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Tips to Keep Feet Warm and Cozy All Winter Long
Whether you're slogging through deep snow and sub-zero temperatures in the north, or contending with dampness, chill, and muddy conditions in the south, it's important to take care of your feet all winter long. You'll want them to be healthy and ready for action when spring finally arrives.
Most Americans will have walked 75,000 miles by the time they turn 50. Is it little wonder, then, that APMA's 2010 foot health survey found that foot pain affects the daily activities—walking, exercising, or standing for long periods of time—of a majority of Americans?
"Each season presents unique challenges to foot health," said Matthew Garoufalis, DPM, a podiatrist and APMA past-president. "Surveys and research tell us that foot health is intrinsic to overall health, so protecting feet all year long is vital to our overall well-being."
APMA offers some advice for keeping feet healthy in common winter scenarios:
- Winter is skiing and snowboarding season, activities enjoyed by nearly 10 million Americans, according to the National Ski Areas Association. Never ski or snowboard in footwear other than ski boots specifically designed for that purpose. Make sure your boots fit properly; you should be able to wiggle your toes, but the boots should immobilize the heel, instep, and ball of your foot. You can use orthotics (support devices that go inside shoes) to help control the foot's movement inside ski boots or ice skates.
- Committed runners don't need to let the cold stop them. A variety of warm, light-weight, moisture-wicking active wear available at most running or sporting goods stores helps ensure runners stay warm and dry in bitter temperatures. However, some runners may compensate for icy conditions by altering how their foot strikes the ground. Instead of changing your footstrike pattern, shorten your stride to help maintain stability. And remember, it's more important than ever to stretch before you begin your run. Cold weather can make you less flexible in winter than you are in summer, so it's important to warm muscles up before running.
- Boots are must-have footwear in winter climates, especially when dealing with winter precipitation. Between the waterproof material of the boots themselves and the warm socks you wear to keep toes toasty, you may find your feet sweat a lot. Damp, sweaty feet can chill more easily and are more prone to bacterial infections. To keep feet clean and dry, consider using foot powder inside socks and incorporating extra foot baths into your foot care regimen this winter.
- Be size smart. It may be tempting to buy pricey specialty footwear (like winter boots or ski boots) for kids in a slightly larger size, thinking they'll be able to get two seasons of wear out of them. But unlike coats that kids can grow into, footwear needs to fit properly right away. Properly fitted skates and boots can help prevent blisters, chafing, and ankle or foot injuries. Likewise, if socks are too small, they can force toes to bunch together, and that friction can cause painful blisters or corns.
Finally—and although this one seems like it should go without saying, it bears spelling out—don't try to tip-toe through winter snow, ice, and temperatures in summer-appropriate footwear. "More than one news show across the country aired images of people in sneakers, sandals, and even flip-flops during the severe cold snap that hit the country in early January," Dr. Garoufalis said. "Exposing feet to extreme temperatures means risking frostbite and injury. Choose winter footwear that will keep your feet warm, dry, and well-supported."
Content Courtesy of APMA
Ten tips on how to look after your feet, with special advice for those over 60
Your feet take the weight of your whole body, so foot problems can quickly lead to discomfort and affect the way you walk. This can in turn cause knee, hip and back pain. The good news is that looking after your feet can prevent most of these problems. Investing a bit of time and thought into caring for your feet now can prevent them causing you pain later.
Wash your feet often
Don’t go to bed without washing your feet. If you leave dirt on the skin’s surface, it can become irritated and infected. Wash your feet every evening with soap and water.
Dry your feet well
Dry your feet thoroughly after washing them, especially between the toes which is where germs such as Athlete's foot can easily breed. Then, apply a moisturising foot cream (not body lotion).
Remove hard skin
Gently remove hard skin and calluses with a pumice stone or foot file regularly.
Cut toenails carefully
Always trim your toenails straight across, never at an angle or down the edges. This can cause ingrown toenails.
Shoe shop in the afternoon
Shop for shoes in the afternoon. Feet swell as the day goes on and if shoes fit in the afternoon when your feet are at their largest, you can be assured they will always be comfortable.
Footwear tips for work
If you have to wear heels at work, wear comfortable shoes to and from the office and only wear your smart shoes once you're in the office. Also, try to vary the heel height, between low, medium and high. Read how to choose the right footwear for work.
Limit time wearing high heels
Be shoe savvy. Wear high heels and pointed shoes for special occasions only, and always wear the right shoes for the job (so no sandals for mountain climbing).
Change your socks often to avoid foot odor
Change your socks daily. Read advice from the Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists on buying socks.
Watch out for foot bugs in communal changing areas
Wear flip-flops to avoid catching athelte's foot and verrucas when you use public areas such as gym showers, swimming pools or hotel bathrooms.
Take care with flip-flops
But don't wear flip-flops all the time. They don't provide support for your feet and can give you arch and heel pain if you wear them too much.
Foot pain advice for over-60s
If you're over 60, foot care becomes even more important. Age takes its toll: your skin thins, your joints begin to stiffen and your feet become more vulnerable to the cold.
Not only that, but as podiatrist Emma Supple says: "Physically, it gets more difficult for us to get to our feet, and failing eyesight doesn’t help."
Emma says: "Go to see a professional for a foot MOT every six monthsand never put up with foot pain as if it is normal. Your feet shouldn’t hurt." Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist today if you've been experiencing foot pain.
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