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Treat your feet better

Posted Jan 25 2013 2:28pm

Treat Your Feet Better


Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The average person walks the equivalent of three times around the Earth in a
lifetime. That is enormous wear and tear on the 26 bones, 33 joints and more
than 100 tendons.
In a recent survey for the American Podiatric Medical Association, 53 percent
of respondents reported foot pain so severe that it hampered their daily
function. On average, people develop pain in their 60s, but it can start as
early as the 20s and 30s. Yet, except for women who get regular pedicures, most
people don’t take much care of their feet.

The most common foot conditions that occur with age are arthritic joints,
thinning of the fat pads cushioning the soles, plantar fasciitis (inflammation
of the fibrous tissue along the sole), bunions
(enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe), poor circulation and
fungal nails. The following questions will help you assess whether you should
take more preventive action as you age.

Are you overweight? The force on your feet is about 120
percent of your weight. “Obesity
puts a great amount of stress on all the supporting structures of the foot,”
said It can lead to plantar fasciitis and heel pain.
and can worsen hammertoes and bunions. It’s also a risk factor for
diabetes, leading to the next question.
Are you diabetic? Being farthest from the heart, the feet
can be the first part of the body to manifest complications like poor
circulation and loss of feeling, both of which can lead to poor wound healing
and amputation. Diabetics should have their feet examined annually by a doctor
and avoid shoes that cause abrasions and pressure.
Do you have poor circulation? If you suffer from peripheral
artery disease — a narrowing of veins in the legs — your feet are more
susceptible to problems, said Dr. Ross E. Taubman, president of the American
Podiatric Medical Association. Smoking
also contributes to poor circulation.
Do your parents complain about their feet? Family history is
probably your biggest clue to potential problems.
Do you have flat
feet or high arches? Either puts feet at risk. A flat foot is
squishy, causing muscles and tendons to stretch and weaken, leading to tendinitis
and arthritis.

Shoes or
orthotics that support the arch and heel can help flat feet. People with high
arches should look for roomy shoes and softer padding to absorb the shock.
Isometric exercises also strengthen muscles supporting the foot.
Are you double-jointed? If you can bend back your thumb to
touch your lower arm, the ligaments in your feet are probably stretchy, too, Dr.
Gastwirth said. That makes the muscles supporting the foot work harder and can
lead to injuries. Wear supportive shoes.
Do your shoes fit? In the podiatric association’s survey,
more than 34 percent of men said they could not remember the last time their
feet were measured. Twenty percent of women said that once a week they wore
shoes that hurt, and 8 percent wore painful shoes daily. Feet flatten and
lengthen with age, so if you are clinging to the shoe size you wore at age 21,
get your feet measured (especially mothers — pregnancy
expands feet).
Do you wear high heels? “The high heel concentrates the
force on the heel and the forefoot,” Dr. Gastwirth said. Heels contribute to
hammertoes, neuromas (pinched nerves near the ball of the foot), bunions and
“pump bump” (a painful bump on the back of the heel), as well as toenail
problems. Most of the time, wear heels that are less than two and a half inches
high.
Do your feet ever see the light of day? Fungus thrives in a
warm, moist environment. Choose moisture-wicking socks (not cotton), use
antifungal powders and air out your toes at home.
Have you seen a podiatrist? Minor adjustments, using
drugstore foot pads or prescription orthotics, can relieve the pressure on
sensitive areas, rebalance the foot and slow the progress of a condition.
Do you walk? Putting more mileage on your feet is the best
way to exercise the muscles and keep them healthy.

 

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