Foot Facts: Don’t ignore your feet…they won’t stand for it!
Dry, Cracked, Itchy, Aching, Tired Feet
How they get that way, and what to do about it when they do.
Most people, while showing a proper concern for the rest of their bodies, tend to ignore their feet—until they begin to hurt, itch, crack, peel, ache, bleed or emit unpleasant odors.
But it’s a fact that pain-free, well-cared for feet are necessary to the full enjoyment of an active lifestyle. When our feet go bad, particularly as we get older, we get less enjoyment out of all our activities. Nobody’s happy when their feet hurt. But if properly cared for, our feet will serve us well throughout our years—despite the stresses we place on them.
Consider these facts:
- The average person walks 100,000 miles during a lifetime.
- Most cars wear out over that distance, without proper care and maintenance.
- Feet affect the alignment of the entire skeletal system and can, when over-stressed, bring on backaches and a host of other problems.
- A 125 pound woman wearing high heels strikes the ground with an impact of over 900 pounds with each step.
- A 150 lb. jogger, running 3 miles, accumulates an impact of 150 tons on each foot.
- Injuries and fungal infections are most likely to occur with strenuous exercise.If you exercise, take care of your feet.
- Plastic shoes don’t “breathe” causing odor problems and fungal infections.
- Some 2 million bacteria live on each square centimeter of each foot’s sole—all nourished by perspiration. And everybody perspires.
Foot odor can be an embarrassing problem for the unfortunate person who suffers from it. (Anyone who has raised a teenaged boy knows how bad this problem can get!) Fortunately, it’s quite treatable.
In adults, there can be a number of causative factors: hormones gone astray, improperly tanned shoe leather, socks too long unwashed or infrequent bathing.
Tinea pedis, or Athletes’ Foot fungus, is a common offender (see section on Athletes’ Foot Fungus below). Hormonal imbalances need a doctor’s care, but most of the other causes may be treated by simple hygienic practices.
ATHLETES’ FOOT FUNGUS:
You Don’t Have To Be An Athlete To Get It
If your feet are “itching for attention”, you may have Tinea pedis—called Athletes’ Foot because it was once thought it could only be caught in locker room floors.
Now we know it can be caught from any floor when you’re barefoot.
athletes’ Foot can gain a foot-hold, so to speak, in almost any dark, warm, moist area of the body—and the spaces between toes provide a perfect habitat. It is a stubborn, persistent,
resistant infection, and unfortunately for the general public, most of the widely advertised remedies won’t clear it up.
Sprays and powders often don’t work well because they don’t penetrate down where the fungus lives and reproduces.
Cream remedies are considered most effective. But to really work, the product should contain an F.D.A. recognized anti-fungal agent. In addition, if the preparation contains Aloe Vera, the deep-penetrating
benefit of Aloe may help carry the anti-fungal agent to the source of the infection, thereby adding to its efficacy. Also, the preparation should be massaged into the skin (not sprayed on or powdered).
This massaging action opens tiny cracks and crevices in the skin, enabling the remedy to work deeply under the skin surface.
As with odor problems, particular attention should be paid to keeping feet clean and dry. If possible, clean white socks should be worn while treating the infection.
CALLUSES AND CORNS:
A Little Friction Can Be A Dangerous Thing.
First, it must be said that not all calluses are bad, but there are no good corns! For example, the light calluses that form on runner’s feet afford them some protection against friction.
A corn is produced by friction, but serves no useful purpose.
Calluses and corns are nature’s way of protecting an area traumatized by friction. The body reacts to this kind of stress by producing a layer of thicker, tougher skin. On the heel or sole, we call it a
On the toe, it’s a corn, formed over a bony protuberance. Corns can be dangerous, since they can, when well advanced, even penetrate the bone.
Calluses can sometimes signal a skeletal defect. Only a doctor or podiatrist can make this diagnosis, and treat it properly. Calluses on the heel can be especially painful, and may merit medical attention.
Callused heel skin tends to form tiny fissures that readily succumb to infection. Check them often. If they darken, or appear as a patch of hard yellow skin, or cause a burning sensation, seek medical
To Lance, Or Not To Lance, That Is The Question.
Advice about the treatment of blisters can be conflicting. “Always lance a blister”, or “never lance a blister.” The best current advice:
Only lance a blister when continued friction from your shoe is
going to break it open.
If not, or if you can change to shoes that don’t rub on the blister, cover it, and let nature take it course—your body will re-absorb it.
A blister, like any bodily wound, should be treated if you don’t want to risk infection. If you do open a blister, wash the area first with soap and water. Then open the blister with a sterilized needle, expressing the fluid out
Lanced or not, keep the friction from shoes from making the condition worse. If you even suspect an infection, see your doctor!
Thick, Ugly and “Hard As Nails.
Sometimes, because of infection, fungal growth or age, toenails can thicken and get hard. They chip when cut,
leaving jagged edges that snag on stockings and socks, making every step an irritation—like fingernails scraping on a blackboard.
One of the problems we face as we get older is the difficulty of bending over for the time it takes to trim toenails. When this is made even more difficult by problem nails, we may care for toenails less
often than we should.
Soaking in warm (not hot) water will help soften nails, as will using the proper tools (not scissors, and never razor blades). Cut nails straight across, even with the end of your toe.
Don’t probe ingrown nails with metal objects. Ingrown toenails are a medical problem, so see your podiatrist if they develop.
DRY, CRACKED, PEELING FEET:
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize.
There can be many reasons for having dry, cracked, peeling feet. Heredity can be a factor, as can climate, shoes, and lifestyle. Frequently it’s just a part of the aging process,
resulting from hormonal changes or neglect.
In rare cases, the condition may result from a fungal infection akin to Tinea pedis, and can require medical intervention. More often than not, the skin simply lacks moisture for whatever reason. In this case, it may be readily self-treated with a preparation rich in Aloe Vera, emollients and moisture-holding humectants.
Whatever the problem’s cause, foot-care must be maintained on a continuous basis to cure the problem and keep it from coming back.
While normally not serious, dry, cracked, peeling feet are unattractive, and in the older population, if left untreated, can lead from simple dryness on the epidermis to a dermal infection.
Take care of it now, to avoid future problems.
They’re Unattractive, Hurt,
And May Need Surgery.
As a last resort, when bunions are well advanced, surgery may be your only option. Only your podiatrist can make that decision.
Bunions appear to be hereditary and, while wearing tight shoes may bring them on prematurely, it won’t cause them. So wear shoes that are roomy enough not to cause friction, or see a podiatrist
about prescription shoes.
Warm water soaks may help, temporarily, but won’t cure the basic problem. It develops when a bony growth on the metatarsal bone enlarges the joint, pushing the big toe in
and tightening the tendon, pulling the toe ever further inward.
When Your Feet Feel Older Than The Rest Of You.
As we age, our feet become more susceptible to injury and infection. They’ve served us well over the years, supporting us faithfully. But your foot’s finely-tuned anatomy can begin to break down with the
passage of time—especially if you’ve ignored the warning signs.
Bad feet can make life miserable, spoiling special occasions, reducing activity and taking away some of the independence we prize in our later years. So take a few moments each day to check on and care for your feet. Correct problems before they become serious, and treat existing conditions carefully.
It might be helpful to make a list of things to do every day that will promote foot health. Avoid extremes of heat and cold, keep feet clean and dry and wear shoes and socks that fit properly. Make your list and follow it faithfully.
Finally, if you have a potentially serious problem, don’t ignore it. Visit your podiatrist or primary care physician. With your doctor’s help, you can maintain the healthy relationship that nature intended to exist between you and your feet.
SERIOUS FOOT PROBLEMS:
When To See
Some problems require more than self-treatment: They need medical attention—if only to prevent what could become an even more serious condition. At times, your feet can warn you of health problems about which you may be unaware, including arthritis, gout, heart or kidney disease.
Only a podiatrist can diagnose and determine the seriousness of the problem.
One of the most serious foot problems
involves diabetes. People with this condition should monitor the condition of their feet on a daily basis. With this disease, blood vessels can constrict, limiting circulation to the extremities.
In some instances, the diabetic loses some degree of feeling in the feet, not noticing when lesions occur unless frequent examination is practiced.