03 April 2017
Spring is here!
The sun is brighter, days are longer and our bodies are prone to more activity during the spring season. We look forward to the smell of freshly budded flowers and cut grass that spring brings, but our feet also look forward to the freedom from the darkness of thick socks and high boots. Finally, our feet are free to breathe and feel the warmth of the sun as they embrace the world of sockless shoes and sandals. But, as we allow our feet to emerge, we oft forget to make sure our feet are healthy for their big reveal.
Our feet carry us miles each day and their function is often self-evident until we unfortunately stumble upon an injury or illness. To avoid what may seem as inevitable, we should devote as much attention and care to our feet as the rest of our body. This may be ensuring we’re wearing the proper supports in our shoes or visiting a podiatrist at the first sign of trouble.
Doctor of Feet
A podiatrist is a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) who is certified to diagnose and treat conditions of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. Feet are much more complex than we probably give them credit for. They stabilize us, absorb shock for us, and also propel us forward, making them instrumental to our overall health and wellness.
Therefore, if you’re questioning whether or not you should visit a podiatrist for an ache, pain or change in physical appearance of your foot or feet (such as abnormal swelling), the answer is probably “yes.“ Too often, people wait longer than they should, which cause worse can harm. Remember, preventing a problem is often easier than curing one.
When to call a doctor
Discolored toenails will certainly prevent you from embarking on revealing those tootsies this spring. Yellow nails often indicate a fungal infection while whitening could indicate psoriasis, particularly if there is a separation from the nailbed. This shouldn’t embarrass you however; nail fungus affects approximately one in every eight adults and can usually be easily treated after visiting with a podiatrist.
Ingrown toenails refers to the growth of a toenail into your skin and causing a painful border, typically afflicting the big toe. Again, early visitation with your doctor is key as to prevent infection, but it will also eliminate the pain you’re feeling sooner!
Pain or soreness in your heel, foot or toes requires careful evaluation by the doctor to determine the muscular or skeletal origin of the pain as well as its timing. Often x-rays are required to rule out any injuries or to understand if there are any bone or muscular deformities.
Hammertoe and bunions are not just aesthetic issues, but painful ones that may be resolved with pads or insoles or may result in surgery. Bunions, in particular, are progressive and result in a misalignment of the bones that connect the big toe to the rest of the foot, which can cause your entire gait to be crooked. Thus, early detection and preventative solutions are key in trying to avoid surgery.
There are also a number of other foot-related injuries that warrant a call to the doctor as well, including (but not limited to): corns, callus, athlete’s foot, open sores, pain while walking/running or if you have diabetes since you are typically prone to more foot-related disease. Remember, don’t be embarrassed of your feet – podiatrists are trained to deal with the stuff we can’t handle!
Pedicures can be a great way to get our feet looking and feeling great again for the warmer weather. But, to ensure you aren’t just leaving the salon with the latest nail polish, follow these do’s and don’ts:
- Schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning as foot baths are typically cleanest earlier in the day. If you’re not a morning person, ensure the salon cleans their filters and the tubs between clients and/or bring your own utensils to the salon.
- To avoid ingrown nails, use a toenail clipper with a straight edge while ensuring your nail is being cut straight across.
- Do not cut your cuticles. Cuticles serve as a protective barrier against bacteria, which removing them increases your chances of infection.
- Resist the urge to shave your legs beforehand; besides having the tendency to burn, freshly shaven legs or small cuts allow bacteria to enter.
- Do not allow the technician to use a foot razor to remove dead skin as it can cause permanent damage if used incorrectly as well as increasing risk of infection if too much skin is removed.
- Do not share emery boards with other clients as they are extremely porous and can trap germs. Since they cannot be sterilized, either bring your own or ensure the salon uses new ones for each client.
- If you have diabetes or poor circulation, consult a podiatrist on a recommendation for optimal health.
- A sign of fungal infection can be thick and discolored toenails. Do not apply nail polish to hide the problem because nail polish locks out moisture and doesn't allow the nail bed to "breathe."
Other ways to keep your feet in tip-top shape
We use and abuse our feet, so let’s be sure we get years of mileage out of them by remembering to do some simple precautions:
- Remember to wear the disposable socks provided in stores when trying on shoes.
- Disinfect the inside of new shoes before wearing for the first time.
- When shoe shopping, make sure they do not cause any pressure points that will be problematic down the road.
- Always dry your feet, paying careful attention to in-between your toes; wet environments allow bacteria to grow.
- Should you have a small injury or inflammation, take a foot bath with 6-10 drops of tea tree oil, which has a healing and disinfecting effect.
- If you have difficulty reaching down to your feet and cannot ensure that they are being taken care of properly, set up regular visits with a podiatrist.
- Use spring and summer to walk barefoot (while watching your step!) This trains your feet, your senses and gives your whole body a sense of well-being.