By Ellen Strum
Treat your feet right, and they’ll keep you
After a day on your feet, your feet likely hate you—and you hate them, too.
"If your feet aren't healthy, it affects how you function and live your
life," says Dr. Helena Reid, D.P.M., of Moline, Ill., a spokeswoman for the
American Podiatric Medical Association. Plus, she adds, foot pain can cause you
to walk abnormally, throwing off your alignment and putting unnatural pressure
on your knees, hips, and lower back.
According to the tenets of reflexology, there are areas in the feet that
correspond to glands, organs, parts, and systems of the body. Your toes
represent your cranial cavity, the ball of the foot is linked to the shoulders
and chest, the arch to the abdominal cavity, and the heel to the pelvic area.
Laura Aho, president of the Reflexology Association of America, says,
"Stress is placed not only on the specific areas of the foot that show
signs of imbalance, but on the corresponding organs and tissues."
But there is no reason you can't be standing pretty if you take proper care
of your feet.
Prepare and Stretch
First, warm up. Dr. Reid suggests sitting on a chair and drawing the
alphabet with your feet, or holding onto a counter and lifting up on the toes
of each foot separately. Dr. Paul R. Kasdan, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., medical
director of OurFootDoctor.com, recommends this lunge-type exercise: Lean
against a wall, with your feet about three feet from the wall and your back
straight. Move one foot forward about 1 1/2 feet. Bend the leg of the foot
closest to the wall until you feel a stretch of the Achilles tendon in the back
leg; keep the other leg straight and hold for 15 seconds. Switch feet and
Dr. Kasdan says worn-down heels can cause blisters and open sores, plantar
fasciitis and heel spur pain, tendonitis, and stress fractures. Old or torn
shoe linings can cause sweat- and germ-related foot odor, athlete's foot,
blisters, and toenail fungus. For maximum support, choose shoes with a good
arch, a roomy toe box, a closed back that supports the heel, a leather or cloth
top that breathes, and a rubber sole for shock absorption and protection. Also
look for a lace-up style that can be adjusted when feet swell. Socks should be
loose. A lycra-and-cotton blend will keep feet cool and whisk sweat away.
"Make sure the socks have no holes or thin areas, and are seamless to
prevent blisters and sores," says Dr. Kasdan.
Problems and Treatments
After exercise, remove and dry out the inner soles of your shoes. Wash feet
well and clear dirt from under toenails to help prevent fungus infections. Then
massage. Maureen Moon, a Boulder, Colo., massage therapist and a spokeswoman
for the American Massage Therapy Association, recommends using a lotion or
cream. With your palms, stroke from toe to ankle on the tops and bottoms of
feet to improve circulation. Also rub horizontally across feet to warm with
friction. Using knuckles, thumb, or palm, rub from heel to toe in a circular
motion. Spend more time on tender areas (the inner arch near the heel is a
likely spot). Place fingers around all your toes and move in a circle. Then
massage each toe and the webs between with your thumb and index finger, also in
a circular motion. Examine feet for any problems; treat immediately, or see a