconds each way, then repeat.
Gently tug each toe with your index finger and thumb. Then, starting with the big toe, twist each toe from side to side; let the thumb and forefinger slide off the end. Don’t crack the toe knuckles.
These stretching exercises will help the muscles in your feet and lower legs. Do each of the following sequences, except the last, five times.
Ankle Stretch: While sitting down, cross your left foot over your right knee. With your right hand, hold the foot under the heel. With your other hand, gradually push the top of the foot away from your heel so that you’re pointing your toes. Hold the stretch, then pull the top of the foot back. Repeat with the other foot.
Inchworm: While standing and keeping your weight mainly on one foot, move your other foot forward-curl your toes and arch your foot; then, keeping the heel in the same position, extend your toes to flatten the foot once again. Repeat until your foot has moved forward four to six inches, then reverse: by pressing your toes, slowly push your foot back to the start.
Total Foot Flex: Lie on your back with your feet apart. Ex tend your foot upward by flexing your ankle so that you feel a stretch at the Achilles tendon. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Next, point your foot downward, then outward. Hold each position 15-sec ones. Finally, rotate your feet in ankle circles, four times in each direction. End by shaking your feet.
Towel Challenge: While sitting or standing, place your foot on top of a towel on the floor. Spread your toes and grab the towel with them so that you can pull it along the floor. Get your arch into the action, but not your heel. (It may take a while before you can do this; these muscles have been hibernating inside your shoes for years.) Now try it with the other foot.
Toe Tricks: Sit on the floor so that you can easily reach your bare feet. Keeping your foot flat, flex your toes up. Now curl your toes back down one at a time, if you can, from your little toe to the big one. (If the little toe lies limp, help it along with your hand.) Do the same with the other foot.
Achilles Tendon Stretch: This easy exercise will make your feet less vulnerable to fatigue if you do it twice a day. While holding on to the handrail, stand on a step with heels extend ed two inch es off the edge. Rise up on tiptoes and hold 10 seconds, Then lower heels as far as they can comfortably go and hold 10 seconds. Repeat 15 times.
Avoid medicated corn pads. Most contain an acid that can burn the thinner areas of skin.
SOOTHING FOOT BATHS
Foot-bath salts may provide excellent relief for tired, aching feet. The alkali in the salts also helps soften the outer layers of skin, facilitating the removal of dirt and possible sources of odor.
There are alternatives to commercial foot-bath preparations: A little lemon juice or a
few drops of lavender oil in tepid water can feel good. So can Burow’s solution (one powder packet to one pint boiling water) or full-strength cider vinegar. The last two can also, eliminate itchiness caused by an athlete’s foot.
Feet may burn and sting because of irritating fabrics, poorly fitted shoes, or an athlete’s foot. Soothe them by soaking them in cold-not icy-water for 15 minutes twice a day.
Relieve soreness with hot- water soaks, which promote circulation.
A pedicure differs from a manicure in one important way: the toenails should always be cut straight across.
HELP FOR PROBLEM FEET
To avoid blisters and athlete’s foot, choose socks made of polypropylene or other absorbent material that wicks perspiration away from the feet.
Only wear shoes made from natural materials that “breathe,” such as leather and canvas.
Before you suit up for a workout put a large glob of petroleum jelly over any area that regularly blisters.
To combat foot odor, reduce sweating by wearing light, airy shoes in the summer and minimizing the use of rubber boots in the winter. Change your shoes daily to let each pair air out.
Further Reading, Ten Common Foot Problems