Mind Your Feet

According t o the American Podiatric Medical Association, most Americans will have walked 75,000 miles by the time they turn 50. Is it little wonder, then, that the APMA has 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 pastpresident. “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.”

• Winter is skiing and snowboarding season, activities enjoyed by nearly 10 million Americans, according tothe 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 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.

• Finally – don’t try to tip-toe through winter snow, ice, and temperatures in summer-appropriate footwear. Exposing feet to extreme temperatures means risking frostbite and injury. Choose winter footwear that will keep your feet warm, dry, and well-supported.