By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
Whether your greatest traveling pleasure comes from strolling through art galleries, hiking, or walking barefoot in the sand, you expect your feet to take you there without complaint. But the way you treat your tootsies determines how kindly your feet will treat you. The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society has provided some excellent suggestions. All the tips included here have been tested and are endorsed by Kaye Christie, whose feet have endured three surgeries in the last 25 years.
1. Try walking — a traveler’s sport
Walking is far more than a way to control your weight and to keep your heart healthy — it’s an essential part of the traveling life. Another advantage: you need no special equipment beyond a pair of lightweight and supportive shoes.
2. How much walking is enough?
Don’t ask the experts; they don’t know for sure. Ask your body instead, and then use your head. If you aren’t already in good shape for walking, take it easy at first. If you aren’t accustomed to walking uphill, do it slowly. If you begin to experience pain in your legs or feet, stop. If you’re bone tired afterward, or still tired the next day, you may have done too much. The main thing is to keep at it. As your body gets into condition and your endurance increases, you’ll be able to increase your effort and distance.
3. Treats for your tootsies
If your feet complain, humor them. Fill a dishpan with warm, soapy water and soak your feet for 10 minutes or so. A foot massage can relieve tension in tired, aching feet and make you feel good all over. (The very best massages are those willingly provided by a traveling companion.)
4. Trimming your toenails
People who walk often need to be especially attentive when trimming their toenails. Keep them short, and always cut the nails straight across rather than in a curved pattern. The last thing you need is to be hobbled by an ingrown nail when you should be out having fun.
5. Give your shoes a checkup
For many people, foot pain is caused by ill-fitting shoes. Here’s a simple way to evaluate your shoes to see if they are the problem. Examine your bare feet for calluses, blisters, or other areas of irritation. Next, put your hand inside the corresponding shoe (or shoes) and check whether seams, heel tacks, or rough places in the shoe correspond to the sore areas on your feet. If you find that your shoes are the cause of the injury, get rid them.
6. Selecting shoes
Sizes vary among brands and styles, so don’t select a new pair of shoes solely by the size listed on the box. Judge shoes by how they feel on your feet. It’s also a good idea to have both of your feet measured each time you buy new shoes, for two reasons. First, the size of your feet changes as you grow older or when you lose or gain weight. Also, typically one foot is larger than the other, and you should always fit your shoes to the larger size. Here’s another tip: always buy walking shoes at the end of the day when your feet are their largest. (No, they don’t grow, but they do swell to a greater or lesser degree.)
7. Wear shoes appropriate to your feet or activity
There is no such thing as a pair of all-purpose shoes but, unquestionably, shoes with a heel height of 1 inch or lower are the most healthful for your feet. In general, lace-up rather than slip-on shoes provide the best fit, plus they can accommodate insoles, braces, and orthotic devices.
8. Foot problems
Should you develop foot or ankle problems, head for a drugstore or the pharmacy section of your local retail store. You’ll find a wide range of orthotic devices that are available without a prescription. If your problem is abrasions forming around the sides of your feet, the solution may be as simple as inserting a new pair of insoles. They are so popular that the range of shapes and materials increases every year. Although it’s generally assumed that you’ll remove the existing insoles before adding the new ones, leave them in place if you’ve lost weight and need to fill excess roominess in your shoes.
9. What else is new?
Insoles aren’t the only shoe products available. You’ll find arch supports to soothe pain in the arch of the foot. Metatarsal pads might relieve the pain in the ball of your foot, and a variety of heel cups are also available.
10. Heel pain
A sharp jab in the bottom of your heel that becomes increasingly painful with time can be caused by several things: a bone spur, inflammation of the plantar fascitis, or a deep bruise. Having such a pain, and not being made of money, Kaye started her remedy search at the drugstore. The pharmacist recommended the use of heel cups. Made of plastic or rubber, they’re designed to give support around the heel while relieving pressure below the tender spot. That didn’t relieve the pain, so she saw a podiatrist, who advised her to get out and walk at least a mile a day. (She already was walking 7 miles a day.) Several months later, she luckily found an internist who was also an athlete. He had an entirely different take on the problem. “You have an injury, a sports injury, and it won’t heal unless you stay off of the foot!” He was right. By taking some time off from walking, Kaye’s heel healed just fine within a month’s time. The moral of this story: find medical help if pain continues, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
11. Custom arch supports
Long-term, complicated foot problems may require specially designed inserts that concentrate relief on a particular area while supporting the rest of the foot. After her heel pain returned, a custom-made arch support orthotic was all Kaye needed to finally be free from the discomfort.
12. Time to see a doctor?
Sometimes self-treatment isn’t enough. Medical professionals recommend that you see a doctor if your foot or leg pain persists for more than 72 hours; if swelling persists for more than 24 hours; if pain increases with exercise or walking; if pain continues when at rest or with elevation of the legs; if a deformity or infection appears; or if a blister or ulcer develops without your notice, or doesn’t heal. Also see a doctor if you experience a loss of sensations, or a unilateral flattening of the arch in your foot.
13. Finally, relax
Treat your feet as though they were treasures. Put them up on your favorite pillow, or get a foot stool. (Fold-up foot stools can be found in many RV stores.) Slowly rotate your ankles a few turns one way, and then the other — tossing in a deep breath from time to time. Now go ahead and wiggle your toes. Ahhhh. Now doesn’t that feel good?