Whilst keeping fit works wonders for your overall health, being active can take its toll on your feet – increasing the risk of problems like blisters, sprains, tendon pain and fungal infections such as athletes foot.
But it is possible to keep active feet happy and healthy with just a few simple steps (pardon the pun). Here, podiatrist Emma Supple gives her advice onto staying injury-free and pedi-ready, no matter what your gym schedule looks like.
Choose shoes wisely
Choose the right footwear It is important to wear the appropriate shoes for each type of sport you participate in, otherwise you risk pain and discomfort as well as friction-induced surface wounds. Emma says:
“Don’t just wear generic trainers for all sports, it’s best to invest in tennis shoes for tennis, running shoes for running and tango shoes for tango.”
Don’t go skimping on the socks either, as exercising bare-foot creates the perfect environment in which fungus can thrive.
“Fungus love a hot moist environment and so be aware of this as a risk factor. Ways to manage this include spraying shoes with a shoe fresher spray but my advice would be wear socks and change them daily. Freshly laundered socks – in a pair – are a pleasure!”
Give your toes some TLC
Around 24% of runners say they suffer from dry skin on their feet – which can often crack and become painful. So, ensuring you give your hard-working feet the attention they deserve is a must.
“I always recommend a foot care regime of washing and scrubbing feet daily. It helps a great deal in the prevention of dry and cracked heels and feet, painful skin blisters and in softening areas of hard skin that can be areas of soreness. Applying a urea based foot treatment such as Flexitol Heel Balm, which is medically proven to hydrate dry, cracked heels and feet helps contribute to healthier, supple skin and provides visible results in just 1 day.”
Keep ’em strong
While we don’t think twice about dedicating whole gym sessions to our arms or legs, most people don’t bother with exercises that are foot-specific. However, Emma says, strong feet are key to sporting success.
“The foot is a marvel and strong feet – whatever the shape you have inherited – helps enormously for sport. In my clinical work I spend a lot of time encouraging foot strengthening exercises and in doing so, we really see improvements in painful foot conditions. There are only a few muscles actually in the foot and they need to be kept strengthened. The arch of the foot – the inner medial arch – contains four layers of muscle and keeping these strong is key.”
For an arch strengthening exercise, simply clench your arch super tight, hold for 20 seconds and repeat. Aim for at least twenty per foot, per day for super-strong dancers’ feet!
When to stop
If your feet hurt during exercise, it’s important to act on this rather than simply ignoring the problem, as ‘powering through’ any pain could just end up making things worse.
“‘The Gift of Pain’ is the phrase we use clinically to describe the importance of being aware of early niggles and taking measures to stop it. It is best to rest for a day or more and do something differently.”
“For instant relief of sore feet, put them in some ice-cold water for no more than 15 minutes. This is great for taking the heat out of feet and therefore combating any injuries and inflammatory processes that go on to cause and underpin chronic injuries.”
If you have completed an endurance sport such as a marathon or mountain hike, your feet are probably hurting and in need of some attention, so make sure you have a game plan in place.
“Deal with the blisters first and make sure you do not take the top layer of skin off of them as that will make them even more painful. It is best to pop them in controlled conditions using a sterilised needle. Simply pierce the blister to expel the fluid and tape down the blister afterwards so it can selfheal. Rest your feet for a few days – walking gently is the best way to recover and Epsom salt baths are said to be very helpful too. Any blackened toenails and the likes will develop over a few days, so see your podiatrist if you have concerns.”
Another top tip for racers: always pack a pair of flip-flops for the finish line, so you can swap your sweaty trainers for fresh air and post-race comfort.
Source: Net Doctor | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide