Many of us are on our feet throughout the day – walking the dog, cleaning the house, even standing for eight hours or more on the job. You only have two, so make your feet feel their best. Start with these tips from the professionals:
1. Choose your shoes wisely: While some footwear is designed for comfort and stability, let’s face it – a good deal of footwear is purely for show. Therefore, be smart with whatever type of shoe you choose. Flip-flops, for example, are a summertime favorite, but the experts at the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) have a few recommendations. Try not to wear flip-flops while walking long distances, since they lack substantial shock absorption and arch support. For women, the APMA discourages excessive use of high heels, since they can lead to a number of foot and ankle injuries. If you start feeling pain in the ball of your foot, those stilettos may be too high; try switching to heels less than two inches in height.
Athletes also need to make sure their shoes fit well. Basketball players should have sneakers with high ankle construction that supports frequent changes in direction while tennis players’ shoes need lower side-to-side support to help with specific lateral movements.
2. Stop a sprained ankle in its tracks:
The American Academy of Family Practice estimates that one million people in the U.S. seek medical attention for an acute ankle injury every year.The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine(AAPSM)notes that ankle sprains are the most common of all athletic injuries. Violent twisting of the ankle can happen in all different scenarios, from football games to falling off a sidewalk curb. The AAPSM recommends rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) after the initial injury, followed by four to 12 weeks of gentle rehabilitation and strength building exercises. Most important, keep your feet away from any potential major stress such as athletics, if you want a full, quick recovery.
3. Massage, stretch and repeat: Whether you already have foot problems or not, regular stretching and massaging will greatly improve each foot’s ability to function properly and strongly. At the end of a long day, sit on your living room floor and place a small towel around the ball of your foot. Gently pull back until you feel the muscles start to stretch; make this an every day habit and you’ll probably be able to say goodbye to heel pain according to the APMA. Don’t want to pay big bucks for a professional massage? Give yourself the five-star treatment by putting a golf ball under your foot and rolling it back and forth while applying mild pressure. It’ll feel good immediately and in the long run.
A good first step toward better foot health might involve a fieldtrip to your closet; throw out any old shoes that have lost their structure and cushioning, and eventually replace them with those that offer plenty of shock absorption and arch support. If you have a history of foot pain or problems, consider buying footwear marked with the APMA Seal of Acceptance or similar certification since they are scientifically designed for comfort and protection.
For more information, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association at www.apma.org, and the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine at www.aapsm.org.