Generally, our feet aren’t the most glamorous parts of our bodies. They’re definitely useful, and they take years of abuse, stress and neglect – all in stride, so to speak. They help us in everything from standing and walking to driving cars and playing sports, but it’s fair to say that our feet don’t get the attention they deserve given the hugely important jobs they do each day. Each foot is a complex structure of 26 bones; 33 joints; more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments; and a complete network of blood vessels, nerves, skin and other soft tissues. Experts estimate that, by age 50, most Americans have logged around 75,000 miles on their feet. So, perhaps it’s time to give our feet more respect. They may not be our prettiest parts, but just as we spend time caring for everything else, we also should take time to care for our feet.
Podiatrist Dr. David Franklin from East Tennessee Medical Group says, in general, we take our feet for granted. “We tend to only really pay attention to them when there is a problem or when they’re painful,” Franklin said. “The reality is that the foot’s ability to do its job decreases as we age. Our ability to heal injuries to the foot and ankle also fade with time, and skin and nail problems are more prevalent as we get older. For these reasons, it’s crucial to practice some basic foot care each day. This involves washing well between your toes, using moisturizer, keeping your toenails trimmed properly and never ignoring anything you find that might seem unusual. Our feet are our main mode of getting from place to place. Poorly functioning feet can lead to poor overall health,” he explained. “More specifically, a foot problem could be a sign of a larger issue. For instance, numbness in your feet can be a sign of peripheral arterial disease or a systemic disease, such as diabetes,” he added.
Franklin says one of the most fundamental things you can do to care for your feet is to wear the right shoes. “As a general rule, you always should wear shoes that are appropriately fitted and are specific to whatever activity you are doing each day,” he said. “For instance, if you’re going to be walking around Dollywood all day, flip flops are probably not the best option. I see a lot of pathology directly related to poor choices in shoe gear, particularly in the warmer months of the year. If you want to choose a better shoe for your foot, consider visiting a specialty shoe store where you actually can have your foot measured. These stores tend to have better overall customer service, and you end up with a more properly fitted shoe,” he explained.
“A podiatrist can help you treat most any foot or ankle pathology,” Franklin said. “However, podiatrists also can provide education based on your particular foot structure and function that can aid in preventing any problems you might be prone to,” he said.