Annoying foot problems can create imbalances elsewhere in your body and make your life miserable. Find out how to ID plantar faciitis, flat feet, prontation, high arches, and more in Your Foot Problems—Solved!
Pushpa Chauhan, D.P.M., a New York City podiatrist, highly recommends making an annual visit to your friendly local podiatrist. “Feet can change,” she says, “so it’s important to maintain them.”
In the meantime, she and Golden Harper, a world-record marathoner and the founder of Altra footwear, have come up with four easy things you can do to keep you on your feet.
1) Scrunch a Towel.
Place a towel on the floor and scrunch it and pull it in with your toes. “The average person has weak feet, so strengthening them for a few minutes a day while you’re working or watching TV can go a long way toward stopping foot pain,” Harper says.
2) Massage your feet.
“It can help relax the muscles and improve circulation,” Chauhan says. Seated or standing, roll a tennis ball back and forth between the ball of your foot and your heel. You can also use a wooden roller made especially for feet.
3 ) Trim your toenails.
You’ll not only reduce trauma and make a little extra room in your shoes, you’ll also reduce the risk of nail breakage. Why is this important? “So often long nails will crack or break,” Chauhan says, “which can provide a port of entry for a fungus, like athlete’s foot, or a virus, like warts.”
4 ) Walk barefoot.
Or stand barefoot on one leg. “A lot of shoes are constructed like a cast, with a big arch support pushing up into the foot,” Harper says. “Going barefoot on soft surfaces for even just minutes a day can strengthen your feet and help the bones naturally realign.”
Research supports it, too. An Ithaca College study found going barefoot can markedly improve your balance, posture, and prevent common injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and Achilles tendonitis because you’re strengthening the small (often overlooked) muscles in your feet that support movement and stability. There’s a feedback cycle between the neural connections that send information from the small and large muscles in our feet to the brain.
“When that feedback loop is broken, though, it can lead to the overuse injuries that plague many an athlete and weekend warrior alike,” lead researcher Patrick McKeon said in a press release. “When you put a big sole underneath, you put a big dampening effect on that information…so the larger muscles over-compensate and over-exert past the point of exhaustion and the natural ability to repair.”
Ditch your shoes and try activities like Pilates, yoga, and martial arts, McKeon suggests.