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    Photo Credit: Jeff Titterton

Be sweet to your feet

by S. Wentworth

Let’s face it. You take your feet for granted. You pound them on the pavement, smash them into your pedals and squish them into cute shoes. And you don’t give them a second thought until something goes wrong, like a blister, a hangnail or a hotspot.

Dr. Mark Wolpa, a podiatrist at the Berkeley Foot Clinic, said, the most common mistake is “ignoring your feet until you develop a problem.”

Athletes, he said, typically have issues with “heel pain, stress fractures, arch pain and bunions. Many athletes can avoid these by good stretching, maintaining good shoes, discarding old ones, adhering to a sound training program, avoiding the too-much-too-soon syndrome of increasing mileage.”

Dr. Taylor Rabbetz, a chiropractor at Chiro-Medical Group, said he sees a lot of sprained ankles and plantar facisitis (in laymen’s terms, inflammation of the soles of your feet).

“Ankle injuries cannot always be avoided, but can be minimized by performing exercises that strengthen your feet and ankles,” he said. “For Plantar Fascitis, anything that you can do you keep the arch of your foot from over pronating is essential. For athletes, this means being in the proper footwear when working out.”

So what can you do to take care of your feet? First and foremost, don’t wait before seeking medical attention. A foot injury can go from bad to worse quickly.

“Don’t wait too long before seeking care,” Rabbetz said. “The feet are incredibly strong and put up with a lot before the symptoms get worse. Identifying when this occurs is important. In sports medicine, the rule is that if symptoms don’t get better in 48 to 72 hours or your pain level continues to rise, seek care! “

How can you be more pro-active in your foot care? “Ensure that your feet and lower leg are flexible by stretching. Wear good footwear for the majority of the day,” Rabbetz said. “Roll your feet on a tennis ball or cold soda can for a few minutes while sitting during the day.”

According to Wolpa, over-the-counter remedies work really well, but to avoid the itching and burning of athlete’s foot altogether, wear shower shoes and don’t wear other people’s dirty socks.

Anything that causes rubbing or friction can cause blisters. Keep your feet and socks dry. Make sure your socks fit well. Legendary basketball coach John Wooden used to start each season by teaching his players how to put their socks on. Making sure your socks are smooth and properly situated on your feet is key to preventing blisters.

Did you inherit bunions? Sorry about your luck. Wolpa says, “Good shoes and, for many, a prescription orthotic can help. For advanced bunions, surgical removal is indicated.”

If you have flat feet, you are more susceptible to certain problems. “When you have flat feet, you are at a distinct disadvantage bio-mechanically. Your feet roll in too much, which puts too much pressure on the arches of the feet,” Rabbetz said. “It doesn’t stop there. The knees also are affected from this motion and so is the pelvis. Just consider that your feet are the foundation of your body and that if you have a bad foundation this can lead to many symptoms.”

What can you do? “Flat feet means that one's foot works harder than normal,” Wolpa said. “Seeking professional help from a sports-oriented podiatrist and orthotic inserts will help.”

Ouch, ouch, ouch, my feet are on fire! “Hot spots are caused from friction,” Wolpa said. “These can be caused from ill-fitting socks, shoes or increase motion of their feet within a shoe, as in someone is flat footed and their foot rolls in (pronates) more than normal.”

Good socks can make the difference. Wrightsocks, Wigwam, Thorlos and Asics offer good fit and moisture-wicking properties for athletes. Sock success will vary by athlete.

Keep your toenails trim. Cut them straight across and file the sides to round them. Don’t ignore toenail issues.

What if your toenail turns black? Runner’s World says, “You need to make a hole in the nail and drain the blood. Either heat the tip of a small, straightened paper clip and use it to burn through the nail until a drop of blood comes out, or sterilize the tip of an X-Acto knife or 1/16-inch drill bit with heat or alcohol, and drill a hole in the nail by spinning the instrument between your finger and thumb. Stick your foot in a pan of water until all the blood comes out. (If you're squeamish about doing this, ask a friend to help, or see a sports-oriented physician.) Apply an antibacterial cream. Relieve inflammation with ice and anti-inflammatories.”