Take care of your number one mode of transportation: your feet

The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) says your feet account for one-fourth of all the bones in your body. In fact your two feet contain over 50 bones, 60 joints and 200 ligaments, muscles and tendons.

From your first year of life, your feet enable you to stand, walk, dance, run, and jump. They will support you while standing for long periods of time. They will carry you long distances. And for all this responsibility, foot care is often the furthest thing from your mind.

In a 2010 survey comprised of 1,000 adults only half considered foot care important for overall health. Yet foot pain was cited as the most common ailment, linked to weight issues, back pain, knee pain, and arthritis. More than 70 percent said foot pain impacted their lifestyle.

Ingrown toenails, bunions or infections could be contributing to your foot pain.

“Don’t ignore foot problems,” Tewksbury public health nurse Sarah Kinghorn cautioned during a recent talk about foot health. “It’s important to check your feet daily to look for any changes and prevent infection.”

Kinghorn earned her certification as a foot care nurse during “Stand Down for Homeless Vets” where more than 200 homeless veterans were given new socks, shoes, shoe inserts and had their feet assessed and cleaned.

“How often do you look at your feet?” asked Kinghorn. “If you can’t see your feet – if you have trouble stretching or bending – put a mirror on the ground.”

Foot care is crucial for those with diabetes, which affects more than 29 million people in the United States, according to the APMA. Roughly 60 percent of diabetics have neuropathy - nerve damage which causes loss of feeling in the feet. Kinghorn gave an example of a patient with neuropathy stepping on a bottle cap which became embedded in the foot and then infected.

Instances like these can lead to open sores, also known as diabetic foot ulcers. Between 14 – 24 percent of these patients eventually require amputation. Using a mirror to check your feet will allow you to see open sores or other injuries. If you are unable to use a mirror have a friend or relative help you, said Kinghorn.

In addition to visible wounds or injuries, if you have foot or ankle pain, back or knee pain, or think you’ve broken a bone in your foot, then make an appointment with a podiatrist.

“A podiatrist is a highly trained physician and surgeon among medical professionals who treat the complex structure of the foot and ankle,” said Dr. Filza Khan, DPM, of the Foot and Ankle Center of Massachusetts, PC in Wilmington, Massachusetts.

According to the APMA, most people do not understand the function of a podiatrist, and instead live in pain until the condition is unbearable and their quality of life has been affected.

“Most people are depressed when their feet hurt, which can also lead to a sedentary life style and obesity,” said Khan. “Early detection can lead to early intervention, and most foot and ankle problems can be decreased or even prevented,”

Khan treats foot pain related to sports injuries, fractures, flat foot, high-arched foot, heel pain and ingrown toenails. Her surgical training in foot and ankle reconstruction at Cambridge Hospital, a Harvard affiliated program, is recognized as one of the top podiatric programs in the country.

Khan and Kinghorn offered the following tips for everyday foot care:

•Wash your feet daily. Dry thoroughly between the toes to prevent athlete’s foot or fungal infection.

•Apply lotion to the tops and bottom of feet but not in between toes.

•Trim toenails by following the natural arch of the nail.

•Wear clean, dry socks without holes. Change socks daily. Damp, sweaty feet can cause bacterial infections. Use foot power to help keep feet dry.

•Always wear shoes in public places to avoid plantar warts, athlete's foot, ringworm, and other infections.

•Protect feet from extreme hot and cold to prevent frostbite or burns, especially if you have neuropathy.

•Don’t sit for long periods of time. Wiggle your toes and flex your feet several times a day. Walking is the best exercise for your feet.

•Go shoe shopping in the late afternoon. New shoes should fit comfortably otherwise they could cause hammertoe, bunions, corns or calluses.

•Stop smoking.

•Check your feet every day.

•Ask your doctor to check your feet at every visit. Make sure your weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar are monitored.

By age 50, APMA says you can log as many as 75,000 miles on your feet. “So, paying attention to your feet is important,” said Khan. “They need to last a lifetime.”

For more information visit: The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) www.apma.org

(1) comment

CameronRobertson

I totally second this sentiment regarding our feet. At a young age, I previously had frequent joint problems that led to difficulty in prolonged walking and standing. My job at the self storage requires just that so I had to change my daily habits to lead a much healthier lifestyle. Leg exercises accompanied with joint supplements did the trick for me.

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