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Start Putting Your Best Foot Forward

They’ve been hibernating for months inside chunky winter boots, woolly socks and fluffy slippers (the least sexy of all accessories) so having been out of sight, they have largely been out of mind too.

Our poor feet get such a hard time! Not only do they have to support our entire weight when we walk (and suffer even higher stress if they belong to those crazy people who choose to run!) but we squeeze them into pointy-toed shoes, bend them out of shape in vertiginous stilettos and floss them unnaturally with flip flops. Isn’t it time we showed them some love and gratitude?

Giving your “plates of meat” some attention is not only a great way of nurturing yourself (who doesn’t love a foot massage?) it might even reveal some useful insights into other aspects of our health. For example, if the arch on the inner aspect is low or absent, there may be excessive pronation (inward rolling) resulting in ligament strain and chronic knee pain, which can in turn lead to hip and back problems. If you are suffering from pain in any of these joints, it would be worth consulting a podiatrist to see if your feet are at the root of this. If so, a simple solution such as an orthotic worn inside your normal shoes may relieve some quite debilitating symptoms.

Plantar fasciitis is a common condition in which there is quite severe pain in the heel and arch, often worse first thing in the morning. The website recommends ice packs, simple painkillers, avoiding long periods of standing, wearing cushioned heels and arch support and avoiding high heels or walking barefoot. Even despite these measures, symptoms can be quite persistent and debilitating. In fact, my sister recently gifted me her entire stiletto collection as a result of her ongoing suffering (so it’s not all bad news!).

Toenails are thicker and grow at a slower rate than fingernails but if yours are especially chunky and dark, you may have a fungal infection; common but not usually painful. However, more unusual underlying causes for misshapen or discoloured toenails include anaemia, psoriasis and melanoma (a form of skin cancer). So if you’re concerned about a wonky or weird looking toenail, best to get it checked out.

A bunion (Hallux valgus) forms when the first metatarsophalangeal joint at the base of the big toe protrudes inwards, causing discomfort from friction against footwear and, in some cases, overlapping of the first and second toe. They can be hereditary, occur as a result of generalised joint disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis) or happen spontaneously for no apparent reason. Conservative measures, such as wide fitting footwear, can be helpful to improve comfort. Surgery to improve the deformity can be undertaken if symptoms persist.

Icy cold feet can be a sign of poor peripheral circulation resulting from autoimmune disorders or cardiovascular disease, common in diabetics, smokers and those with risk factors including poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and inherited disorders of cholesterol metabolism. Diabetics also run the risk of peripheral neuropathy where nerve damage resulting from chronically raised blood sugar can result in a painful burning sensation in the soles of the feet, poor healing and ulceration following minor trauma. In advanced cases , this can result in gangrene and the need for amputation. For this reason diabetics should receive regular foot care to keep nail growth in check and detect signs of circulatory complications at an early stage.

With all that in mind, it’s worth paying closer attention to our feet and give them the care they deserve. Now that winter is finally over and our thoughts turn to warmer days and holiday destinations, what better time to get your feet checked over by a professional? Not only will this get them sandal ready, but you might be surprised by what you find out.


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