Did you know that each of our amazing feet contain more than 26 bones, four arches and 33 joints? There are more than 250,000 sweat glands in the feet that produce about 500 milliliters of sweat per day. In an average lifetime, a person will walk a distance equivalent to more than three trips around the earth. On average, we walk 3,000 steps per day, so our feet take a lot of abuse. Those who run or walk as a form of exercise may take as many as 10,000 steps per day. So it seems our feet deserve some attention.
Feet have even been known to inspire artists over the ages. Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni said, “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”
Although they seem to have a place in history, our feet often are neglected — at least until pain starts to prevent us from participating in our favorite activities.
According to the American Podiatric Society, foot disorders in the elderly are common and can cause much pain, spurring a loss of mobility and independence. Also, at least 40 percent of the population will suffer from a foot problem at some point, thus putting a damper on our favorite activities and pastimes — or halting them altogether.
Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, an Air Force flight surgeon and director of the Natural Running Center, calls the foot the “quarterback” of all motion. It moves dynamically to “balance, stabilize and propel [our bodies] forward,” he says.
How should we care for our feet? First, we should inspect them daily, and wash and dry them carefully, paying special attention to the areas between toes. Keep toenails trimmed; foot specialists recommend a straight cut rather than rounded edges, which may lead to hangnails.
Smooth calluses and rough spots with a pumice stone or a foot scrub and follow up with lotion. At night, use petroleum jelly or foot cream and wear socks to bed for an extra softening effect.
Carefully choose footwear for daily use and for exercise. When deciding whether to retire a pair of shoes, don’t rely solely on shoe mileage:
isten to your body. Pain in the lower extremity joints — such as the knees, hips or back — can mean it’s time for new shoes.
Do your shoe shopping later in the day after you have been on your feet for a period. Since most people have one foot that is larger than the other, use the bigger of the two to determine size. A good fit means that you have about a half inch of space between your longest toe and the shoe.
Also, consider performing foot- and lower-leg strengthening exercises, such as two- or one-legged heel raises on level surfaces or on stairs, single-leg balance exercises and towel scrunches with your toes. These exercises help to build foot and calf-muscle strength while improving balance.
Remember, your feet are intricate and well-engineered structures that continually support your body weight and help to move you forward. A little extra attention will help to keep your feet healthy and strong.
Elliott, is a physical therapist and owner of Georgia Game Changers Running Company in Richmond Hill. She enjoys making a difference in the lives of others by sharing information on living better and committing to be fit, healthy and strong.