Category Archives for Feet

If the Shoe Fits – How to Choose the Right Footwear for Healthy Feet

The inimitable Bette Midler once famously quipped: “I firmly believe that with the right footwear, one can conquer the world”.

While I’m willing to begrudgingly accept the possibility that she may not have been referring to her deeply held love of podiatry, she might nevertheless be on to something. I mean, even Kim Jong Un invested in secret lifting shoes in an attempt to give him an edge in nuclear negotiations. What more evidence do we need to prove footwear’s central role in global affairs!

Even if world domination isn’t quite your thing, and you’re more concerned with conquering your regular jogging or power-walking circuit, there can be no denying Midler’s wisdom: what you put on your feet can play a significant role in helping you achieve your goals. More importantly, making poor shoe choices can cause pain and damage to bones, joints and supportive tissue, or exacerbate pre-existing issues such as arthritis, shin-splints, corns, bunions, achilles pain and more. Lest you think that such problems might be limited to your feet, “committing shoe-icide” as some like to call it, can alter your gait, with flow-on ill-effects all the way up your spine.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to ensure that you don’t put your foot in it. Here are some crucial things to remember:

The Right Shoes for the Job

You wouldn’t wear a tux to a pool party, would you? By the same token, matching the shoe to the purpose is critical:

  • If you’re engaging in sporting pursuits, make sure that you wear the shoes designed for the relevant activity. Each sport involves unique foot mechanics, and the appropriate shoes are designed with those in mind. You’re going to look ridiculous playing tennis in footy boots, anyway!
  • If your occupation requires long periods of standing, or you’ve been lured into the standing desk craze, ensure your shoes have plenty of cushion support and a low to medium heel.
  • Conversely, if you spend most of your day sitting, something comfortable, light and breathable is your best option.

Don’t Be a Slave to Fashion

  • Ladies, I know you’re going to wear high heels at times. I get it. But if you must wear them, try not to do it when you’re standing for hours. If you have to walk from the car to the restaurant table and back again, it’s really ok, but if you wear them the whole of Cup Day, I promise you we’ll both know about it. My advice… try to limit them to occasions that won’t require much moving around or extended periods of standing and, if you do, be upfront with me. It’s easier to fix what hurts if I know why it started…
  • Ballet flats might be cute, but really the only thing they support is your appearance. Their best use is to keep in your handbag for when the heels get too much, which is actually not a bad place to keep them. I hope you’ll forgive me.
  • Thongs are great for the beach or the pool, but ideally not for walking the streets. The real problem is that having to grip when you walk just to keep them on not only alters the way your foot interacts with the ground. It can overwork the small intrinsic muscles that live between your metatarsal bones. And when they get overworked, they hurt!

The Perfect Fit

Identifying the right type of shoe is half the battle. The next critical issue is getting the right fit:

  • Your feet tend to swell later in the day, so this is the best time to try on new shoes. Give them a whirl in the morning and you might find yourself in tight situation when the sun goes down.
  • Your feet change shape and size over time, and it’s completely normal to have two feet of slightly different sizes. Even though you know your shoe size, it pays to re-measure your feet every time you visit the store.
  • Pay particular attention to the toe box. You want to ensure that it is long enough to allow at least a centimetre between the longest toe and the front of the shoe, and wide enough that the toes are not compacted or overlapping. Furthermore, the shoe should bend easily at the toe, but remain rigid at the arch to achieve the right balance of support and flexibility. High heels, I’m talking to you again!
  • When trying on shoes, wear good fitting socks that are appropriate for the activity for which the shoes will be worn.
  • Unless you know exactly what you’re getting, avoid purchasing shoes online as there’s no way to try them out and you’re more likely to suck it up and suffer through ill-fitting shoe torture, rather than go through the hassle of returning them.
  • Breaking in periods are one of my favourite myths. Breaking in periods for shoes are to a podiatrist what tooth fairies are to a dentist. We just smile quietly and get on with things. So when the admittedly well-spoken salesperson tries to explain that the shoes will feel good once you’ve worn them for a bit, don’t listen. The right shoe should be comfortable the moment you put it on. By all means, walk around a little to put them through their paces. However, if they don’t feel great right away, they’re the wrong pair for you. In fact, in some cases, particularly heels where the padding bottoms out after a few days, how it feels in the shop might be the best it ever feels, so take care out there.

Keep them Fresh

Wearing worn-out shoes can be just as harmful as a poor fit. You’ll know it’s time for a new pair If:

  • The heel is wearing away. Your body relies on the heel planting firmly and straight. A worn heel can result in the foot planting at the wrong angle, causing your arch to roll awkwardly.
  • The material has given to the point that there is too much room and your foot is slipping somewhat.
  • The arches are starting to flex, or the soles are worn and thinning.

With some common sense and care, you can ensure that your footwear not only looks the part but keeps you safe and healthy. If you’d like specific, tailored advice on the right shoe for you and your needs, feel free to book in an appointment with one of our expert Podiatrists. We’re here to help. And if you’re feeling really keen, talk to us about lacing techniques…

Back on Your Feet – Returning to Exercise After a Foot Injury

It wasn’t long ago that foot injuries weren’t taken too seriously. In fact no minor injuries were. It was a simpler time when we understood just little enough to not worry about what we put in our bodies, the atmosphere or on TV. If a bone wasn’t actually poking out at an angle, parents and coaches alike didn’t always rush you off to the doctor, because it was probably going to go away.  Except of course when it didn’t…

Fortunately, we live in more compassionate times. We also live in times that are overloaded with information, available anywhere at massively fast download speeds. It can lead to impatience, because your body has an irritating tendency to not rush healing, even though it knows how busy you in fact are! Thankfully, there are ways to help you spend less time in my office, unless you’re passing and want to use the coffee machine…

Keep It Low Impact

Your 5km jogs are out, so this is the perfect time to try some alternative forms of exercise that place minimal or no burden on your feet. Swimming, water jogging or pedaling on an exercise bike can all keep your heart and lungs pumping without excessive pressure on the extremities. Many Pilates and yoga stretches involve no foot pressure, so talk to an instructor about a program that works for you. If you’re into resistance training, seated upper-body exercises are the way to go until you’re ready to put some weight back on your feet. Remember, this is a temporary thing, not a total lifestyle change, so if you treat it as such, it will be easier to do what you need to, to get better gradually.

Take It Slow

When you’re feeling like you’re on the mend, it’s tempting to throw yourself right back into your routine. This approach can have serious consequences and lead to re-injury or long-term damage. Just because it feels better, don’t be fooled into thinking your body is fixed. It simply doesn’t need to restrain you by hurting as much. It figures you knew that. When you’re ready to reintroduce load-bearing exercise into your schedule, a good rule of thumb is to start with 50% of your original capacity, then work your way up by 10-15% per week until you’re back at your peak. If it hurts, dial the pressure down a notch and try again next time.

Stretch

Just because you aren’t putting direct pressure on your feet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t putting indirect pressure on the injury site. Tighter muscles, which come from using them and allowing them to shorten, means that there is still traction from the tendon insertions on your foot bones and this can exacerbate the problem, assuming of course that wasn’t the original problem in the first place (plantar fascia and achilles tendon, I’m talking to you…). A simple increase in stretching, especially in this awesome freezing weather can make all the difference.

The Right Gear

Your beaten-up old runners spell trouble as you work towards recovery. Ensure your feet are protected with good-quality, comfortable shoes with plenty of cushioning and support to reduce impact and jarring. Custom-made orthotics can also provide additional support as you ramp your way back up to full activity. In the midst of Winter, make sure your muscles are kept warm too, so they have more adaptability when you’re working out.

Hydrate

Water is a crucial part of aiding your recovery. It is the primary means through which nutrients and oxygen are transported to the injured area, both of which are required for damaged tissue to heal. Adequate hydration will greatly assist your body as it works on healing itself.

A foot injury doesn’t have to spell doom for your fitness regime. With careful planning and care, you can be back to your best before you know it. For everything in the meantime, we’re here to help.

Frostbitten – The Essential Guide to Winter Foot Care

Be careful what you wish for – that’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way this year. After sweating through what seemed to be the stifling summer that never ended and the autumn that never happened, I found myself praying for winter’s arrival with blessed relief. I should have known better. Melbourne weather, on the other hand, has a way of exacting sweet revenge from those that mock it, and has it ever hit back with gusto!

Icy mornings and shivering nights don’t just play havoc with your heating bills. They can be surprisingly harsh on your feet. With the thongs and sandals firmly ensconced in the back of the shoe cupboard, our feet see far less light of day, and there can be a tendency to neglect them. If your feet are not exactly feeling the love this winter, here is the definitive guide to how you can keep them happy and healthy during the cold months:

Cream of the Crop

Winter means more time inside with the heater blasting, which translates to dry skin. Your feet are no exception, and a daily application of moisturiser will help keep them hydrated and avoid cracked heels, corns and calluses. Spending a few extra minutes massaging the cream into your feet thoroughly will have the added benefit of stimulating circulation, which promotes general foot health, especially If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic.

Southern Exposure

We get it. It’s cold, and the very last thing you want to do is to kick off those toasty Uggs and go au naturale. Nevertheless, your feet need to breathe, and even as little as 20 minutes a day can be sufficient to keep excess sweating, bacterial and fungal infections at bay. As unappealing as this might sound, take a deep breath and grit your teeth. It’s character building!

Shoddy Treatment

You’d be amazed how many people fail to make appropriate footwear choices in winter. Happy feet need sturdy shoes that keep them warm and dry, yet allow room to breathe. If you don’t have space to wiggle your toes, then switch to a pair that does. Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that you have multiple pairs of shoes that fit this bill. The extra warmth can cause moisture to accumulate, increasing the risk of tinea and other infections. Switch your shoes out regularly and ensure that they have sufficient time to air out before the next wearing.

Dry Humour

The cold snap has not brought with it much rain, but trust me, it’s coming. When it does, it’s critical to ensure that you keep your feet as dry as possible. If you’re caught in a downpour or accidentally step into a puddle that soaks right through, be sure to change your shoes and socks as soon as you can.

Move It!

As tempting as it is to spend your time curled up under a cosy blanket with a hot cup of tea, staying active is a great way to promote foot health. Increased activity means improved circulation and reduced foot and ankle swelling. If you’re stuck behind a desk all day, take a few moments every day to do some foot exercises to get the blood pumping.

Material World

Synthetic socks are one of your feet’s worst enemies, and never more so than in winter. Always opt for socks made with natural fibres such as wool or cotton. Such materials are far more breathable and will counteract any build-up of moisture that would otherwise have been trapped by synthetic fibres.

With a little bit of common sense and a decent serving of care and attention, your feet can stay in outstanding shape and be ready for action once flip-flop season returns!