You’re out all day at work, or maybe shopping or sightseeing, and by the end of the day your feet are killing you. You promise yourself that next time you’ll wear more comfortable shoes. But the day’s discomfort is gone after a good night’s sleep, and by the next day you don’t give your feet another thought. Should your feet be higher up your list of priorities? Absolutely!
Why look after your feet?
We all tend to take our feet for granted. But if we don’t look after them, every step could be a pain. If you have diabetes, it’s even more crucial.
The skin on the soles of your feet is thick for a reason – it has to put up with a lot of friction when you walk. But if some areas are under particular pressure, painful corns and calluses can develop. If the skin gets cracked, you could be at risk of infection getting into your system and uncared-for nails can rub nearby skin and make walking painful.
Do I need to see a chiropodist or a podiatrist?
Many of my patients ask which is best. In fact, chiropodists and podiatrists are the same thing, although all are now ‘officially’ called podiatrists. Anyone who calls themself a podiatrist must be qualified and registered with the Health Professions Council, so you can be sure of the quality of their care.
Podiatrists treat lots of painful conditions like hard skin, ingrowing toenails, ulcers and verrucae (foot warts). They can offer preventive care, especially if you have conditions like diabetes. They can prescribe and fit insoles and some are qualified to perform minor operations.
Putting your feet up
The blood supplying your feet has a long way to go against gravity to get back to your heart. The muscles in your calves help pump blood back, but this only happens if you use them regularly. So if you sit or stand still for long periods, it’s hardly surprising if your feet feel swollen and, as a result, uncomfortable. If your feet are swollen or achy after lots of walking, lie back on the sofa with your feet up over one arm, so they’re higher than your heart. This way, gravity will help the blood flow back, relieving the tension in the skin and soft tissues.
The trainer debate
If you’re out sightseeing or walking, the cushioned insoles of good trainers act as shock absorbers, reducing the strain on your back, hips and knees as well as your feet. But wearing trainers for too long can make you prone to athlete’s foot, a common infection with a fungus which thrives in warm, damp areas. As a compromise, invest in leather trainers which will let your feet breathe, wear wool or cotton socks which aren’t too tight and change out of trainers and socks when you get in to let the air circulate. Or, if you don’t like the look of trainers, get really good quality insoles for existing shoes.
Diabetes and your feet – put them top of your agenda
Having raised blood sugar for long periods of time, as many people with diabetes do, greatly increases your risk of nerve and circulation problems in your feet. Keeping your blood sugar well-controlled lowers the risk, but your feet are still more vulnerable than other people’s. If your nerves are affected, you may not feel rubbing which can cause ulcers and, if your circulation is affected, foot ulcers can be very hard to treat. At the extreme end, ignoring your feet can result in hospital admission or even amputation.
Fortunately, if you have diabetes, you’ll be eligible for podiatry checks on the NHS. But between checks, take meticulous care of the skin of your feet, check your feet daily and see your podiatrist or GP at the smallest sign of broken skin. Investing a few minutes of your time regularly could make a world of difference to your feet!