In the spirit of National Wiggle Your Toes Day, I want all of us to take a moment and think about all of the great things our feet do for us. They fill our fabulous shoes, are a canvas for our favorite polishes and, most importantly, allow us to stand. Unfortunately, feet are often neglected and rarely get the attention they deserve. Joy Karley, a certified pilates instructor, has shared some of her secrets with us on how to maintain healthy feet to last a lifetime.
  1. Protect your feet! Sidewalks, subway platforms and other surfaces are covered with dirt, germs and other “stuff.” Think: dogs, birds, other animals (and sometimes people!) “do their business” on the sidewalks. Thin soled, open shoes put your feet in close proximity to all of it.
  2. If you will be walking any distance, wear shoes that provide arch support and that are secured to your feet. Flip-flops disrupt normal gait patterns and force you to hold the shoe on with your toes and use different muscles when you walk. Over time, this can even cause or exacerbate injuries and deformities such as hammer toes.
  3. Inexpensive insoles and ¾ sole arch supports are widely available at drugstores. They come in sizes and shapes (and colors!) to fit into most shoes, and can quickly provide comfort and support.
  4. Massage your feet regularly. No special training required – do what feels good! Dozens of foot rollers and massage balls are available, but inexpensive balls from a toy store or a can turned on its side will work fine.
  5. For Plantar Faciitis (tendonitis in the arch/heel) or just sore arches, rolling your foot on a frozen juice can for 3-5 minutes provides relief.
  6. Exercise your feet! Point them, flex them, clench them into little fists, spread your toes, try to move each one individually, gather up towels, pick up objects with your toes, draw circles, etc. You can do this any time, even wiggling your toes with your shoes on helps.
  7. Take care of your feet! Clean them with a soaped-up foot brush in the shower, and gently scrub calluses with a pumice stone. Put lotion on them before you go to bed. Use antiperspirant/deodorant on your feet before putting on your socks, and put powder in your shoes if you don’t wear socks. Spray out your shoes and let them air out after wearing them.
  8. Change it up! Wearing the same shoes every day can be hard on your feet. Alternate shoes at least a few times a week.
  9. You don’t need to go grandma to be sensible! More and more shoe companies are making stylish shoes that don’t kill your feet. If you must wear the painful stilettos, put a thin gel insole in the shoe, limit your time walking and standing in them, wear comfy shoes to/from the event, then massage them and soak them in ice water for 3-5 minutes afterward. Put lotion on them and don’t abuse them the next day.
  10. Buy shoes to fit. Shoes should not need “breaking in.” Make sure they are wide enough in the metatarsal area (base of the toes) and that they don’t pinch your toes. If they hurt in the store, don’t buy them.

Joy has one final push towards the path of healthy feet:

If you are still reluctant to respect your feet, look at your grandma’s feet. Any grandma’s feet. Deformities? Bunions? Not pretty? Some of this is hereditary but much of it can be avoided. If you want to avoid a future of shuffling down the street in orthopedic shoes and pushing a walker, start re-thinking how you treat your feet!

These exercises are so simple! Try some and tell us how your feet feel afterward. You’ll be glad you did.

In the New York Area? Check out Joy’s class schedule.