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15 Harmful Things You’re Doing to Your Feet
February 6th, 2011
When it comes to your health, you're hopefully already committed to eating right, getting regular check-ups, and exercising. But staying healthy means paying attention to all parts of your body, inside and outside. Taking care of your feet, for instance, can prevent all sorts of problems and conditions which could land you in hospital. Back pain, circulation problems, infections and other injuries are common side effects from poor foot health. To prevent such issues, take a look at this list of 15 harmful things you might be doing to your poor, tired, old feet.
- Wearing shoes: Certain shoes are worse than others — you'll find that out as you keep reading this list — but all shoes hurt our feet. A study conducted by the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa found that societies who didn't wear shoes had the healthiest feet, making them believe that humans had better feet before they began wearing shoes. Why? Shoes alter our natural walking pattern and inhibit our natural gait, a system that took 4 million years to perfect.
- Careless pedicures: Many women enjoy decades of weekly pedicures without consequence, but there's still a risk for infections. Going to get a pedicure on the same day you shaved your legs or if you have cuts or wounds on your feet or toes raises the risk of infection. Poorly or unsterilized instruments are also a threat, and make sure your technician doesn't trim your toenails too short or push back your cuticles, your toenails' natural protector.
- Flip-Flops: Once just a beach or pool-side "shoe," this form of footwear is an American staple, symbolizing our casual attitude or chronic laziness and disrespect for basic manners, depending on your viewpoint. But besides the gauche-ness of flip-flops, there's a health issue at hand, too. Flip-flops offer no arch support, which causes feet to roll inward and develop pain over time. Other problems include overworked muscles and tendons, calluses, heel fissures, lower back pain, and leaving your feet vulnerable to sharp pebbles, glass and other debris.
- Walking barefoot in public areas: It's sounds disgusting, but it happens more often than you'd think. Walking barefoot in locker rooms, and even in seemingly clean and posh spas or saunas puts you at very high risk for Athlete's foot, a fungal infection that causes uncomfortable itching and burning, as well as plantar warts, which can become very painful.
- Cramped shoes: Wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe area don't let your toes stretch out, leading to hammer toe over time. You can perform various toe exercises to stretch them out.
- Narrow-toed high-heels: Cramped shoes lead to hammer toe, but narrow-toed high-heels can cause you to develop painful and/or unsightly bunions, which cause the big toe to point outward because of an enlarged joint or even extra bone formation. Swelling, redness and discomfort accompany bunions, which can be treated by wearing more comfortable shoes, applying cold packs, taking anti-inflammatory medication, or simply resting the foot.
- Wearing shoes that make your feet sweat: Wearing shoes too long or wearing shoes that don't breathe don't just make your feet stinky. You end up breeding bacteria and fungi in your socks and shoes, and also allow blisters to develop with all of that chafing and slipping going on against your poor heels or toes.
- Forgetting sunscreen: We usually remember to slather the sunscreen on our shoulders, backs and even faces, but our feet are often forgotten. And when you're suntanning for hours at the beach, your poor feet — which aren't used to being exposed to the sun in such an extreme way — can get toasted very easily.
- Forgetting the socks: When you wear shoes without socks — especially tennis shoes, boots or other tie-up shoes, you increase your chances for developing calluses and corns. Wear thick enough socks to avoid the slipping and friction that causes these painful, ugly developments.
- Not taking extra care of your feet if you have diabetes: Diabetics need to take extra care of their feet to avoid injury and other problems as they lose feeling and circulation in the area. Washing feet in warm water daily, moisturizing, cutting toenails, wearing socks and correctly fitting shoes, and examining your feet for cuts, sores or calluses is recommended.
- Not protecting your feet against the elements: If you're hiking, skiing or just walking in extremely cold conditions, you've got to take care of your body, especially your feet. Frostbite occurs after cells begin to die when they're exposed to frigid temperatures, and continue to die after they've been denied oxygen. Wear thick socks and shoes designed for such temperatures, and never expose your skin directly to the air or snow.
- UGGs: Like flip-flops, the hefty sheepskin boots — and all their knock-offs — are either loved or hated. Fans of UGGs praise their comfort and warmth, but a Philadelphia podiatrist found that the boots lack any kind of arch support, and many women complain of tired feet if they wear their UGGs too long. Knock-off UGGs have result in the highest risk for discomfort and bad arch support.
- Not getting enough -iums in your diet: Calcium, magnesium and potassium are integral for good muscle health, and painful charley horses can attack when you're not getting enough of these nutrients in your diet. They can also point to dehydration and can cause soreness that lasts for days, so take supplements or modify your eating habits accordingly.
- Not cutting your toenails correctly: Avoiding ingrown toenails or nails that are cut too short (and lead to painful infections or sores later) involves more than cutting straight across. Cut nails when they're dry, filing instead of cutting, and leaving the cuticles are recommended techniques.
- Wearing old shoes: Shoes that have more than 350-500 miles logged aren't giving you the arch support you need. They may also be worn on the insides, which allows for more slipping, chafing and friction, causing blisters, corns and calluses.