Treat your feet with loving care

Created date

May 4th, 2020
A person's feet are up in the air, with little smiling faces drawn on the underside of each toe.

With the help of a podiatrist, you can treat your feet to some TLC!

You take care of your body by seeing your primary care doctor, specialists, or your dentist. But did you know that seeing a podiatrist can also help you be healthier? 

“You can’t take your feet for granted,” says Douglas F. Tumen, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., podiatrist at Hudson Valley Foot Associates in Kingston, N.Y., and author of Ask the Foot Doctor (2019, Morgan James Publishing). “You wouldn’t keep driving a car on worn-out tires. Similarly, you need to maintain your feet to keep the rest of your body going.” 

You may not notice foot problems because they can come on gradually, like other aging changes. In addition, health conditions that affect the rest of your body can also affect your feet. “People with circulation problems or neuropathy can lose sensation in their feet,” Tumen says. “Skin can get very dry, and a very small wound can turn into a problem quickly, especially in people with diabetes.”

Osteoporosis can make foot bones more susceptible to stress fractures, and if you have arthritis, your foot joints can also be affected. “When you consider that arthritis can affect any joint, and your feet have 33 joints, that’s a lot of possible sites,” Tumen says. “The joint of the big toe is the most susceptible to arthritis, however.”

Muscles in your feet get weaker just like the other muscles in your body. “Weaker muscles can make it difficult to stay on your feet for extended periods,” Tumen says. “To maintain flexibility and strengthen your muscles, exercise your ankles and feet whenever you can. If you are sitting down watching TV, do leg lifts, move your feet in a circle to work your ankles, or point and flex your toes.”

How podiatrists can help

Many podiatrists are certified as foot and ankle surgeons, so people may think they only need services if they have a major problem such as bunions or hammer toes. 

But podiatrists do much more. “Most of my patients come in for routine foot care such as nail cutting and debridement of corns and callouses,” says Jennifer VanDemark, a podiatrist at Maris Grove, an Erickson Living-managed community in Glen Mills, Pa. “If a patient has diabetes, poor circulation, or other health issues, it is easier and safer to have a trained professional perform foot care since complications could arise easily.” 

It can be tempting to treat minor problems yourself because of the availability of over-the-counter remedies for minor problems such as toenail fungus and callouses. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, however, having a podiatrist treat such problems makes them much less likely to recur. 

A podiatrist can also evaluate your gait. Studies show that even small foot problems can change how you walk and affect your balance. “Some seniors stop going out as much because their feet hurt and they think that’s normal,” Tumen says. “Your feet shouldn’t hurt as you age.”

Your shoe size changes as you get older—a fact that many seniors are unaware of. Wearing too-small shoes and too-large shoes both pose risks. A podiatrist can take precise measurements and recommend the best shoes or orthotics.

What to do between visits

Some of the same health problems that affect the feet make it difficult for people to care for them. “Having arthritis and just general lack of flexibility makes it difficult to inspect your feet, much less care for them,” Tumen says.

Even if you see a podiatrist for routine services, you still need to take good care of your feet in between visits. “Everyone should examine their feet daily,” VanDemark advises. “Look for cuts, bleeding, red areas, blisters, swelling, or any other abnormalities. Use a mirror to examine areas you can’t see well.”

It may go without saying, but wash your feet every day with mild soap and warm (not hot) water. “This is extremely important during the summer,” VanDemark says. “If your feet tend to sweat, use powder and change your socks more frequently.”

Because dry skin can make your feet more prone to scratches, cracks, and infections, apply moisturizer after washing your feet.

When at home, wear socks and shoes. Studies show that wearing shoes may reduce your risk of falls and make it less likely that you will be seriously injured if you do fall. “Shoes provide more stability and protect your feet if you step on something sharp or strike it against a hard surface,” VanDemark explains. 

Something podiatrists all know is that if your feet aren’t healthy, it affects the rest of your body. “I’ve had long relationships with many of my patients, and have seen many pairs of feet age,” Tumen says. “I’ve learned that one of the quickest ways to get old is to be sedentary. If your feet bother you, you are much less likely to be active and independent.” 


Did you know?

Each of your feet has 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles, and 109 ligaments. 

Source: Douglas Tumen, D.P.M., askthefootdoctor.com


Fun fact!

Leonardo da Vinci called feet “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”

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