13 Things Your Feet Wish You Knew

Tips for foot care

Anna-Kaisa Walker Updated: Jul 23, 2019 10:54:54 IST
13 Things Your Feet Wish You Knew Illustration by Clayton Hammer

1. Every day, your feet absorb over a million pounds of force. The average person walks the equivalent of three times around the equator in their lifetime.

2. Foot problems—plantar fasciitis, flat feet, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails—are the most common foot-related problems faced by both young and old, says Dr Govind Singh Bisht, principal consultant (podiatry), at Max Hospital, Delhi. “Symptoms of conditions such as arthritis can show up in the feet, so foot ailments can reveal more serious medical issues,” he adds.

3. Says Dr Ambrish Mithal, chairman, division of endocrinology and diabetes, Medanta, Gurugram, “About 15 per cent of diabetics develop foot-related problems either due to reduced blood flow or numbness due to nerve damages (neuropathy), which means injuries, cuts or bruises go unnoticed.” It could lead to infections, gangrene and amputations.

4. A 2016 study found that one in four people over age 45 suffer from some kind of foot pain. Likely because of the footwear marketed at them, women were at greater risk than men. 

5. No, your shoes aren’t getting tighter: Your feet actually grow as you age. Get them measured while buying shoes, but the number is only a starting point. “You may be an eight in one shoe and a 10 in another,” says James Hill, president of the Canadian Podiatric Medical Association. “Comfort is the most important factor.”

6. Athlete’s foot is an itchy, painful, highly contagious fungus that thrives in warm, moist areas. Avoid going barefoot in public change rooms. Dry your feet well especially between the toes. “In India, cultural factors lead to barefoot walking in public. This is dangerous for those with neuropathy,” says Mithal.

7. Shop later in the day, when your feet are tired and slightly swollen. You’ll be less likely to buy too-small shoes.

8. Fashionable footwear that’s comfortable is hard to find. Pointed, high-heeled pumps are particularly bad for bunions—painful bumps on the inside of your big-toe joint that can lead to posture and balance issues. The ideal shoe has a wide toe box and a slight wedge at the heel to withstand the force of your gait. “Leave a full thumb’s width between your longest toe and the toe of the shoe,” Hill says.

9. Summertime means flip-flops, but these are terrible for feet. “The lack of cushioning forces you to grip the sandals with your toes, putting you at risk for plantar fasciitis,” says Anthony Harper, President of the Pedorthic Association of Canada. Instead, Bisht advises wearing closed shoes that have good cushioning for stability.

10. Even if you’re only going for walks, buy sneakers from a specialty athletic shoe store. “Staff will analyze gait and measure your foot’s length (from heel to ball) and width,” says Harper.

11. If your second toe  is longer than your first—a condition called Morton’s Toe, which affects up to one in five people—you’re at a high risk for pain in the ball of your feet due to the way you distribute your weight while walking.

12. Stinky shoes? The smell is caused by bacteria mixing with sweat. Kill it by dropping a bag of black tea in a warm foot bath and soaking for 30 mins.

13. Avoid ingrown toenails by trimming them properly: Leave 1 to 2 mm in length and cut straight across with sharp toenail clippers.


—With inputs from Shubhrodipto Sanyal and Ishani Nandi
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