How to look after your feet

We stand on them, thrust them into ill-fitting shoes, expect them to carry us all day and don’t think about our feet until things go wrong.

It doesn’t take much to take care of your feet and they can feel, look and perform so much better if only we didn’t take them for granted.

The first thing to consider is our footwear, particularly for women.

Podiatrist, Andrew Walsh from Rectory Road Podiatry (HCPC registered) says the regular wearing of high-heeled shoes will lead to difficulties with your feet. High-heels for the occasional night out or short periods will not cause much harm, however, it is the constant wearing that may result in problems.

Achilles problems

The Achilles is the large tendon at the back of the ankle which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone.  The constant wear of high-heels can result in the shortening of the Achilles tendon and Achilles tendonitis, which is the inflammation of the tendon, can occur if you suddenly change to flat shoes from high heels.  This may even result in a rupture of the tendon and surgery may be required.

Andrew says this condition may be avoided by reducing your heel height little by little until it is approximately half an inch.  Flats (slip-on shoes, like court shoes) are not suitable as in order for them to stay on your feet they have to be quite tight and do not provide any support for the foot.

What should we wear?

Ideally, we should all be wearing a soft leather, lace-up shoe with a cushioned insole and rounded front.  Shoes such as good trainers are ideal.

Andrew states that if you look at how your whole body works, your leg and foot are not interdependent.  Your foot movement is controlled by your calf muscle so if it is tight then your foot will not move the way it should.

A few tips

  • To keep the range of movement and your foot supple it may help to stretch your calf muscle as this will lengthen your Achilles tendon
  • Another exercise is to lean against a wall with one foot slightly forward and the other leg stretched out behind you.  Ease your heel down gently and feel the stretch.  Then change over legs.  It’s good to do this several times.

Taking care of your feet

  • It is important to cut toenails straight across or follow the toe shape. Try not to cut down the sides as this could leave a sharp and jagged nail which could cause an infection by growing into the skin.
  • Wearing flip-flops or sandals can result in cracked skin around the heel.  Andrew says that regularly applying a urea-based cream or one with urea and lactic acid can help.

When to see a specialist

There are some problems that you will need expert help with and so should visit a podiatrist or chiropodist.  One of these is foot pronation.  This is when the foot rolls too far inwards when we walk (flat-footed). Excessive pronation can cause shin-splints.

Andrew says that orthotics are the main treatment for problems with excess pronation.  There are various types of orthotics, some provide extra cushioning and relieve pressure, helping to prevent hard skin and corns.  Others are more rigid and are designed to reduce pain by helping the muscles connected to your foot to work. You should speak with a podiatrist about the type that is right for you.

Feet and diabetes

Good foot care is essential if you are suffering from diabetes.  Pay Kalsi, Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK says that people with diabetes who fail to control their glucose levels may result in excess glucose which accumulates in their smaller blood vessels and nerve endings in the feet.  This may not be noticeable as damaged nerves mean you may not feel heat, cold or pain. This can then result in foot ulcers which can become infected and may ultimately lead to amputation.

Pay Kalsi says they encourage people to check their feet every day. If there is any loss of feeling or if you have any other concerns then you must make an appointment to see your GP. If you do have diabetes then an annual foot check is essential.

Our musculoskeletal centre is worth visiting if you would like to know more about foot care or if your query is more specific then you can find expert advice here.

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