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Solid Footing


WebMD Feature from "Country Living" Magazine

By Ellen Strum

Country Living Magazine

Treat your feet right, and they’ll keep you “outstanding.”

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 repeat.

Proper Gear

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 podiatrist.

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