Our feet and legs are like the branches of a tree. These branches respond to our environment and can set the course for how we live and the quality of life. When thinking about your feet, remember how important this part of your body is for health.
Some say that your legs and feet are the most important part of your body. This part of our body may seem simple but it is complex and understudied.
‘I had the blues because I had no shoes until upon the street, I met a man who had no feet.’
Foot care is more than just, creams, foot scrubs or tape for blisters. It reaches much deeper and connects to our body systems allowing us to remain and sustain health.
Our body systems and the far reaching impact of foot care
Let’s explore different ways that we use our feet and how we should even bother to care about our feet and legs.
Nurses seem to have more foot care problems than the general population.
So let’s take nursing as an example and learn from the profession. Nursing is one of the most physically demanding professions with respect to the lower extremities. Think about it, as humans our lower body carries the body’s weight throughout the day. Standing for long periods of time on the hospital wards or in the operation theater leads to poor health outcomes that appear in the feet i.e. swelling, pain and fatigue.
In one study conducted in Finland nurses were, given questionnaires about foot health. The study followed Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity, 2012 and international ethical standards (World Medical Association, 2013) for scientific practice. This was an interview that allowed nurses to answer questions about the meaning of foot health, factors with promoting or hindering foot health, and activities to promote or care for foot health.
The nurses considered foot health to be an important part of general health. It was also found that healthy feet were an effective precondition for effective working. Another thing that was interesting was that foot health really only became an issue when a problem arose. If the nurse had foot or leg pain it became a priority.
Foot care is important yet, people don’t have the motivation to care for their feet. In many cases, people neglect their feet out of sheer laziness.
Feet were thought to be central to moving and doing daily work. They were also thought of as being central to the quality of life. If you’re spending hours upon hours in the operating theater this becomes a second home. Nurses described work as being pleasant and easy with healthy feet. It was also found that foot pain became a focus if it was present, their movement and work was restricted and that these problems were felt throughout the body.
A few studies have investigated the prevalence of foot pain. In this study foot pain was assessed in randomly selected populations:
Two strategies for reducing the impact on your feet are to:
Ill-fitting footwear - Nurses have the opinion that compression socks should be the employer’s responsibility and that employers should offer employees a free pair of compression socks in order to maintain work ability throughout work days.
Prolonged standing - standing for long periods with poorly fitting foot support holds your foot in a position that is just not optimal. And this can lead to fatigue of the entire lower extremity.
Older people in home care have multiple foot health problems. Prevalent problems in this population are edema, dry skin, thickened and discolored toenails and hallux valgus. Our older population’s foot health needs to be assessed regularly to recognize foot health and self care problems. There’s a trail of progression here, as an older person succumbs to a range of foot problems like corns, calluses, fungal infections, cracks, fissures, edema, macerations, toe deformities these conditions lead to foot pain. Hence, there is reduced mobility and balance with an increased risk of gait disorders, falls and depression.
Foot care in the elderly can be reduced because there is less physical function and manual dexterity.
Why foot care makes sense for everyone and where to start
A lot of work has been done in this area. Most of it is in relation to diabetic feet. What about other ailments? And what about prevention, sustaining and maintaining foot health in healthy people?
Could foot care be one of those keystone habits that changes everything for you? I think it’s worth the effort. One of the compelling reasons to take off your feet is the fact that your feet are commonly neglected. The ‘roots’ your feet play an important role in moving blood flow back to your heart. Like a tree branch water and nutrients are necessary for its growth.
Foot scrubs, baths...
Foot soaks are commonly practiced in Japan.
Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes per day and this will lead to a variety of benefits including:
Increased mood, better sleep, less overall pain and aches, improved circulation, increased energy. We need to maintain our foot health. Proper foot care should be done several times per week or it can be done daily. A good foot scrub along with a foot balm can provide the following benefits:
Less calluses - if you’re on your feet for long periods of time your feet will respond by becoming hardened causing pain. A foot scrub protects your feet against callus formation; leaving the feet feeling fresh.
Less foot pain - and this goes for anyone. Your feet will become dry, cracking and this can lead to PAIN. Moisturizing the skin can help prevent this type of pain.
A daily routine for foot care
Your feet are prone to injury which can lead to debilitating disease or even death. Prevention is key. Americans spend millions of dollars on foot care products every year. For many, the idea of maintenance to keep the feet healthy was never really considered. Bunions, athlete’s foot, corns, painful cramps, blisters, strains, ingrown toenails, toe fungus and diabetic foot are a few conditions that commonly affect people.
Here are a few tips for foot care:
- Cleanliness: wash and soak your feet in a warm bath. Some studies have shown that this also helps with activities like sleep.
- Rest and relaxation: the importance of rest is an understatement. Try elevating your feet for a few minutes while lying down. A tennis ball can be used to roll the foot over the ball and this will massage the bottom of the foot. This can also be done while sitting at a desk.
- Exercise: exercise keeps the blood flowing in the feet and walking is a fantastic option for this. Head out for a 30-minute walk. Start out once or twice a week and increase the frequency to daily.
- Inspection: check your feet for changes, you may see sores, redness, swelling.
- Toenails: keep your toenails trimmed to prevent fungal growth
Foot care is a crucial yet overlooked part of preventative care. We are talking about maintaining healthy habits that will allow us to be at our best. In the United States we live in a culture where foot care is not at the forefront of attention. We tend to look towards other more serious issues surrounding the feet that may become an issue when it’s too late. Foot care and some of the preventative measures mentioned above will give your entire body a sense of well being. Imagine the mental and physical advantages that you’ll have as you begin to pay attention to this area of our body that we spend so much time on- our lower legs and feet.