April is National Foot Health Awareness Month and a good time to check on the condition of your feet.
By Dr. Jodie Sengstock
Your feet are the foundation of your body, and it is important to keep them healthy. Too often foot issues are left unattended for long periods of time, causing the development of other problems throughout your body. Healthy feet lead to a better quality of life. We also know that early discovery of problems in your feet may help detect the onset of other life-threatening diseases, including diabetes and heart disease.
Not all changes to our feet are due to a health issue. As we age, normal changes to the feet include:
- The foot becomes wider and longer.
- The fat pad on the bottom of the heel thins out, causing loss of natural padding and spring in the step.
- The foot and ankle lose some of their normal range of motion and become stiffer.
- There can be some loss of balance while walking.
Yet many foot issues can be prevented by addressing ill-fitting shoes, adding supportive orthotics or other modifications. Simple daily behaviors can also keep your feet in their best shape. Here are 10 easy ways to keep your feet healthy:
- Inspect your feet daily — Look for any changes in the general appearance of the foot, such as the color and the texture, unusual swelling and changes in the toenails.
- Practice good foot hygiene —Wash your feet well, and dry them thoroughly afterward to help prevent issues with bacteria and fungi.
- Moisturize your feet — It is important to hydrate the skin in your feet to replenish all the lost moisture. Otherwise fissures can develop.
- Wear appropriate footwear — Make sure to purchase the right size footwear to avoid bruising or tearing the skin surrounding the pressure points of the feet. Also, buy appropriate shoes for your activities.
- Trim your toenails — Do not create deep curves at the edges. Cutting nails straight across helps to avoid ingrown nails. Make sure to trim to just above the skin. Nails should not extend over the tip of the toe.
- Change shoes often — It is important to avoid wearing the same shoes every day. Your feet have a lot of sweat glands, and your shoes absorb the moisture released from these glands. Make it a point to dry your shoes after each and every use.
- Exercise regularly — Exercising is good for your feet. However, make sure you wear the appropriate shoe for the activity. 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.
- Do not walk barefoot — Even when at home, always wear the appropriate footwear. There are a lot of harmful microorganisms that can easily enter the bloodstream through the feet.
- Apply sunscreen — Applying sunscreen with a considerable amount of SPF will help prevent painful sunburns and blisters.
- See a podiatrist regularly — If you notice or feel anything unusual in your feet, do not hesitate to see your podiatrist immediately.
A yearly exam with a podiatrist is vital to tracking changes, checking for proper sensation and circulation, and calling attention to abnormalities. Early detection and treatment of problems help keep you on your feet and active. Find a podiatrist in your area by visiting mpma.org.
Jodie Sengstock has been a practicing podiatrist for more than 20 years and currently practices with Dr. John Evans in Allen Park. She attended Wayne State University and received her Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. Dr. Sengstock is also a past president and the director of professional relations for the Michigan Podiatric Medical Association. She specializes in general podiatry, wound care, diabetic care, injuries and geriatric care.