For many people, the last year has meant more time spent indoors and a long pause on activities from pre-pandemic life, such as going to the gym or office. As you ease back into sports, work and social situations, you may need to reach for different footwear than what you wore (or didn’t) behind a Zoom screen.
Here are my top tips for optimizing foot health and avoiding injury as you prepare to step out and enjoy the summer.
Start by Stretching
The most important step you can take, especially as you age, is to start all exercise with a gentle stretching regimen. If you are planning to do any walking or running, remember to stretch your feet, including toes, arches, ankles and Achilles’ tendons. Your calves and hamstrings are also important..
It is much better for your feet to wear some type of shoe—even a flat or slightly arched flip-flop—than to walk around barefoot or wearing only socks. Patients with diabetes often come to my office with debris embedded in their feet from walking without shoes inside their homes. No matter how meticulously you clean your floors, there are always tiny objects that can puncture the skin. People who are not diabetic are at risk for injury as well.
Every few decades, barefoot-style footwear will trend or there will be a movement to promote barefoot running. The fact is, barefoot running on soft grass or beaches is different from running on surfaces like concrete or asphalt. Even walking around on hard, indoor surfaces like tile or hardwood floors can cause stress and strain on muscles and ligaments, resulting in foot pain or injury.
Ease Back Into Heels
Between working from home during the last year and having social events curtailed, it may be months since you’ve worn high-heeled shoes. High heels place the foot in an unnatural position. Injuries or irritation to the ball of the foot and/or toes are common when first walking in heels after wearing low, flat or no shoes for an extended period. To acclimate safety, wear heels only for short intervals, gradually lengthening the time. It’s good to have an alternate pair of shoes available, in case you feel pain.
Get Safe Pedicures
If you are having a pedicure, whether professional or do-it-yourself, be careful when handling the cuticles. The cuticle seals the skin and nail complex to keep bacteria out. When the cuticle is violated too aggressively, it can cause an infection.
Walking is a terrific exercise when approached the right way. Start with the best shoe gear for walking. I always recommend a running shoe. Running shoes have more cushioning, better arch support, and are lighter than most walking shoes. Begin by stretching your feet and legs, and take short walks, gradually increasing the duration.
Know When to See a Doctor
Any foot pain that is associated with swelling, or lasts more than four or five days, should be checked by a doctor. If you have diabetes, you should have your feet checked regularly. Age can also bring on circulatory concerns, regardless of diabetic status. Skin discoloration, significant coldness to toes, or pain that wakes you up at night may indicate circulatory issues that should be checked.