Our feet carry a lot of weight. They carry our bodies throughout our entire lives. We can neglect caring for them correctly. Having the occasional pedicure is not enough. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have the physical ability to walk we need to do more. Caring for your feet will benefit your life.

Feet are the first parts of our bodies to age and when our feet are unhealthy, it can impact our general well being. Foot ailments can prevent us from staying limber and fit and this can affect our fitness and health. Despite their distance from our hearts, the condition of our feet can impact our health in quite serious ways . In fact, it is probably because they are so far from our heart that they need special care. Sometimes the necessary oxygen rich blood required for our feet to function well does not get to our feet properly for various reasons. It may be due to poor circulation or unhealthy vessels and this can cause a lot of damage to feet.

It is not surprising that so much can go wrong with feet, considering their complexity and the amount of work they do. Walking, standing, running and carrying excessive weight can damage our feet over time. Suffocating them in ill fitting shoes or high heels, neglecting our toe nails and common conditions like diabetes can also have adverse effects on feet. If our feet are unhealthy and not working optimally, we end up leading an increasinglysedentary lifestyle and this is one of the leading causes of disease.

There are many common ailments that can impact our feet. As we age our feet change shape and deteriorate and we can experience fallen arches or ‘flat feet’. This condition is often associated with osteoarthritis; a degenerative disease that can afflict the aged. Other issues like cracked heels, hard nails, sores, ulcers, corns and warts can all develop over time if we don’t look after our feet.

Looking after our feet can easily become a daily ritual and doesn’t have to break the bank. We can do most things at home with little to no cost and just having awareness about the condition of our feet and then addressing the issue can put us on the road to healing and maintaining life long foot health.

These six ways to care for our feet are a step in the right direction:

Yoga

Yoga is beneficial for our entire body, but it can be particularly helpful for strengthening the muscles and tendons in our feet. Foot yoga poses include those that require conscious spreading of our toes and even distribution of weight across the entire foot. Many common yoga postures depend upon this and when we practice perfecting these poses we learn to balance our body weight over the space of our feet entirely. This knowledge and expertise can then become a daily habit and just standing in a queue or on public transport doesn’t have to become painful and tiring.

We start to understand how to hold our body upright using all of our muscles and releasing some of the force and pressure that inevitably ends up on our feet. We tend to use our skeleton to hold up our bodies; yoga teaches us to use our muscles to hold up our skeleton, which is more efficient and low impact. Poor posture, slouching, swinging our hip and throwing our weight to one side only can cause uneven distribution of body weight which can strain our muscles and tendons. Yoga teaches us to strengthen our core by holding in our stomachs and lifting our pelvic floor. When we unlock our knees and honor the natural curve of our spine we achieve strength and balance. This in turn relieves our feet and causes realignment of our entire body.

Massage

Nothing is more soothing than a good foot massage. Reflexology massageof the feet has many benefits and can alleviate pain and discomfort, improve circulation and soften the skin and nails with the use of a good massage oil or cream. These days there are many therapists that can provide a professional service, but we can do this at home easily too. Some claim that the feet are a map to the entire body and massaging them can reach pressure points that will influence various organs in the body. Theresearch is not conclusive, but improving circulation, stimulating blood flow and relaxing the tendons and muscles of the feet can certainly improve foot health as well as general well being.

Bathing

A good foot soak can work wonders to relax the entire body at the end of the day. Hydrating our feet will not only soften the nails and skin to prevent bunions, corns, cracked heels and ingrown toe nails; it can also reduce the bacteria build up associated with foot odor and athlete’s foot. For some, showering daily is enough, but particularly if our feet are in closed shoes and socks all day, if the feet are trapped in gym shoes while exercising and are sweating excessively or if we wear high heels or ill fitting shoes all day, a daily foot soak or foot spa will undo some of the damage we may be causing.

Scrubbing dry skin

Having dry and cracked skin on your feet, particularly the heels can be a cosmetic problem or it can become a more serious medical issue and cause infection. Daily care of the skin on our feet can become part of our usual routine and doesn’t have to be a burden. Just scrubbing the skin with a pumice stone and applying a good quality foot cream may be enough. More serious ailments can be assessed by a podiatrist and treated accordingly.

Going barefoot

The latest fad of going ‘Earthing’ or walking barefoot in nature is not just something for hippies. Early scientific research has shown that connecting with the earth directly on our bare skin has many health benefits. Drawing electrons directly into our bodies from the earth is shown to improve sleep and reduce pain. Walking around barefoot on the soil, grass and sand feels good for a reason. It reconnects us to the forces that our modern lifestyle has become separate from and can reduce the stress that we place on our feet daily. We can even go one step further and do yoga barefoot on the ground and really amp up the positive effects.

Wearing good shoes

Although it is much more comfortable to be barefoot, we do need to wear shoes for the most part to protect our feet and conform to societal norms. Wearing shoes for fashion can sometimes force us to abuse our feet.Podiatrist Dr William Knudson discusses the importance of wearing proper fitting and good quality shoes in order to make sure our feet don’t suffer unnecessarily. Making sure the shoes we wear are the correct size and provide appropriate support depending on the activity we are doing can greatly assist us to look after our feet and ensure optimum health.