They’re the first things out of bed in the morning and the last to stop moving at night, but the vast majority of people are not taking care of their feet, an Australian podiatrist has warned.
And Kate McArthur says neglecting them can have serious implications for your overall health, from problems with posture to nasty fungal infections and chronic pain in the hips, knees and back.
The director of City Feet Clinic in Sydney’s CBD told Daily Mail Australia that despite being one of the most complex parts of the body – comprising 26 bones, 33 joints and more than 100 ligaments, muscles and tendons – feet are constantly overlooked.
Ms McArthur says almost every foot complaint is caused by pressure from wearing the wrong shoes, with the worst offenders being flat ballet pumps, point-toe high heels and somewhat surprisingly – thongs.
These should be avoided at all costs, she warns, because they force feet to grip onto the spongy insole, causing them to tense which cracks skin across the soles and heels, collapses arches and strains muscles in the ankles.
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Sydney podiatrist Kate McArthur, who says neglecting your feet can cause myriad health issues from nasty fungal infections to chronic pain in the hips, knees and back
What does a ‘perfect’ foot like like?
A perfectly healthy foot is pink or flesh toned in colour and has little to no ‘thick’, calloused skin, Ms McArthur reveals.
She says nails should be pinky with a whiteish tip, without any flakes or brittleness, while a yellow tinge on either skin or nails is a telltale sign that something is wrong.
‘If you’re seeing dry or yellowed skin, especially on the heels, it means you’re feet are getting too much pressure from the shoes you’re wearing and how you’re walking,’ Ms McArthur said.
‘We don’t think about our feet because we simply don’t look at them all the time – it’s not like your hands that you see right in front of you, but they’re just as important.’
Bad news for Australians but thongs should be avoided because they force feet to grip onto the spongy insole, causing skin to crack across the soles and heels, arches to collapse and muscles to strain in the ankles
Tips for relieving tired feet
* Soak them in cold water to bring inflammation down
* Take anti-inflammatories if necessary
* Wear compression stockings which are proven to relieve aches and pains
* Soak in Epsom bath salts
* Cool them with ice packs or a cooling sport spray
Heels, thongs and flats are out… so what should we be wearing?
Ms McArthur advises investing in running shoes from Asics and Bared, which offer the best support for almost every foot shape.
‘Any shoes that you require you to claw your foot onto to stay in place are bad,’ she said.
‘They shouldn’t be tight or loose – it’s a bit like Goldilocks, they need to be just right.’
Asics trainers start from $100 while Bared tennis shoes are higher end at $239.
How often should we be changing our shoes?
As a general rule, Ms McArthur says running shoes or everyday boots should be changed every 700 to 800 kilometres.
That’s the equivalent of roughly 10 months for the average adult.
‘If you’re putting any pressure on them, whether that’s walking, running or standing, track the distance on your phone and swap them out when it hits 800km,’ she said.
Heavy duty leather shoes last longer but should be resoled every six to 10 months, ideally with a slanted wedge that raises the heel just about the ball of the foot.
This reduces the risk of strain and eases pressure on muscles.
‘Be really thoughtful about the sole of your shoe, that’s your support system,’ Ms McArthur said.
A perfectly healthy foot is pink or flesh toned in colour and has little to no ‘thick’, calloused skin, Ms McArthur reveals (stock image)
Ms McArthur advises investing in running shoes from Asics (pictured), which she says offer the best support for almost every foot shape
While callouses, corns and thickened skin reveal where footwear is putting too much pressure, feet can also give the first warning sign of serious conditions like diabetes (stock image)
What are our feet saying about our overall health?
While callouses, corns and thickened skin reveal where footwear is putting too much pressure, feet can also give the first warning sign of serious conditions like diabetes.
Loss of sensation, tingling, unexplained swelling and a sudden change of skin colour are all early symptoms of diabetes and should be checked with a podiatrist as soon as possible.
What products should we be using on our feet?
Any heel balms or moisturisers that contain urea are the best treatments to use on your feet at home, according to Ms McArthur.
Urea is a humectant, which is a powerful substance that draws water into the skin, and is essential to keep heels and soles hydrated.
The soles of the feet are naturally drier than other parts of the body because they have a thicker protective layer on the skin’s surface which is designed to protect it as you walk, leaving feet prone to flaking and painful dryness.