Foot health tips for everyone from a professional podiatrist.
When people think of their overall health, their feet are seldom uppermost in their minds. But when things go wrong, they are forcibly reminded of just how important their feet are to their overall well being. If someone has checked all the healthy lifestyle boxes and still haven’t considered their feet, it’s time to take action. People should consider visiting a podiatrist for a check-up, and use these common-sense tips from Sydney podiatrist Mark Lin to keep their feet healthy and happy.
Protect your feet from fungal infections. Fungi that feed on skin and nails can be really hard to get rid of once you have them. Prevention, says Lin, is better than cure. That means keeping your feet clean and drying them well after bathing, swimming, or showering. The warm, dark spaces between your toes are favourites for fungi – especially if they’re moist.
But, no matter how well toes are dried, the wrong socks can encourage sweating. “Some of the artificial fibres being used in socks these days are designed to keep toes and feet dry. The makers will usually indicate this on the packaging since it’s an important selling point,” says Lin.
“Choice of footwear can also help to keep a person’s feet dry. Avoid wearing “sweaty” shoes. Leather is usually a good option, and open shoes or shoes made of mesh fabrics are the most breathable of all.”
Fungal spores are often left behind by people who are already infected, so Lin recommends wearing flip-flops when using public showers and change rooms. By the same token, people shouldn’t wear other people’s shoes or buy second-hand ones.
If toenails are discoloured, inclined to crumble, or have thickened areas, they may have a nail fungus. Nail polish conceals the problem, but it will aggravate it. “You need to treat the fungal infection, not hide it,” he warns.
Choose the right shoes. While people may take their chances with footwear on special occasions, they shouldn’t make a habit of it. “Unfortunately, a lot of high-fashion shoe designs are not conducive to healthy feet,” explains Lin. “Many of my patients are people who were in the habit of wearing shoes that constricted their feet. Unfortunately, that has left them with foot problems that will take a long time, or even surgery, to correct.”
The bottom line is that if a person’s feet or legs hurt while they are wearing shoes or after you removed them, that’s a sure sign that you need to rethink their footwear choices. “It is surprising the difference it makes,” says Lin. “They’ll suffer less from pain and general fatigue and they might notice this as being in a better mood and feeling more energetic. At the same time, they’ll be heading off problems like bunions, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails.”
Feet should be inspected daily. If a person is paying special attention to drying their feet, a daily inspection doesn’t require any special effort. Look for anything that doesn’t seem normal: lumps and bumps, scaly patches of skin, inflammation or sores, and nails that look yukky even though they are clean. Diabetics must take special care, since foot ulcers can present a serious problem.
“If a person spots anything odd about their feet, they shouldn’t hesitate to find out about treatment. The idea of daily checks is to pick up problems while they are still minor – they’ll be a lot more difficult to take care of if someone let’s them get bad before seeking help,” he explains. “People are not going to seek treatment for every little problem, but if it persists, they may need prescription medicines or intervention from a podiatrist.”
Better than waiting for pain: podiatrist check-ups should be part of a healthcare routine.
While pain makes itself felt in no uncertain terms, and though lumps and bumps are easy to spot, subtler symptoms might be the warning that a person needs help.
“Pain is not an accurate indication of the actual underlying problems in the feet. Pain often happens as a result of long-term compensation for functional or movement issues in the body,” warns Lin. “It is important to address any minor symptom before it causes more damage. It’s like maintaining your car, it should be serviced regularly to keep it in good working order and optimise its performance before any problems arise.”
“Many of our clients aren’t experiencing pain when they come to us. It’s because they feel something is just ‘not right’ or they simply come in for a check-up in the same way that people visit a dentist to make sure their teeth are OK. In many instances, we are able to detect the areas of the lower limb that are affecting movement or performance, or areas that could cause bigger problems in the future. We are able to address those if we can detect the problems early to avoid permanent damage. Since damage may be irreversible by the time pain comes to us, it’s better to be proactive about foot health management.”
For further information, visit the The Footwork Clinic – Leading Sports, Podiatry, Foot And Lower Limb Corrective Services to book online, or call Mark Lin or his friendly team on +61 2 9131 6891.
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The information contained in this guide is provided in good faith and is not intended to be nor is it to be used as a substitute for any sort of professional, medical or podiatric advice. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a podiatrist. Any users should always seek the advice of their podiatrist, or other qualified healthcare providers before commencing any treatment.
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