Exercise and Save Your Feet

Exercise and Save Your Feet

We all know that exercise is an important part of controlling diabetes, but many of us also know that we must keep our feet healthy. In this article we will be discussing foot facts, dos and don’ts, and then how to purchase the correct shoes for the exercise you intend to do.

First let’s look at foot facts:

  • Seventy-five percent of Americans will have foot health problems at some point in their lives.
  • Each foot is made up of 26 bones, 33 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons which hold the foot together. Would you believe that the bones in your feet make up about one quarter of the bones in your body?
  • The average person covers several miles a day and 115,000 miles in a lifetime. This is more than four times around the world.
  • When you run the pressure on your feet can be three or four times your body weight.
  • Purchase shoes in the afternoon as feet tend to swell during the day. Fit the larger of your feet as feet are not the same size.
  • Trim your toenails straight across slightly longer than the tips of your toes. If you have problems with your feet, have a professional podiatrist take care of them. Most people are born without foot problems. Neglect and poor care -including ill fitting shoes – accounts for most podiatry problems.
  • Corns and calluses are caused by friction and pressure from skin rubbing on bony areas when wearing shoes. Calluses are nature’s way of protecting sensitive areas of the foot.
  • About 19% of Americans have an average of 1.4 foot problems each year.
  • About 5% of Americans have a foot infection, including fungal infections and warts each year.
  • About 5% of Americans have ingrown toenails each year.
  • About 5% of Americans have corns and calluses each year. These are the least treated foot problems and therefore continue to be problematic.
  • About 6% of Americans have foot injuries, bunions and fallen arches each year.
  • About 60% of all foot and ankle injuries in the US are reported in persons 17 years of age and older.
  • As a person’s income increases, foot problems decrease.

How to exercise and keep our feet healthy:

Walk! This is the best exercise for your feet. Park away from the nearest entrance at the mall. Don’t watch life lying down.

Wear properly fitting shoes, even at home. Don’t go barefoot, especially if you have diabetes, but even if you don’t, this is the best way to insure foot injury and infection while supplying NO support for your feet and ankles.

Use ice (cold) to treat an injury. This will numb the pain and prevent swelling and pain. If you use heat this will promote blood flow which can cause swelling.

Look into special shoes for diabetics if you need them. You can also look into “walking pumps” for dress. These have an athletic shoe-derived construction, wider toe room, reinforced heels and can even look fashionable. Don’t wear heels that are more than two inches high for any extended time.

Don’t wait to seek medical help if you injure yourself or you have an infection. Foot pain is not normal. Have a professional examine you.

Wear shoes that are appropriate for the sports that you are doing. One style does not fit all. Do not wear any sports shoe after it is worn out.

How to select a workout shoe is important to know. For most aerobic activities, your footwear is your most important piece of equipment. Taking your time and educating yourself can mean the difference between a pain-free or an injury-riddled experience.

In a proper fit, your heel should be snug and not slip up and down excessively. Also, there should be about one-half inch between the end of your longest toe and the end of the toe box. Here are some additional tips on selecting the correct shoe:

  1. Remember the four basic factors of selection, support, comfort, durability, and control-of-foot motion.
  2. Always try on both shoes, fully laced, preferably in the late afternoon when your feet are slightly swollen.
  3. Stand, walk and jog around outside the store where you’re purchasing the shoes. You should be able to wiggle your toes. Most quality shoes do not need to be broken in.
  4. Don’t forsake quality for economy. An inexpensive shoe may cost less, but they wind up costing more when you add in medical bills.
  5. If you can, shop for athletic shoes in a store that specializes in these shoes and that employs people who know the stock. A good quality pair of cross trainers may cost $50.00 and it will last for 500 miles. A knowledgeable salesperson can help you distinguish between the many different types of footwear.
  6. Make sure the shoe you purchase has a removable insert that can be changed after 200 to 300 miles.
  7. Although there is a lot of hype, there is little data that shows that one shoe type is better then another. Make sure to select a shoe that is comfortable and affordable for you.

Finally, let’s re-examine the reasons and techniques of foot care for diabetics. We all know that exercise is one of the three prongs of treatment for diabetes, these being diet, medication, and exercise. Why is extra care important for us? Because diabetics can have poor circulation and nerve damage.

If your diabetes is not under tight control and if you smoke your foot problems can be exacerbated. We are told that diabetics should have their feet checked by their physician or podiatrist regularly. If your primary care physician does not ask you to remove your shoes and socks during your examination, ask him/her why this has not been done. Here is a list of how to care for your feet:

  1. Make checking your feet a daily event. Check the tops and between the toes. Don’t forget the bottoms of your feet. If you have problems with any of these, use a mirror so that you can see all of each foot. Keep an eye out for calluses, breaks, dryness, and corns. Look for signs of poor circulation including lack of normal hair growth, coldness to the touch, and thin shiny skin over the tops.
  2. Wash your feet in luke warm water, not hot, with mild soap. Don’t step into a tub without testing it first. Try the water with an elbow or hand to test for the temperature. Do not soak in the tub. Dry your feet well even between the toes.
  3. Soften dry skin with a lanolin-based cream without perfume. Do not apply between the toes. Start with the heals and work toward the toes.
  4. If your feet sweat, use a mild foot powder. Don’t let the powder cake between the toes. Change your socks and wash your feet twice a day if you use foot powder.
  5. Do not use heavy metal toe clippers if you are not able to control them. File your nail instead. You don’t want to cut yourself and risk infection. Do not use metal tools to clean under the nails. See a podiatrist for this job if you are unsure or if your have split, thick or ingrown toenails.
  6. Rub corns and calluses with a towel after bathing. Use cream to soften. Never cut these yourself or use chemicals to remove them.
  7. Always protect your feet by wearing shoes. Break in new dress shoes by wearing them for short periods of time. Remember, if they fit properly, you should not have to break them in, in a painful way. Inspect all shoes for foreign objects, torn linings, or rough spots before putting them on.
  8. Wear clean socks or hose with shoes at all times. Don’t wear darned socks. Don’t wear hose with tight elastic tops.
  9. If you have neuropathy (abnormal changes in your peripheral nervous system) change your shoes and socks every 3 to 5 hours. Visit a podiatrist for direction on how to care for your feet.

Having said all of this, please note that exercise will make you feel better, control your diabetes and weight better, and keep you a social being. Every month we write about exercise and the various activities you can try. If you are just beginning to think about getting into the swing of the program draw power from your internal motivation rather than relying on external motivations like getting into small size jeans.

Get support from others. Join a group of friends or a partner who will help keep you motivated. Make and plan for gradual changes in yourself. If you decide you will go from A to Z in two weeks you will most likely be lying on the sofa watching TV in three weeks. Schedule regular activity each day. Remember exercise may actually reduce your appetite. If you get too busy to have one long workout on one day, squeeze in two or three short ones that day.

Finally, ask your doctor to help you plan your medication with smaller, more frequent meals so that you are not hungry during the day. These can be between 200 calories a snack. Drink a glass of water before you eat. Keep healthy snacks at hand so that vending machine foods do not look so appealing.

You’re ready to exercise. Reread our articles on the different ways to exercise, get the proper shoes, see your doctor to make sure you are fit or if you have any restrictions, and make a plan. Get some friends, join a group, get up from the couch and go for it!