How to Save Your Soles This Silly Season

With all the chaos, busyness, activity, colour and fun of Christmas time, the last thing people have time for is foot pain. Foot pain affects one in five people and can result in a loss of productivity, time off work as well as ruining a very special time to spend with family and loved ones. In order to avoid some common festive foot problems, it is simple to remember a few tips, stick to a few golden rules and you will be decking the halls without pain.

Shopping Marathon:

One of the realities of Christmas time is the inevitable shopping. Presents to buy, groceries to stock, parcels to post – all requiring a considerable amount of walking and standing on hard concrete and tiled floors.  Even slow walking will rack up 10,000 steps (2-3km) in 2 hours. If your shopping expeditions are 4-6 hours, it may be possible to be walking 6-7km.  Be prepared for this level of activity and approach it like any distance event. Supportive footwear and adequate hydration (water, not coffee) will allow you to finish strong, rather than limp home tired and sore.

Nail Polish:

In ancient Egypt and China, nails have been coloured for beautification, mostly using eggs, wax and flowers.  Modern nail polish is a complex chemical containing solvents and resins which has been used as early as the 1920’s. While it has the benefit of creating the illusion of smooth, glossy, “youthful” nails, it has been linked to contact dermatitis, fungal infections and discolouration of the nail. Prolonged use can also contribute to drying, cracking and peeling of the nail.

So this season, in order to preserve the health of your toenails into the New Year, if you choose to wear nail polish, remove it as soon as possible and let the nail recover for a few weeks before reapplying.  Use this period to apply a tea-tree oil or lavender oil to retard the growth of fungal spores.  Removing the polish also has the added benefit of revealing any unexpected black marks which may be associated with bruising or trauma caused by too much partying.

If signs of nail fungal infection is observed, prompt attention is warranted as all nail fungal infections take many months and in some cases years to resolve.  Signs of nail fungal infection can include white or yellow discolouration, crumbling edges or streaking.

Heels and Alcohol:

The adverse health effects of wearing high heel shoes have been documented many times. It is inevitable however that the fashion of the day will mean that many people will reach for their Christian Louboutin inspired stilettos and head for the dance floor.  A few guidelines may reduce the risk of sore feet ruining a jolly, holly day.  Alcohol contributes to the feet swelling.  If you plan to enjoy a festive drink or 2, it may be sensible to ensure that your feet have room to move and ultimately, puff.  Tight straps can cause corns, callous, blisters and many other painful problems which will see you carrying your shoes, not wearing them.  Alcohol also contributes to unsteadiness and a loss of balance.  This combined with a heel height which is unfamiliar to the wearer plus some festive fox-trotting may result in ankle sprains and falls.  Heels that are lower and broader have a greater surface area and are more stable than a spiked stiletto.  Choosing these features as well as enjoying alcohol in moderation may save your stability and stop you from twisting, rolling, spraining and having to take anti-inflammatory drugs (which also do not mix with alcohol).

Capsulitis, Burning Feet and Ice:

A common injury seen at this time if year is capsulitis and bursitis of the metatarsal heads. This is when the ball of the foot becomes swollen, inflamed and feels bruised, usually from prolonged periods of standing, wearing high heels and participating in the “Nutbush” dance. There may also be a feeling of burning and numbness in the toes caused by nerve irritation.  To avoid this, try to choose a shoe with a thicker sole at the forefoot, as this will usually mean it has more shock absorbing material between the ground and your foot.  Products like the “Scholl Party Feet” may also be useful in reducing the forefoot trauma (however they will not eliminate it altogether). At the end of the night, spending a few minutes with the balls of the foot on an ice-pack before heading to bed will reduce the immediate swelling and reduce the amount of pain you may feel in the morning.  Prolonged pain and numbness should be seen by a health professional.

Cracks and Burns:

Most people are cognoscente of the need to be sunsafe, especially in our sub tropical summer.  It is important to remember that our feet will also become burnt very quickly if exposed to sun, especially during the hottest part of the day.  As well as causing damage to skin, sunburnt feet are painful and make wearing shoes very uncomfortable. A simple application of sunscreen over the top of the feet takes next to no time, sets a good example to children and will prevent painful, swollen sunburnt skin which may become permanently damaged by the sun.

Heel cracks can be unsightly and painful and in some cases, cause infection. They are often made worse by wearing open heeled shoes or thongs and repeated exposure to water (pools or oceans).  In order to prevent cracking of the heels, regular use of a pumice stone and a heel specific balm will keep the skin hydrated and pliable, reducing its susceptibility to developing cracks.

Santa’s little helpers at Hinkler Podiatry wish everyone and very merry, very safe and very special Christmas.

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