Treat Your Feet Right
From blisters to heel pain, uncomfortable foot and lower body conditions can keep you from being as active as you want to be. Learn more about some common causes and solutions for foot and lower body issues. Finding more comfort and ease may be just what you need to get moving.
Be sweet to your feet. They support you and keep you moving and grooving, whether on the job, for fun, or when you’re rocking your favorite activity or sport. Most Americans will log about 75,000 miles on their feet by age 50. And about half of us experience pain or other foot problems at least some of the time.1 Our feet deserve a little TLC! Start with the basics:
- Know your feet. Check them daily, after you’ve been active or when you get home from work or school. Spot problems early and keep them from getting worse. Look for blisters, cuts, sores, swelling, and areas that are red, warm, tender, or rough. Check between your toes, too.
- Keep it clean. Wash your feet with soap and water every day, and dry them thoroughly. You can use powder or cornstarch between your toes if needed. Apply lotion to dry or rough spots like heels. Protect blisters and open sores with a fresh bandage. Trim toenails weekly -- straight across and not too short. Gently remove calluses and corns with a pumice stone or foot file. Wear clean socks, especially when you exercise or if you already have a foot problem.
- Handle your issues. Most adults have experienced some type of foot issue. In one 2012 survey, the most frequently reported ailments included ankle sprain, blisters, calluses, cracked skin, foot fatigue, and fungal infection (athlete’s foot). Other common conditions include arch pain, bunions, corns, heel pain, ingrown toenails, other nail issues, plantar fasciitis, plantar warts, shin splints, swelling, and yes, even smelly feet!2 Ignoring a foot problem won’t make it go away, so if it doesn’t start to clear up after a few days, see a doctor. Some conditions and injuries can be serious and should be diagnosed and treated by a health professional.
An Ounce of Prevention
When you have discomfort or pain in your feet or lower body, you won’t have much motivation to get off the couch and get active. Happily, there are many ways to up your comfort factor and prevent some common sources of pain when exercising.
- Take a stand: Alternate periods of sitting, standing, and moving throughout the day. If you’re on your feet a lot, put them up when you sit down to take a break. If you’re more sedentary, try a standing desk or walking breaks. Experts suggest standing or walking for at least two hours per eight-hour workday, or about 15 minutes out of every hour.3
- Lighten up: Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can put extra stress on your feet, knees, and body.
- No fungus among us: Wear flip flops or water shoes in public showers, locker rooms, restrooms, pools, and other wet areas.
- Cross train: Vary your activities to avoid repetitive impact. Walk, bike, swim, run, dance, skate – with so many fun ways to move your body, you don’t have to limit yourself to just one.
- Before and after: Warm up before working out, and cool down and stretch afterward. Make sure your routine includes stretching and strengthening exercises for feet, ankles, calves, and knees.
- Insert here: Try orthotics or shoe inserts for additional support, pain relief, and comfort. They can help with some common issues like foot discomfort, lower back pain, plantar fasciitis and knee pain. Over-the-counter shoe inserts can include arch supports, insoles, heel liners or cups, and cushioning pads.1,4,5
If the Shoe Fits…
The right shoes can make being active a breeze, while the wrong shoes can wreak havoc on your feet. Here are some of the key considerations when buying shoes:
- Get comfy: As much as possible, wear supportive, comfortable shoes that fit well. Save those killer heels for special occasions!
- Get specific: If you participate in a certain sport or activity at least twice a week, get shoes designed for that activity and terrain or surface.
- Get fitted: Have both feet measured each time you buy shoes, and size to the larger foot. Shop at the end of the day, when your foot tends to be the biggest. Try on shoes with your usual socks and insoles or orthotics. Don’t buy shoes that feel too tight, thinking they’ll stretch.
What’s that smell?
Nobody likes to talk about it, but let’s face it, foot odor happens. When your feet sweat, the moisture creates an environment for bacteria to grow. To help keep feet fresh so you can move more with confidence:
- Choose shoes and insoles that are well-ventilated and cooling. Avoid synthetic materials that don’t let your feet breathe.
- Wear clean, acrylic-blend athletic socks that wick moisture away from feet. Natural fibers can absorb and trap sweat, so they may not be the best choice for your workout.
- Don’t wear the same shoes every day, and don’t leave them stuffed in a workout bag or buried under sweaty clothes. Allow them to dry out thoroughly between each wearing.
- Practice good daily hygiene and nail care.
- Don’t wait to take care of foot problems.
Healthy feet are happy feet, and they’ll keep you moving toward your activity goals!
1American Podiatric Medical Association, Learn About Feet
2Institute for Preventive Foot Health, National Foot Health Assessment (2012) and Foot Care Essentials
3British Journal of Sports Medicine, The sedentary office: an expert statement on the growing case for change towards better health and productivity (2015)
4American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Foot & Ankle, Knee & Lower Leg
5American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, Foot Health Facts
National Institutes of Health, Diabetes and Foot Problems
Last reviewed 2017