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Foot Care & Prevention

                                                   Joelle Hatem

 
 

 

 
 

 

Foot is an important structure of the human body and its primary function is locomotion. Compared to the feet of other mammals, the human foot has specialized to take the load on the hind due to the upright posture of the human body. An average human being walks about 10,000 steps in a day and walks an equivalent of around 4 times the circumference of earth in his lifetime. Hence, it is prudent that you take good care of your feet if you want them to give you no trouble.
 


Parts & Types

The foot consists of ligaments, joints, tendons, muscles and 52 bones. The foot contains about 25 percent of the bones of our body. The foot consists of heel, sole, ball, instep, toes and toe nails. Generally feet are classified into three types. A wet feet test is used to determine the type of feet. The three types are flat foot, high arch foot and the normal foot. The difference between the three is the percentage area of contact of the feet with the ground. The flat foot has the highest percentage contact area and the high arch foot has the least percentage contact area. Most people have normal feet.

Common Problems

Unlike other mammals, in humans, the entire body's weight comes on two feet. Hence the feet have to undergo more stresses and are prone to foot pains and inflammation. The common disorders of the feet include, Club foot, Flat feet, Morton's Neuroma, Athlete's foot, Morton's Neuroma, Callus, Verruca (plantar wart) and Bunion. All these disorders can only be overcome by medical treatment. However the most common problem with feet is inflammation and pain. Invariably the cause of this is wrong shoes and improper walking gait.

Foot Care

To take good care of your feet all you need to do is to take simple precautions in your daily life. The first and foremost is to get a good pair of shoes. Purchase shoes in the evenings because feet spread and swell in the evenings and are the largest at that time. Hence, if you buy a shoe in the evening, it will be comfortable to use for all times during the day. Try both the shoes on you, as most people have the right foot larger than the left foot. Walk a few steps and check if the new shoes fit properly and are comfortable or not. Ensure that the shoes have arch support and good insoles so that the pressure comes on a larger area.

The material of shoes should be preferably leather or canvas because these are natural materials and allow your feet to "breathe". If you are purchasing shoes made of synthetic material ensure that the shoes allow for air circulation. The feet consist of a large number of sweat glands. The feet sweat to cool the skin and tissues of the feet. The cooling takes place by evaporation of the sweat. However most shoes do not allow this sweat to evaporate which causes the socks and shoes to emit an unpleasant odor. The unpleasant odor is not due to the sweat itself but due to a type of bacteria known as brevibacteria. Brevibacteria feed on the dead skin especially between the toes and soles. They convert the dead skin into methanethiol which has an unpleasant odor.

To prevent this odor you have to purchase shoes with good ventilation as well as wear cotton socks. Nylon socks do not allow the feet to breathe and are one of the common causes of feet odor. People who have excess foot perspiration it helps to expose feet to sunlight and frequently taking of shoes to allow sweat to evaporate.

A special mention of high heeled shoes for women needs to be made because of the frequent problem in women's feet due to high heeled shoes. High heeled shoes are not ideal for long walks or use through out the day. Long-term use of high-heeled shoes shortens the Achilles tendon. Hence when women shift from high heeled shoes to flat shoes they get pain in the back of the heel due to stretching of the tendon. The guiding rule for purchase of shoes should be comfort before style.

Dry skin is another common problem in feet. For this, wash your feet regularly in warm water. Hot water should never be used to wash the feet as hot water washes away vital oils from the skin making it prone to dryness. Do not soak your feet more than ten minutes in water. Dry them thoroughly, and frequently apply moisturizers.

Other precautions that need to be taken care of include cutting nails in a proper manner. Do not cut nails too short as this may result in infections. If your feet hurt regularly and is persisting you should approach a doctor for medical care.

- Summer Foot Care
 

Summer is here, and many of you will be kicking off your shoes at home, at the beach or in the park. But is that a good thing?

To sort the myths from the facts about your feet, Dr. Tracey Vlahovic, associate professor of podiatric medicine and orthopedics at Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine, offers this information about your tootsies with a caveat always check with your doctor before starting any treatment:

Myth: Flats, flip-flops and going barefoot are good for your feet.

Fact: "This is a common misconception, because we always hear about the problems with high heels," Vlahovic said in a prepared statement. "But these three present their own types of problems." Flip-flops provide no support, which can cause plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and tendonitis. Wearing flats can lead to severe heel pain and blisters, crowding toes and conditions such as hammertoes and bunions. Walking barefoot leaves feet open to cuts, scrapes, bruises, and puncture wounds along with skin issues or nail injuries.

Diagnosis: Flip-flops or flats are fine for a few hours, but you should stretch your Achilles tendon for a bit if you wear them for longer than that, Vlahovic said. Save walking barefoot for around your own home, unless you are at risk for diabetes or have peripheral vascular disease. In those cases, always wear shoes in and out of the house.

Myth: Over-the-counter scrubs and soaks for corns are safe and effective.

Fact: "At-home soaks or scrubs would just exfoliate, not remove corns," Vlahovic said.

Diagnosis: A corn is a buildup of skin with a hard center. This often is caused by a hammertoe in which the toe knuckle rubs against the shoe. To permanently remove a corn, the hammertoe must be corrected so that it stops rubbing against the shoe. Or, just wear shoes with a wider toe box.

Myth: Feet don't need sunscreen.

Fact: "Skin cancer on the legs and feet actually has a high mortality rate due to people forgetting to do skin checks on that area. It's often caught too late," Vlahovic said. "This is due in large part to the fact that many people simply forget to apply or reapply sunscreen to the lower extremities."

Diagnosis: Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and with both UVB and UVA protection every two to three hours to the feet. Apply more often
if you're going to be at the beach, in and out of the water, or sweating.

Myth: All pedicure salons use sterile instruments, so it's fine to use theirs.

Fact: "Unfortunately, this is not the case with all nail salons," Vlahovic said. "As a result, the instruments can spread germs that can cause nail fungus and bacterial infections."

Diagnosis: Invest in your own nail files, clippers and cuticle sticks, unless you can be sure your nail salon sterilizes its instruments after each use. Also ask the technician if they have a clean bowl or basin or one with individual liners before sticking your feet in the motorized tub.

Myth: It's best to trim your toenails straight across.

Fact: Doing this, and cutting them too short, can lead to ingrown toenails, a true danger for diabetics. Untreated ingrown toenails can lead to infection and possibly an abscess requiring corrective surgery.

Diagnosis: Leave the nail slightly longer, trimming along the natural curve of your toe.

Myth: Soaking your feet in vinegar clears up toenail fungus.

Fact: "Vinegar can't penetrate the layers of the nail to get to the infection site. And without proper treatment, the infection can spread to other nails," Vlahovic said.

Diagnosis: See your dermatologist or podiatrist so they can perform a culture to see if it is definitely a fungal infection. Follow their instructions to the letter to avoid a recurrence.

Myth: Athlete's foot and warts aren't contagious.

Fact: Both are highly contagious, and easily spread in environments such as locker rooms or showers. They are often picked up through small breaks in the skin of the foot bottom.

Diagnosis: Keep your feet clean and dry, don't wear dirty socks and thoroughly clean your bath or shower area. "If one person in the household has it, everyone should be cautious and take proper precautions," Vlahovic said. If you must use a public shower, wear flip-flops.

Myth: Duct tape removes plantar warts.

Fact: Studies have shown duct tape to be one of the many ways to treat warts, but Vlahovic noted that several studies have shown duct tape in
no better than a placebo.

Diagnosis: "If you have a plantar wart, don't pick or perform bathroom surgery on it," Vlahovic said "Don't put duct tape on it and expect it to go away, since there is a specific protocol for using it. See your dermatologist or podiatrist for this and other treatment options."

- Foot Trouble Prevention Tips
 

Our feet bear a cumulative weight total of 1,000 tons a day. And over an average lifetime carry us about 140,000 miles. Certainly our feet, bearing this enormous workload and giving us such mileage, deserve our attentive care to render this heroic service to us.

Steps to prevent foot troubles
Foot troubles are the result of different causes: heredity, injury, neglect, abuse, and shoes of faulty design or fit. Most foot problems are preventable.


More attentive care is important. Frequent bathing, frequent foot massage, habitual toe wiggling and other foot exercises. These keep the skin and muscles well toned, which contributes to healthy, trouble-free feet. Shoe care is equally important. Buying the right size width, avoiding tight or even snug fit. The foot needs and wants "breathing" room. Ill-fitted or tight shoes cause compression and friction, which in turn cause heat and excessive perspiration, which cause odors, skin disorders and discomfort.


Your feet live in shoes 16 hours a day, two-thirds or your entire lifetime. They're closer to you than your spouse, your family and your best friend. If you're selective about the shoes you buy and wear, they'll give you comfort and healthy feet in return.


Preventing Foot Trouble
Practice good foot care. Check your feet regularly, or have a member of your family check them. Podiatrists and primary care doctors (internists and family practitioners) are qualified to treat most foot problems. Sometimes the special skills of an orthopedic surgeon or dermatologist are needed.

 
It also helps to keep blood circulating to your feet as much as possible. Do this by putting your feet up when you are sitting or lying down, stretching if you've had to sit for a long while, walking, having a gentle foot massage, or taking a warm footbath. Try to avoid pressure from shoes that don't fit right. Try not to expose your feet to cold temperatures. Don't sit for long periods of time (especially with your legs crossed). Don't smoke.


Wearing comfortable shoes that fit well can prevent many foot ailments. Here are some tips for getting a proper shoe fit:
 

- The size of your feet changes, as you grow older so always have your feet measured before buying shoes. The best time to measure your feet is at the end of the day when your feet are largest.
 

- Most of us have one foot that is larger than the other, so fit your shoe to your larger foot.


- Don't select shoes by the size marked inside the shoe but by how the shoe fits your foot.


- Select a shoe that is shaped like your foot.


- During the fitting process, make sure there is enough space (3/8" to 1/2") For your longest toe at the end of each shoe when you are standing up.


- Make sure the ball of your foot fits comfortably into the widest part of the shoe.


- Don't buy shoes that feel too tight and expect them to stretch to fit.


- Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with a minimum amount of slipping - the shoes should not ride up and down on your heel when you walk.


- Walk in the shoes to make sure they fit and feel right. Then take them home and spend some time walking on carpet to make sure the fit is a good one.

 
- The upper part of the shoes should be made of a soft, flexible material to match the shape of your foot. Shoes made of leather can reduce the possibility of skin irritations. Soles should provide solid footing and not be slippery. Thick soles cushion your feet when walking on hard surfaces.

 
- Low-heeled shoes are more comfortable, safer, and less damaging than high-heeled shoes.
 

Courtesy: Joelle Hatem