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Body and sole

by Daneeta L. Saft

Body and soleI have a friend who takes pictures of her feet wherever she goes. Her album is filled with her feet on the beaches of Thailand, the jungles of Peru, on the peak of Mt. Fuji, in Trafalgar Square, and in the great redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest. ďI love my feet,ĀEshe says. And so should you. But loving your feet doesnít just happen; it takes time and effort.

If the shoe fits....

Wearing the wrong shoes can cause serious foot ailments such as bunions, corns and calluses (see below). Leather is the best material for shoes because it breathes and molds to your foot. Make sure that the soles are flexible and strong and they have adequate arch support. Ladies, high heels may look stunning, but they can cause all sorts of problems like toe cramps, incorrect body posture and backaches. If you must wear them, donít wear them for long stretches or when youíre on a marathon walk around Tokyo. And choose shoes with a square toe area instead of the 1950ís style toe crunchers to avoid bunions. Join me in wearing trainers to work and then change into heels. Who knows, maybe we can start a new fashion craze.

As for fit, if they arenít comfortable, donít think they will become so with wear. Also, donít buy shoes based on what you think your size is. Start from there, and if you need to go up a half size, do so. Brands vary in size. Go by what feels like it fits. Your feet will spread with age, so make sure that you have both feet measured every time you buy shoes, and buy for the biggest foot. Go shopping in the afternoon as feet tend to swell as the day goes on.

Get off on the right foot

get on the right footMake sure that you dry your feet thoroughly, especially between your toes, after bathing and sprinkle on a little powder to keep your feet dry. This will help to prevent athleteís foot. Avoid wearing the same shoes more than one day in a row, and alternate heel height.

You can exfoliate your feet at least once a week with a bristle brush or pumice stone to lessen the occurrence of hard skin. Massaging with almond oil also soothes your feet and increases circulation. I would caution against using a foot razor as cutting too deeply could cause infection and damage the skin.

Having a monthly pedicure is not only a luxury, but can keep hard skin and calluses at bay as well as keep nails in tiptop condition. Akiyama Megumi, a certified nailist, aromatherapist and reflexologist, advises asking the pedicurist to file nails instead of clipping as it puts less pressure on the nail. She also suggests buffing nails instead of polishing and regular cuticle care to allow proper nutrition to get to the nail bed.

Down at the heel

There are major problems associated with the feet that should only be treated by a podiatrist or chiropodist. These include, but are not limited to, bunions, diabetes and gout. Other less severe problems are calluses and corns, chilblains, ingrown nails, and athleteís foot.

Excessive pressure on the foot due to improperly fitting shoes causes corns and calluses. You can prevent or remove calluses gradually by rubbing the area with a pumice stone during bathing, but corns should be treated by a podiatrist or a chiropodist. Most foot specialists advice against using over-the-counter solutions for corns as the medication tends to damage healthy skin around the corn.

Chilblains are caused by the skinís abnormal reaction to cold. Symptoms include burning and itching which is intensified when the skin is warmed. Swelling and redness may occur and sores may develop. You can prevent chilblains simply by keeping your feet and legs warm. Layer with tights and socks when you go outside and sleep with long johns and socks. Rubbing lanolin ointment on your feet can also help to retain heat. If you develop chilblains, do not scratch them. Rubbing on lotions with a witch hazel or calamine base will relieve some of the itching and burning. If your feet have ulcerated, itís best to see a doctor.

Ingrown nails occur when the nail grows into the skin and becomes embedded. Although ingrown nails can be caused by poor nail structure, improperly fitting shoes and hosiery or injury, the most common cause is cutting your nails improperly. Nails should not be cut too short, nor should they be cut down the sides. Cut them the same shape as your toe or, better yet, file them the same shape as your toe. If your toe becomes inflamed, you can bathe it in a saline solution, but you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Athleteís foot is a common fungal infection that can manifest on both skin and nails. The condition is not harmful, however, left unchecked, nails can become infected and the problem will be much more difficult to treat. The fungus thrives in dampness, so watch yourself on your jungle vacation this Christmas. Symptoms are itching between the toes, red, itchy skin, flaking, peeling and cracking. When toenails are infected, they appear yellow or brown. Wearing socks made from natural fibers, well-fitting shoes that allow air to circulate and using an anitfungal powder can help with prevention. Make sure that your shoes air out and dry completely between wears. Over-the-counter creams, ointments and powders are available for treatment. I always carry some in my travel medical kit as you never know where this kind of medication is or isnít available.

Daneeta L. Saft is a Tokyo-based writer and health and fitness acolyte. For more info on this and other health and fitness stuff check out her website at www.healthy-bytes.com


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