Maintaining an active lifestyle is great for improving and maintaining overall health; however, being active can take its toll on your feet. Blisters, sprains and strains, pain and fungal infections should all be managed when symptoms first arise to ensure that minor problems do not become major health issues.

Do visit your podiatrist before you embark on a new exercise regime to ensure your feet are in good shape and there are no corns, excessive calluses or issues with your toenails. Podiatrists can also provide advice on appropriate footwear. It’s a good idea to take your shoes on a trial run.

With summer approaching and the opportunity to spend more time outdoors being active, here are some tips to get and keep your feet in shape.

Protect your feet

You should always wash your feet every day in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. Fungal organisms love moisture, so depriving them of any wetness will make it more difficult for them to thrive.

Toenails should be trimmed regularly with proper nail clippers. Cut them straight across, not too short and not down at the corners as this can lead to ingrowing toenails. Don’t hide ‘ugly’ toenails with polish. A discoloured, thick, cracked, or crumbling nail could signal a nail fungus. Applying nail polish to an infected nail could make the problem worse.

If you have dry skin, applying moisturiser before going to bed will help keep your skin supple and more resistant to injury.

Protect feet by wearing shower shoes in public showers, in the changing room at the gym and around pools. These places tend to be breeding grounds for fungi that can lead to infections.

Do not forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet when they are exposed to the sun.

Choose the right footwear

Shoes that are too tight can cause long-term foot problems.

To help keep your feet dry and healthy, wear shoes that are breathable and allow air to circulate.

It is essential to wear the appropriate shoes for each type of sport you participate in (tennis shoes for tennis, running shoes for running) as these shoes are specifically designed to function well on the surface you will be exercising on.

Socks need to be good quality and well fitting. Wearing socks that keep feet dry will help your feet stay healthy.

Keep your feet resilient

While we don’t think twice about dedicating a whole exercise or gym session to our arms or legs, most of us don’t bother with exercises that are foot-specific. The following foot exercises are great, particularly if you have a desk job or are embarking on a long-haul flight:

Circle your feet 10 times in each direction, keeping your legs as still as possible.

Consciously straighten your toes and wiggle them around.

Raise, point, then curl your toes for five seconds each, and repeat 10 times – this is particularly good for toe cramps.

Know when to stop exercising

If your feet hurt during exercise,
it’s important to act on this rather than simply ignoring the problem; ‘powering through’ pain could just end up making things worse.

Have a recovery plan

If you have completed an endurance sport such as a marathon or mountain hike, your feet are probably hurting and in need of some attention, so make sure you have a game plan in place.

To find a podiatrist in your area, visit the PodiatryNZ website. PodiatryNZ is the professional association for registered podiatrists.

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