Summer ‘sandal’ season is here, paying attention to our feet is sometimes the last item on our to-do-list. Here’s a quick reminder to take care of those toes!
Sores, cracks and bunions, oh my! Sometimes it’s a veritable menu of issues that can occur in our pedibus, or feet, with time. Cushioning on the foot pads decreases, skin becomes drier and toenails get thicker or more brittle. All of these, and more, can lead to even serious problems.
In addition to not always being at the top of our priority list, as we age, it can get to be more and more difficult to bend down to tend to the tootsies. However, the importance of foot care as the years march forward becomes more and more critical.
The pitfalls of ignoring our feet increase the risk of a long list of maladies including fungal infections, cracked and infected heels, ingrown toenails, corns and calluses, poor circulation, and can lead us to becoming more susceptible to a fall. The problems-list goes on – foot sores which heal slowly, heel spurs, hammertoes, rashes, and the dreaded foot odor. And who wants to look like Howard Hughes during his hermit period with curled toenails? All of these can lead to pain while walking, which tends to lead to less physical activity, which leads to even more issues. This snowball effect can be avoided by implementing a routine of reasonable foot care, which, if maintained, takes only a few minutes a day.
In the section Caring for Your Feet, published by The American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/recently-diagnosed/living-with-type-2-diabetes/new/03/preventing-complications/foot-care.html), the following are practical recommendations for everyone, whether you are a diabetic or not:
• “Take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range.
• Check your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
• Be more active. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
• Ask your doctor about Medicare coverage for special shoes.
• Wash your feet every day. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
• Keep your skin soft and smooth. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes. (Note: be careful when walking immediately after putting on lotion – your feet will be slippery!)
• If you can see and reach your toenails, trim them when needed. Trim your toenails straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file.
• Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside.
• Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don’t put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it just as you would before bathing a baby.
• Never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
• Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two (2) or three (3) times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
• Don’t smoke.”
• To prevent foot fungi developing, never re-wear socks without washing them
• Shoes that become humid during use should be aired and left to dry out before donning them once again.
The type of footwear we choose is also an essential factor in good foot health. The days of stiletto heels and stylish oxfords may only be a passing fancy on rare occasion as we age. Comfort and correct sizing should be at the top of the priority list of a shoe purchase. In the past few decades, intense research has gone into footwear design, and there are any number of specialized retailers that offer well-trained staff who will help to advise you and sort through the plethora of casual and athletic shoe choices available. They will observe foot positioning and strides while walking, foot molds, take measurements, discuss your daily routines and activities, and determine your optimal shoe.
Yes, foot care requires effort. For many who can’t do it themselves, or simply don’t wish to, there are numerous options for home foot care, professional office care, and even many local salons that may be well versed in treating aging feet. If you or someone you love is now with an Assisted Living Facility, Skilled Nursing Facility or senior community, trained staff are available to help manage their foot care routinely. However, it is always smart to visually check loved ones’ feet to assure that the best attention is being given. As with everything regarding your health, options should be discussed with a health care provider and any changes should be brought to their attention immediately.
With proper care, your tootsies will have you dancing like Fred and Ginger for years to come.