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Taking Care of Winter Feet

October 23, 2009

 

eight toesCooler weather means losing the sandals and stuffing our feet back into socks, hosiery, and closed-toe shoes and boots. It is likely that your feet will protest, and by the end of the day, they may ache from their confinement.

Keeping your feet flexible can combat many of the aches as well as postural problems. I was surprised when my chiropractor, Dr. Matt Crouse of Crouse Chiropractic, told me that my tilted pelvis and neck problems were a result of my over-pronated, flat feet. It makes sense; the feet are your body’s foundation. If something is amiss with them, it can affect the alignment of your whole body.

The foot is an amazing structure. Each foot has 26 bones (together the feet account for a quarter of all the bones in your body), 33 joints, and over a hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Both strong and delicate, this complex structure takes an incredible amount of stress with each step we take.

If your feet are bound up in shoes all day, and you don’t counter the stress with exercise, the bones and muscles can degenerate and lose tone. Likewise, the joints and tendons can freeze up rather than gliding freely as they should.

So how do we care for our feet in the fall and winter months?

Practice foot exercises and stretches.

  • A simple stretch is to sit in a chair or on the floor and thread your fingers through the toes. Press gently between each toe to relax and release the tension of the foot muscles. The gently pull on the end of the toe and wiggle it to stimulate chi. Finally, rub your fist down the foot from the ball to the heel to release the plantar fascia.
  • Pick up a pencil or other objects with your toes.
  • Raise your body up and down on your tiptoes.
  • Fill a plastic bottle with water and freeze it. Place the frozen bottle on the floor, and roll your foot over the bottle. (You can also do this with a ball—a golf ball is particularly good.)
  • Write the alphabet in the air with your toes.
  • Using a scarf, towel, or resistance band under the ball of the foot, pull the foot back in a dorsiflexed position and hold 10 seconds.

Alternate shoes each day.
Changing shoes each day allows the shoe to dry out and extends their life. Your shoes absorb about a quarter cup of perspiration each day. You can wear the same brand shoe, but I’ve found that if I change styles each day, my flat feet are happier.

Invest in a good pair of athletic shoes for exercise.
Buy the right shoe for your exercise. If you play tennis, buy tennis shoes, not running shoes and vice-versa. Buy the right shoe for your gait. Feet that over-pronate need a different shoe than feet that over-supinate. (See article in our newsletter Warp & Weft ) Replace athletic shoes when they wear-out; athletic shoes lose their support over time.

Wear moisture-absorbing socks.
Foot moisture can lead to blisters, fungus, and foul odor. Socks and foot powder can help. If blister are an ongoing problem, try putting a thin layer of petroleum jelly on your foot as a preventative.

Have your gait and foot-strike analyzed. Buy custom orthotics if necessary to correct.
Postural analysis, shoe-wear analysis, digital foot/gait scanners, and bone density evaluations can give you a great deal of information about your feet. See your chiropractor, podiatrist or doctor. Some shoe stores now have digital foot/gait scanners, and if it has been a while since you had your foot measured for size, you should have that done again as well.

Keep your feet clean.
Moisture and dirt can cause fungal infections and gritty abrasions. Don’t forget to dry between the toes.

With proper care, you can avoid both foot problems and their attendant structural effects like low back and shoulder/neck pain. Take care of your feet this winter.

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