By Zain Rizvi, DPM, Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates
It’s easy to ignore the health and care of our feet. In fact, your feet are one of the body parts that are most overlooked — until they hurt! But, like most health issues, a little bit of care and prevention can go a long way towards avoiding painful foot issues. By the time you feel pain, the problem has likely progressed and will be harder to remedy. In this season of giving, I give you the top five foot-care mistakes to avoid so you can curtail any foot-related problems and enjoy optimal foot health this holiday season and beyond.
- Wearing the wrong shoes
Foot pain is often directly caused by shoes. Certain styles should be avoided, including ballet flats, which may be comfy, but they have no arch support or shock absorption and, over time, will lead to pain. High heels smush the toes and put way too much pressure on the balls of the feet. The ever-popular UGGS have little support and provide a warm, moist environment that encourages foot fungus. Good choices are athletic shoes and shoes or boots with a heel of one inch or less with good cushioning and arch support. No matter what style of shoe you wear, they must fit! When buying shoes online, don’t hesitate to send them back if they don’t fit, and don’t ever sacrifice comfort and fit for fashion. Thankfully, there are now many companies that make stylish, fashionable shoes and boots that are also good for your feet.
- Going sockless
Socks are very important because they wick away the sweat produced by feet. Feet contain more sweat glands than any other part of the body. In the summer, sandals and open-toed shoes allow the sweat to escape off the skin. When feet are covered in shoes, the sweat can’t escape and it collects on the skin of the feet. All this sweat often leads to the growth of fungus, causing thick, discolored nails or athlete’s foot, which causes red, inflamed, itchy skin. Both conditions can be difficult to get rid of. Socks that are not made of cotton are best at wicking away sweat and also provide greater cushion for superior comfort.
- Not cleaning feet properly
Many people believe that their feet get clean enough by just standing in the shower where the water runs over them. The tops and bottoms of feet and in-between toes should be washed, using a gentle soap. Then, it’s most important to thoroughly dry feet as the dampness can easily cause fungal infections. Be aware of the signs of toenail fungus, which include a nail that turns yellowish or brown, becomes thick, and pulls away from the nail-bed. Fungus can take a long time to develop and is usually not painful in the beginning, so it’s easy to ignore and hope it will go away — which it won’t!
- Scraping off dead skin
Never allow a blade or knife to touch your feet! Leave all the “cheese grater” type items for the cheese, not your feet. A sharp file cannot distinguish normal versus callused skin, which leaves a huge risk for cuts and abrasions. If you or a nail technician is overzealous in filing calluses, it can end up going too deep, which can lead to sores, infection, and ulcerations. There is a fine line between hard skin and healthy skin, and this is easy to misinterpret.
- Cutting out ingrown toenails
Ingrown toenails are one of the most common problems we see. People tend to let the problem go on for far too long because after all — it’s only a toenail! An ingrown toenail typically occurs because the nail was not cut straight across and the “edge” of the nail that was curved to the side is now grown out and digging into the skin next to it. They can also be caused by a pair of shoes that are too tight and rub the skin into the nail fold. This problem can easily lead to painful infections — some patients even require antibiotics to help treat the problem if they wait too long to be seen!
Do not let any foot pain that “just hurts a little” slide on for too long. See your podiatrist who can provide the proper treatment so your “Ho Ho Ho” doesn’t turn into “Oh Oh Oh!”
To make an appointment, or get more information on any foot or ankle problem, contact Dr. Rizvi at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, 309-661-9975, or visit their website at www.HeartlandFootAndAnkle.com. Their office is located at 10 Heartland Dr., Suite B in Bloomington.