Sole survival

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Watch your step: Your footwear is crucial to foot health. Photo: A. Roy Chowdhury
Watch your step: Your footwear is crucial to foot health. Photo: A. Roy Chowdhury


Pay some attention to your feet and you won't regret it.

IT'S a simple fact: If you want to exercise and be fit, you must take care of your feet. From bunions to blisters and all the foot maladies in between, small aches and pains can stall your exercise programme.Women have four times as many foot problems as men, due primarily to shoes that impinge on nerves, bones and connective tissue. High heels that alter a person's are also to blame. Avoid shoes that are too narrow or too high or that have soles that are too thin. Basically if a shoe interferes with your ability to walk comfortably and normally, you're in trouble.

Regular inspection

To stop the problem before it starts, inspect your feet regularly. Check for thick skin on your heels, across the tops of your toes, and on the outside edge of your foot, which can be a sign of developing corns and calluses. If you have a thickening on the sole of your foot that hurts when pressure is applied you may have a plantar wart. Redness and broken skin between the toes is a sign of athlete's foot. Finally, are your toenails thick, yellow or discoloured? If so, you may suffer from a fungal nail infection.Here is a list of common foot ailments and the appropriate treatments.Bunions: A lump at the joint caused by a misaligned big toe, bunions can be very painful. Your first line of defence is shoes that fit properly and minimise pressure placed on the bunion. More advanced cases often require surgery.Blisters: Caused by friction, blisters should be treated with antibiotic ointment and covered with a bandage. Try not to pop them as this can lead to infection.Corns or calluses: An excess growth of skin that occurs at pressure points, corns and calluses can be treated with cushions, lamb's wool and shoe pads, which relieve pressure. Again shoes that fit properly can prevent corns and calluses from forming in the first place. You can also use emery boards or a pumice stone to smooth away dead skin that may become a problem.Plantar warts: Warts that form on the sole of the foot can be a challenge to remove due to the thick skin in that area. Over the counter removal methods are available, but you should seek professional help if you have a recurring problem.Hammertoes: A deformity of the toe joint that causes it to bed up slightly and curl under like a claw, hammertoes usually occur on the second toe. Because of its position, corn often form on the top of the hammertoe, adding to discomfort. A shoe with a roomier toe box may be all that you need, but other treatments include splints, orthotics and surgery.Athlete's foot: Itchy, cracked skin between the toes is a sure-fire sign of athlete's foot. Most cases can be treated with anti-fungal creams available at the local pharmacy. To prevent future outbreaks, keep your feet clean and dry.Neuroma: These are caused when the bones of the foot, primarily those between the third and fourth toes, rub together and irritate the adjacent nerve. The nerve responds by building up extra tissue, which becomes a painful lump. In addition to pain, symptoms may include a burning sensation or numbness in the ball of the foot. Neuromas usually require treatment, which can start with ultrasounds and orthotics and move to cortisone shots and finally surgery in the most severe cases.Nail fungus: Characterised by thick, flaky, discoloured nails, nail fungus can create discomfort when nails become difficult to trim and the extra length becomes uncomfortable in shoes. Prescription drugs are now available to treat nail fungus.Pampering your feet with soaks, massage, lotions and pumice rubs can keep them healthy and ready for action.Los Angeles Times Syndicate



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