Advice for the Battered Soles

Experts caution you not to run from your foot problem.
The right shoes provide protection from not only running but also from “stepping out of bed in the morning, until getting in at night,” one doctor says. Photos by ValuaVitaly (Feet) and lzf (runner) / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Humans and their feet, it seems, have a complex relationship.

Looking down on those far-off extremities, our sentiment ranges from fetish to scorn to shrug. And yet, the human foot again and again rises up to assert itself as something more than just a beast of burden. It is vital to our enjoyment of life.

Feet take a beating. The effects of obesity and sedentary lifestyles, plus modern foot coverings — shoes — often not only fail to protect the foot but instead abuse the little darlings.

And trouble can start early.
Dr. George Merritt of Tallahassee Podiatry Associates said children frequently show an unnatural degree of pronation, an inward roll of the foot, and supination, an outward roll of the foot. He said such conditions can lead to gait problems and, later, orthopedic issues.

Merritt, a runner, emphasizes the importance of wearing the right shoes, which he says provide protection from “stepping out of bed in the morning, until getting in at night.”

So what are the right shoes?

We asked Tyler Perkins, owner of Fleet Feet, a Tallahassee store that focuses on the perfect shoe for people who will cover hundreds of miles on foot or simply seek a comfortable, supportive shoe.

The most common footwear mistake is to wear a shoe that is too small, he says.

“People don’t understand that the foot will continue to grow and change over time,” he said. “What they wore at 25 is not what they should wear at 50.”

Athletic shoes should be worn at least a full size larger than the barefoot measurement, he says.

He says another tendency is to wear athletic shoes for too long.

“Even a quality running or walking shoe worn regularly is only going to hold up for six months,” he said. “Beyond that, the cushioning system breaks down and won’t absorb the impact to the feet.”

What if you’re not a runner? What if you’re a fashionable woman-about-town, and you have fabulous legs and want to show them off, right down to the tips of your toes? You might want to stay in the stilettos.

But not so fast.

“All things in moderation,” said Dr. Russell Rowan of Tallahassee Podiatry Associates. “Wear high heels but not all the time. Too long can lead to shortened Achilles tendons and pain on the balls of the feet.”

Hammer toes, in which toes bend downward, and bunions aggravated by ill-fitting shoes can be corrected by surgery or prevented via better-fitted shoes with lower heels.

Nail funguses, most frequently found in the hot, moist environment of an enclosed shoe, can also develop between an acrylic nail and the nail itself. The same fungi that cause athlete’s foot can grow beneath your artificial toenails. Careful foot cleansing and change of shoes is important prevention.

April Woodward of Millennium Nail & Day Spa says the most common issues she hears from her pedicure customers involve a desire for smoother skin on their heels and problems with ingrown toenails.

“With soaking and proper trimming, we can address both of these,” she said.

Woodward says that regular foot care, such as getting a pedicure, isn’t just for vanity’s sake.

“The combination of soaking in warm water, massage and grooming of the toenails helps to maintain healthy feet,” she said.

So take a stand, put your best foot forward and treat those tootsies right.

Categories: Fitness