April is Foot Health Awareness Month, and Podiatrist Dr. Stephan Lorincz said it is important to take care of your feet, because it affects the way patients walk and could cause problems with back, hip and leg pain.
“The most important thing, is summer is right around the corner and people are doing more activities outside,” Lorincz said. “They may have more problems with shoes fitting properly, or they may go to an older shoe that doesn’t give them enough support and cushioning. Selecting the right shoe as you become more active is important.”
Many foot injuries, such as blistering, tendonitis or fracturing the structure of the foot, are avoidable, he said. As the weather continues to warm up, he suggested starting outdoor activities gradually.
“In the summer, to protect your feet, don’t do a lot of activities barefoot,” he said. “We get a lot of patients with cuts on their feet or stepping on sharp objects such as glass, toothpicks, nails. Some of them can be avoided if you wear a shoe, especially when you can’t see what’s on the ground.”
The most common problems Lorincz sees in his practice are sprains, stress fractures, inflammation issues, tendonitis and neuropathy.
To treat inflammation, he suggests using over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or Tylenol. This also helps with aches and pains in the foot. If a patient is having severe pain in their feet, Lorincz said it is best to go see a doctor.
Other common complaints he sees are athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal medications. For those with athlete’s foot, it is best to change socks frequently in warmer weather as the feet tend to sweat. Sweaty feet are a common cause of athlete’s foot, because the feet don’t have a chance to air out and dry up.
“For those who have chronic problems, they need to wear orthodics to support and align the foot,” he said. “Foot deformities can change how you walk and stand. It can also affect pain levels.”
Other recommendations are:
Heel pain comes in many forms. A common ailment is heel spurs, a bony growth on the underside of the heel bone which can result from strain on the muscles and ligaments of the foot. Wear shoes with shock-absorbent soles, rigid shanks and supportive heel counters. Wear proper shoes for each activity.
Blisters are another common problem. Wear moisture-wicking socks to prevent access moisture, which lead to blisters. Try different foot powders and lotions to keep friction to a minimum.
A general foot exam can treat existing problems as well as avoid future ones.
If you’re headed to the beach or the pool, remember to dry your feet between the toes to avoid fungal infections.
Moisturize feet and heels with lotion, and apply sunscreen between the toes and on the ankles to avoid sunburn and prevent cancer.
For women: Don’t leave nail polish on 24/7. That may lead to brittle nails or fungus. Take a break for several months each year to allow the nails to recover.
Have your feet measured periodically when buying shoes. As you age, feet can flatten, becoming wider and longer. And, maintain a healthy weight; excess weight can put pressure on the feet, leading to general foot pain, circulatory problems and arthritis.