January 10, 2016

You’re likely to walk more than 100,000 miles over the course of your lifetime. That’s the same as circling the earth 4 times at the equator. But as important as your feet are, many of us neglect them... until they start to hurt!

The good news is that you can follow these 7 steps to avoid getting foot pain. 

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1 - Maintain a healthy weight 

Your feet bear the weight of your entire body, and the more weight they support, the harder they have to work. 

“The best way to prevent foot pain is to keep your weight down,” says Paul Talusan, MD, clinical assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Michigan.

So if foot pain is keeping you from exercising as part of your weight-loss efforts, try a low-impact sport like swimming.

2 - Avoid wearing high heels

Heels might upgrade your outfit, but they can cause a lot of damage to your feet. One study found that it takes just 1 hour and 6 minutes of wearing them for the pain to kick in.

“Squeezing your feet into pointy-toed heels can lead to a laundry list of ailments, from ingrown toenails, bunions, and blisters, to shortened calf muscles, back pain, and deformed toes,” says Talusan.

3 - Improve your flexibility

Your calf muscles may tighten as you get older, this means that there is more stress on the balls of your feet.

“Stretching your calves on a regular basis can go a long way toward preventing foot pain,” Talusan says.

Do the following stretch at least three times a day:

  • Stand with your toes on a step and your heels off the edge.
  • Slowly lower your heels down and hold for 10 seconds before lifting your heels to the starting position.
  • Repeat 5 to 10 times. Don't force your heel farther than it wants to go. If the movement is too much for both feet at once, do one foot at a time.

4 - Wear the right size shoes

When was the last time you measured your feet? If it was more than 2 years ago, there’s a good chance you’re wearing the wrong size shoe.

It is very important to know that feet change shape as you age, and tight-fitting footwear can lead to heel pain, deformed toes, bunions, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, and other painful problems.

Remember these tips:

  • Since it’s common to have feet of different sizes, make sure to have both feet measured and fit to the larger of the two.
  • There should be about half an inch of wiggle room between your longest toe and the shoe.
  • Shop for shoes in the afternoon, since your feet swell over the course of the day. And wear the socks you’d normally use with that type of shoe.

5 - Sit down during your breaks

Sitting all day is bad for your health, but standing all day isn’t good either.

“Ideally, some combination of sitting and standing is best,” Talusan says. 

If your job requires you to be on your feet most of the day, do your feet a favor and take the load off during breaks. Resist the urge to run errands during lunch, and aim for a seated meal instead.

6 - don't cut the corners of your toenails

A major source of foot pain is from ingrown toenails, which happen when the edge of your nail grows into the skin around the toe. The best way to prevent this is to cut your toenails straight across with clean, sharp nail scissors. Don’t round the corners to match the shape of your toe.

7 - keep your body hydrated

A foot cramp can come on suddenly and be very painful. Several things can cause cramps, including dehydration or a dietary imbalance.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids, especially during exercise.

Cramping can also be caused by a lack of potassium, so eat foods like bananas or spinach.

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