You may not think about your feet that often, way down there at the ends of your legs, but they’re an essential part of almost everything you do. Whether you are walking, running, exercising, or just standing, having feet that are comfortable and well-cared for (rather than aching or in pain) makes your healthy living experience much more enjoyable. Therefore, knowing how to care for your feet is key.
Circulation problems are often associated with older feet, but the fact is that anyone can have such problems. When there’s not enough blood flowing to your feet, you may experience tingling, numbness, cramping, and discoloration of the skin and toenails.
Everyday circumstances can restrict blood flow: when feet get cold outdoors or in cold water; when shoes, stockings, or undergarments are too tight; even when you’ve sat too long with your legs crossed. Smoking reduces circulation to all parts of the body, as does drinking too much coffee or caffeinated soda (both nicotine and caffeine constrict blood vessels). And if you are under severe stress, your nerves can constrict your small blood vessels, lessening their ability to carry blood. Some nervous brides and grooms really do have “cold feet”!
In addition to reduced circulation, a loss of feeling or tingling sensation in the foot, called neuropathy, can result in minor problems that can go unnoticed and untreated, and infection may develop.
When your feet don’t get the attention they need, chronic problems can develop, which may trouble you for years to come. In many cases, there are some simple stretches and exercises that can help keep your feet in top form.
One of the best ways to avoid trouble with your feet is to exercise preventive care.
How to Re-Energize Your Feet
During the course of a day, your feet (like the rest of your body) gradually lose steam. But with the exercises below, you can learn how to re-energize your feet even when you’re seated at a desk, at home in front of the TV, in class, or high in the sky on a plane, in a train or bus.
Foot Relaxer: Start by sitting down and relaxing, loosening your muscles and joints of your feet by shaking them (the same way you’d shake out cramped muscles in your fingers and hands). Then wiggle your toes, first on one foot, then the other.
Foot Press: Seated again, with your feet on the floor, take off your shoes and place one foot on top of the other. Press the top one down toward the floor while pulling up with the bottom foot — but don’t let your feet separate. This can be a little tricky!
Toe Tap: With your feet on the floor, tap your toes, or pretend that you’re pressing down on a pedal, first with one foot, then with the other foot.
The Grip: With your feet on the floor and your shoes off, try picking up a pencil or pen with your toes. Or try picking up a marble (if you happen to have one lying around).
Taking care of your feet is an essential part of your total body wellness… It all starts with the feet!