By Dr. Daniel Hodson
One of the most frequent questions I am asked as a Podiatrist is, “why feet?” In a world where specialization is much more the norm, and you can see a specialist for just about any part of the body, feet seemed to be a natural fit for me because of my background in distance running. If you have ever had an ingrown toenail or sprained ankle, then you know how much a pain in your foot or ankle can slow you down. A simple task such as going to the store can seem much more difficult when your feet hurt. So I would like to share a few thoughts about how you can protect your feet from injury and pain by sharing three simple tips about the most basic of protective devices – the shoe.
Tip number one: get rid of old shoes.
There is a lot that can be said about proper fitting shoes, and once you have found a good pair it can be hard for some people to get rid of them. If you want to hang on to the shoes that you wore on your wedding day for sentimental reasons, I get that. But if you are still wearing those wedding shoes every day, 10 years later and your feet hurt – stop wearing them. Seems simple enough, but sometimes I see people with foot pain and the only thing that they need to do to get rid of the pain is to buy new shoes. Signs your shoes are too old: the tread is worn out in the heel. Ninety percent of the tread could be fine, but if the heel is worn out, that is a sign of a worn out shoe. Bald tires are dangerous on the roads so why do we run around with bald shoes?
Tip number two: proper fit heel and toe.
To check proper fit around your heel, place your index finger behind the shoe’s heel and your heel. You should be able to slide your finger between them with little force. If your finger cannot fit, the shoes are too tight. If your finger has too much room, the shoes are too large.
Your toes need wiggle room so that you don’t get blisters, calluses or damaged toenails. You should be able to wiggle your toes comfortably in the toe box and if you aren’t sure how much room is enough, use the “rule of thumb” when purchasing new shoes. You can do this by simply elevating your big toe against the new shoe, fit the width of your thumb in between the tips of your toes and the end of the shoe. Remember to check both feet since some people have different sized feet!
Tip number three: If it doesn’t feel good in the store, it won’t feel good at home.
When buying a car, we don’t get inside, adjust the seat and mirror and then say, “I’ll take it.” So why do we do that with shoes? If you are going to be investing in something that will affect your ability to walk comfortably, you should try the shoes around the store for a few minutes. Don’t buy shoes simply because they look good. High heels should have warning labels; and if you twist your ankle in the store that is probably not a good sign.
These feet were made for walking.
Because feet get us around and keep us healthy, it is important to get moving and make regular exercise a part of our weekly schedule. I have always loved running and I have been entering races for over three decades. But I realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm or competitiveness for racing. Last year I came up with a race concept that could get even the non-runner excited about entering a race. How, you may ask? By motivating them with a chance to win awesome prizes! With the support of the Great Falls Clinic and other local sponsors, last year I was able to introduce a new concept in racing which I described as a “raffle race.” It is a one hour race on a there-and-back course where you have 30 minutes to collect as many raffle tickets as possible (every half mile) and then 30 minutes to get back to the finish line in time for the raffle. Last year it worked out great! I had a few that only went 2-3 miles and someone that ran 9 miles. But the greatest part was there were no losers! Everyone finished and had a chance to win a prize. I gave away a 65 inch television and thousands more in prizes!
As a podiatrist I mostly see patients when they already have a problem. But I also see myself as an educator. If I can help someone prevent foot and ankle problems by wearing proper shoes and motivating them to exercise regularly; that is just as much a success as performing a successful bunion surgery. So if you ask me “why feet?” I would probably tell you, “why not!”