The real test of your own foot health is in how you take care of your feet each and every day. Here are footcare tips recommended by our expert sources:
Socks. The human foot has over 250,000 sweat glands, and excretes up to a pint of sweat daily. Since keeping feet dry is one way to keep them comfortable and healthy, pay attention to the socks you’re wearing. It’s tempting to buy cheap cotton tube socks at the local megastore, but choosing fibers such as wool or bamboo can wick moisture away from your feet, helping you avoid nuisances such as athlete’s foot. Also, keep some extra pairs of dry socks in your rig, and change socks mid-day.
Orthotics. True orthotics are custom-made medical devices, and all shoe inserts are not created equal, say our experts. Watch out for “mirror image” shoe inserts, which are exactly the same on both sides and don’t take into account the variables of individual feet, and “glorified foot cushions” that feel good at first but don’t provide the stable environment that a true orthotic does. However, mass produced orthotic-like inserts that provide at least heel cradling and arch support are better than nothing at all. And even if you’re in a rural area, there are now Internet options for ordering foot support devices, such as PowerStep.com or Featherspring.com.
Cleanliness. The key is to eliminate fungus spores daily, before they have a chance to settle in and colonize, but washing your feet every day with an anti-fungal soap doesn’t have to mean exposure to chemicals. Natural ingredients like tea tree oil are safe alternatives and have excellent anti-fungal properties.
Shoe Rotation. Shoes and boots still soak up moisture even if you’re wearing absorbent socks, so consider buying several pairs to eliminate soggy foot environments. If you’re having a foot fungus problem, it’s critical to powder and dry out footgear in between wearing each pair. The worst thing you can do is put on an over-the-counter cream and jam your foot back into a boot that’s full of fungus.
Exercise. Walking is the best foot exercise there is, but stretching is important, too. If your calf muscles feel like rocks, you might have muscular adhesions that can limit their elasticity and lead to joint stresses. Do some dorsal flexion every day to stretch out your calves. If you’re not getting enough stretching, get a night splint that you can pop on at the end of the day. It will stretch the plantar tendons in the foot as well as the calf muscles.
You can read more about improving your own footcare in the May/June issue of American Farriers Journal.