Treat your feet right

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You know it’s been a long winter when you go to put your best foot forward … and you don’t have one. A winter cooped up inside shoes makes for feet full of corns, calluses, aches, plantar fasciitis so you may need best shoes for plantar fasciitis. But if you put yourself on our foot-fitness program now, you can be sandal-ready this summer. If Cinderella’s stepsisters had heard about this program, one of them might have lived quite happily ever after in glass slippers, too.

IF THE SHOE DOESN’T FIT…

Those glass slippers bring us to our first point. Corns and calluses are made, not born. Both are caused by continual rubbing, which creates the hard, dry skin that builds up and causes trouble. The prime cause is wearing shoes just because they look great, even when they don’t fit right.

“It’s not just tight, pinching shoes that cause problems,” says New York podiatrist Terry L. Spilken, D.P.M., who works with, among others the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. “Loose shoes can be just as bad for your feet, which slide around in them, creating the friction that ultimately leads to calluses and corns.”

The only difference between corns and calluses is shape: A corn is conical and compresses into the skin. Its shape concentrates the pressure on the area, making it more painful than a callus, which is flat.

“Realistically, I don’t expect every one to convert to properly fitting shoes. But at least I can make you aware of why you’re having the problem says Dr. Spilken. Shoes that fit right should support your foot without reshaping it. “You should have about one finger’s width between the shoes tip and your longest toe for some people this is their second toe),” says Dr. Spilken. The widest part of the shoe should correspond to the widest part of your foot.

A shoe store can only go so far in giving you sandal-pretty feet. When corns and calluses cause pain, go to a podiatrist. The doctor will examine you to determine what’s contributing to your foot problem. A corn on the top of a toe can hurt so much that you compensate by changing the way you walk. This, in turn, can create a whole new problem by putting too much pressure on your knee or hip. “You don’t want somebody to treat just a symptom,” says Dr. Spilken.

SLOUGH OFF PROBLEMS

For some people, calluses and corns have a biomechanical origin. They’re caused by the way a person walks naturally. For these people, that can be corrected with an orthotic (a shoe insert), says Dr. Spilken.

Regardless of whether a corn or callus is caused by bad shoes or a biomechanical defect, the number-one treatment when there’s pain is to cut away the problem area with a scalpel. Do not try to do this at home with your razor or scissors. You can cause extreme damage and infection. When done by a podiatrist, this is a safe and virtually painless procedure.

If your problem is only mild calluses that don’t hurt, or if you’re mainly interested in preventive maintenance, you can begin your foot fitness program at home or at a pedicurist’s. At home, don’t use anything harsher than a pumice stone to slough off dead, dry skin. “Spend five minutes soaking your feet to soften them before using a pumice stone to gently scour away dead skin,” says Dr. Spilken.

When you’re out of your bath or shower, or just before bed, massage a moisturizing cream into your feet. Begin doing this daily. After a few weeks, you may be able to reduce this to once a week and still be callus-free.

WAKE UP TIRED FEET

Imagine how sore your arms would be if you had to keep them in one position for a whole day… and they had to tote your whole body weight, as well. Sound tiring? It is for your feet. That’s why Dr. Spilken says that exercise and movement of the feet is vital. “By keeping the joints limber and with a good range of motion you can minimize the chances of having pain.

These two exercises can help you become footloose, if not fancy-free. (1) Sit with your toes on the ground and your heels off. Press into the floor and release. Repeat five times. (2) Take a minute or two a day and make circles in the air with your foot while sitting.

Another good pick-me-up for your feet is a soak in hot water at the end of the day. “The heat is terrific for getting the blood go and for relaxing the muscles,” explains Dr. Spilken. Then moisturize. Put some moisturizer in the palm of one hand and rest one foot on the opposite knee. With the heel of your hand, knead your foot, in a circular motion, from one end to the other. Knead the arch with your thumbs. Move along the soles and sides of your foot. Flex each toe back and gently rotate it. Tug it gently. Switch feet and repeat.

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