With sunny days and warmer temperatures tempting more of us outside for walking, running and hiking, there’s a good chance more than a few will also be nursing sore toes or feet.
And if the source of the problem is poorly fitting footwear or shoes inappropriate for the activity, there’s a good chance that pain will also affect your knees, hip, and back, says Red Deer podiatrist Dr. Darren Woodruff, from Central Alberta Podiatry.
“A lot of people take their feet for granted, until there’s a problem, but a little ‘preventive medicine’ can help ensure your feet enjoy summer activities as much as you do,” says Dr. Woodruff, who has been in practice in Red Deer for six years.
The Canadian Podiatric Medical Association notes that an average adult each day applies more than a million pounds of force to their feet – complex mechanisms comprising 26 bones, held in position by hundreds of ligaments, tendons and muscles. No wonder many Canadians will experience foot health problems at some time in their lives.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. “There are so many different things we can treat to help our patients live well,” Dr. Woodruff says.
This time of year, typical issues include foot strains, painful plantar fasciitis, and ingrown toenails. “More often than not, the issues stem from wearing the wrong shoes for the activity, or from shoes lacking the proper support,” Dr. Woodruff says.
When considering the right shoes:
- Take the toe and heel and try to bend them toward each other. The shoe should bend where your foot bends, Dr. Woodruff says.
- Try to spiral the shoe – moving the toe and heel in opposite directions. You want a little movement, but not too much.
- Pinch the back of the shoe – called the heel counter. You want it to be firm.
For many people, summer is also sandal season, and again, any kind of walking or standing requires sandals with good support, Dr. Woodruff recommends, suggesting brands such as Birkenstock, Vionic, Mephisto and Ecco for the arch support they provide.
Caring for your feet
Arguably the feet are the hardest working part of your body, and when they don’t work well, neither does the rest of you.
Dr. Woodruff recommends washing the feet daily, taking care to dry well between the toes. It’s also a good idea to moisturize the tops of your feet, soles and heels daily using a thicker lotion – thinner ones tend to have alcohol as a main ingredient, which can be drying. Avoid putting lotion around or between the toes.
For those with conditions such as diabetes or neuropathy, where feet can lose sensation, wearing shoes can help avoid sunburns, or burns from hot sand or pavement, Woodruff advises. And regular foot care with clinic manager and lead pedicurist Lisa Pladsbjerg will go a long way to ensuring overall wellness.