Take a minute to look at your feet. Go ahead—kick off your shoes, peel off your socks and pay some attention to these two unsung heroes. Your feet, after all, put in a lot of work, but aside from a monthly pedicure and an occasional foot massage (if we’re lucky), most of the time they don’t really get much love.
So how do your feet feel now that they’re free of their daily confines? Chances are, they’re a bit sore. They might also be dry and cracked on the heels. Could you use some lotion and a foot rub? You bet. But there’s more to taking care of your feet than that.
More than half of Americans say foot pain affects their day-to-day lives. With a little effort, though, you can ward off aches and pains, injuries and infections—and keep your feet looking and feeling their best. Here are eight ways to show your tootsies some appreciation:
Heels in Moderation.
Did you know that wearing high heels can actually cause your calf muscles to shorten? Heels can also pinch nerves in your foot and cause your Achilles tendon to become painfully inflamed. Consider saving your heels for special occasions and stick to flat or low-heeled options for everyday. With all the cute flats out there these days, you won’t have to sacrifice fashion for comfort.
Pick the Right Running Sneaks.
There are at least five different categories of shoes for runners, ranging from stability control to minimalist. (Your arches play a big role in finding the right fit.) Make your decision about which sneakers to buy based on function, not appearance. How do you know if a shoe is right for you? Easy: Go to a specialty running store and get a gait analysis. The salesperson will take a look at your feet and watch how you run (either on a treadmill or on the sidewalk) and suggest a few options. Then it’s up to you to pick the pair that feels the most comfortable and supportive—not necessarily those that’ll attract the most admirers on the trail.
Do Some Stretches.
Believe it or not, you can exercise your feet! Walking is one great way to do that, but you can also spend a few minutes focusing on foot and leg stretches—like scrunching a towel with your toes; “doming” your feet into an arch; and raising up on your toes—that will help prevent pain and alleviate it once it has set in. Visit our articles Fend Off Foot Aches and Soothe Your Aching Feet for some foot-friendly workouts that we encourage you to do once or twice a day.
Make Sure Your Pedi Is Safe.
If you’ve ever seen someone’s toes after acquiring an infection from a nail salon, you know that a little vigilance is well worth the effort. Make sure that tools like nail files and buffers are properly sterilized between clients, or bring your own kit (some salons even require this). Footbaths should get a thorough cleaning before you dip in even a toe; that means scrubbed and disinfected, refilled with water and emptied out—not just sprayed and wiped down. Get a Perfect and Safe Pedicure shares more need-to-know info, like health problems that can boost your risk of infection at a salon.
Try a Foot Soak.
Tonight or over the weekend, fill up a large bowl or bucket with warm water and submerge your feet for 20 to 30 minutes. You can add Epsom salt or a few drops of an essential oil to make your soak even more healing. A foot soak isn’t just pampering (although that’s reason enough to indulge in one)—it can also bring down swelling and relieve sore muscles and aches after a day on your feet.
Give Yourself a Massage.
We’re not going to claim that this is just as good as getting a rubdown from a professional or a loved one, but giving yourself a foot massage can be surprisingly relaxing, and it can effectively ease soreness and tension, improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Consider making it a part of your calming bedtime ritual, just like applying moisturizer to your face and hands before you hit the hay. Use a scented foot lotion, body oil or even coconut oil (a Canyon Ranch staff favorite) warmed between your hands. Work your way up and down each foot, applying pressure on reflexology points or where it feels tender…ahhhh. Even if you don’t take a few minutes to massage your feet, simply moisturizing them before bed every night can help smooth cracked heels.
More: Enjoy a Self-Massage
Lose a Few Pounds.
Even an extra 10 pounds can cause pain in the joints, bones and ligaments of your feet. The discomfort keeps some people from exercising and shedding that weight, creating an unhealthy cycle. Talk to your doctor, a physical therapist or a trainer at the gym about activities that won’t put a lot of strain on joints and feet; water aerobics, for example, might be an option that works for you.
See the Doc.
If you had an open wound or severe pain you’d see your doctor, right? You should also schedule an appointment for foot swelling that hasn’t lessened over a few days; foot pain that hasn’t gone away for weeks; or any unusual sensations, like burning pain, numbness or tingling in your feet. Common causes of foot pain can include tendinitis, bone spurs, bunions, flatfeet, plantar fasciitis and diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain); your doctor, a podiatrist or a physical therapist can help you find relief from all of these.