We’ll be in the thick of the holiday season before you know it. This means you’re likely about to spend countless hours shopping, wrapping, cleaning, baking, hosting, and everything else that goes into holiday celebrations.
The fact of the matter is this:
You’re going to be doing so much for others then, so you need to think about yourself a little right now.
Sure, this can mean taking time for some personal pampering, but it also means you need to take care of your hard-working feet if you want them to be able to carry you through the holiday season.
To give you the best of both worlds, we’re going to focus on foot care practices that help your lower limbs both look and perform their very best—for the holidays and beyond!
Stretch Regularly to Prevent Heel Pain
In all likelihood, you’d prefer not to have heel pain at any time during the year, right?
Well, that particular desire for pain-free heels should be ramped up for a season in which you are bound to have so much on your plate!
Whereas heel pain is a very common problem, we have some good news:
There are measures you can take to reduce your risk of developing this problem.
Doing things like wearing proper footwear and avoiding overuse can lower the odds you start to have pain in the back of your feet. Another essential heel pain prevention component is a proper stretching routine.
The reason for this comes down to anatomy and biomechanics—and especially the simple fact that two very important connective tissues are anchored to the heel bone (calcaneus):
- Your Achilles tendon connects the bottom of your calf muscle to the back of your calcaneus. In doing so, you’re able to either lift or lower your foot (when you expand or contract, respectively, your calf muscle).
- Your plantar fascia connects the bottom of your calcaneus to the bottom of your forefoot. In doing so, this particular fascia helps to form and support your foot arches.
When these tissues are excessively tight and subjected to overuse, you can develop either Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis. Given their connection to the heel bone, these very common injuries cause pain in either the back or bottom of the heel.
You can prevent heel pain—or usually make an existing case better—with a simple stretching routine:
- Stand about an arm’s length from a wall.
- Place your left foot behind your right.
- Slowly bend your right leg forward, while keeping your left knee straight and the left heel planted on the ground.
- Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, and then release. Repeat this process two more times.
- Switch leg positions and repeat.
Additionally, some seated exercises you may want to use to either prevent or treat heel pain from plantar fasciitis include:
- Take a folded towel and place it under the arches of your feet. Holding the ends of the towel, gently pull so the tops of your feet flex towards you. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds before releasing and repeating two more times.
- Crossing one leg over the other and then gently pulling back the big toe of the elevated foot and holding for 20-30 seconds. Release, repeat two times, and then switch legs.
- Rolling your affected foot back and forth over a foam roller or frozen water bottle for one minute. (Please note: this is more of a treatment maneuver than preventive measure).
While stretches are quite beneficial for both treating and preventing heel pain—so you can get through the holiday season and accomplish all of those items on your to-do list—please don’t hesitate to reach out to our medical team if you are in need of professional care!
Treating and Preventing Dry, Cracked Heels
If you’re a native Floridian—or have been living here for some time—it’s easy to take the strong Florida sun for granted. Whereas it can feel great to soak in some rays after a stressful day, the simple fact of the matter is that it can causes skin to dry out.
After all, it’s generally pretty easy to tell who’s been spending too much time in the sun, right?
Because of this factor in our natural environment, feet can become quite dry. And this becomes a real problem when excessive dryness causes skin to crack.
Cracks and fissures are typically most problematic in the heels and can be the source of pain and discomfort. More than that, though, deeper fissures can provide an entrance way for microorganisms and increase your potential infection risk.
Now, our body relies on oil glands to keep most of our skin moisturized—but it’s a little different down in our feet. Instead of oil, our lower limbs depend on sweat glands for moisture. This is an important factor when we consider dry feet because sweat evaporates more easily than oil.
When feet are excessively dry, you will find them to be itchy, reddened, and rough (along with the aforementioned cracking).
This situation is problem enough for otherwise healthy individuals, but it actually becomes rather concerning if diabetes is in the picture. Put simply, diabetic individuals cannot afford to have cracked skin (due to the heightened risk of infection). So if you have the disease, it’s essential that you take measures to keep your feet properly moisturized.
So how can you take care of dry feet?
There are a couple of different steps you can take, and this starts with your hygienic practices.
Hopefully this goes without saying, but you should be washing your feet on a daily basis. When you do, make sure you choose soaps featuring moisturizing agents. Harsh soaps cause and/or contribute to foot dryness.
Another consideration for bathing is water temperature. This might seem odd, but hot water actually will dry out your skin. Instead, opt for a more moderate temperature!
After washing your feet—whether in the shower or bath—gently pat them dry with a soft towel and then apply a thick moisturizing cream or lotion shortly after. (Sooner is better because it helps trap in moisture.)
When you moisturize your feet, gently work your preferred moisturizer into the tops, bottoms, and sides—but avoid the areas between the toes. Why is that? Because the warm, damp spaces between toes can be breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus.
If your heels are already cracked and fissured, you should apply extra moisturizer before going to bed and then put on thick socks to further trap in the moisture.
It may take a couple of weeks to restore your skin back to a healthier state, so be patient with the process. If it’s been too long and you aren’t seeing results, you might want to come see us for professional treatment.
Clearing Up Fungal Toenails
During the holidays, there are many different ways you can give yourself a little treat. For example, you might stop for a special holiday latte or enjoy some cookies or other baked goods (preferably sugar-free if you are diabetic!).
Something else you might want to consider is giving yourself the gift of clear toenails.
Whereas not all areas in our nation are able to celebrate the holidays in sandals and open-toed shoes, we have that luxury down here in Florida. But this is something you’ll want to pass on if you’ve developed the characteristic signs of nail fungus—discoloration, dullness, brittleness, thickened toenail tissue, etc.
This is an embarrassing condition. It causes people to become rather self-conscious and want to hide their feet. (Ironically, this can exacerbate the problem because fungal spores thrive in dark, warm, and damp environments—like feet encased in socks and shoes.)
Fortunately, we offer solutions to restore your nails back to their clear, healthy selves!
At Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida, we offer both traditional and state-of-the-art treatment options for fungal toenails.
In the case of traditional treatments, we can prescribe oral and topical medications that work to eradicate the offensive fungus with both internal and external approaches. If you want to pursue this particular path, you might want to know that oral medication may cause undesired side effects and the topical medications cannot pass through toenails to reach fungal spores residing underneath them.
Laser therapy for fungal toenails, however, provides the respective upsides of the medications—but without causing any side effects. Further, the laser light can penetrate through nail tissue and reach fungus residing on the nailbed (all without damaging any healthy tissue).
Sessions for fungal nail laser treatment is quick and destroys the offensive fungus immediately. That being said, it’s important to know that your body does need time to grow new, healthy nail tissue to push out the damaged parts.
Something to consider as we start to approach the end of the year:
If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), you lose any unused funds at the end of the year. As such, you might want to consider fungal toenail laser therapy—or perhaps a new pair of custom orthotics, etc.—as a way to make sure you don’t lose your hard-earned money!
Need to Get Rid of Foot Pain Before the Holidays? Come See Us!
Our Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida team hopes your upcoming holiday season—no matter which holidays you celebrate—is full of joy and quality time with loved ones (even if it can also be a busy, stressful time of year).
If you have foot pain—such as the kinds caused by fissured heels or overuse injuries—or are embarrassed at even the thought of wearing sandals and open-toed shoes, we’re here to help.
Our team provides comprehensive podiatric care to resolve virtually any foot or ankle issue you’re suffering from, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you would like more information or want to request an appointment with any of our Central Florida offices.
Either connect with us online or call 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if calling from Lake County).