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Keep your feet healthy this summer

Research from The College of Podiatry, the academic authority on feet – shows that 90 per cent of women report foot problems and that feet start to hurt just 3 hours and 44 minutes into the day** – this increases to 1 hour, 6 minutes and 48 seconds if wearing high heels.

Issues with your feet often start from a young age and can be exacerbated over time, so to keep your feet looking and feeling good this summer and beyond, The College of Podiatry has the following advice:

Shoes and the formula for the ‘perfect heel height’

Emma Supple, consultant podiatrist from The College of Podiatry and lover of shoes said: “Many people, particularly the younger generations, think a podiatrist will tell them they have to wear ‘ugly’ shoes or will ban high heels. This is not the case! The key is to find the right footwear for you. Everyone’s feet and lifestyles are different and therefore we all require different types of shoes.

To work out the right type of shoe for you and the height of the heel, here is my handy formula to help you work out your perfect heel height:”

  • Take off your shoes, sit down and hold one leg straight out in front of you, relaxing your foot
  • If your foot sits naturally at a right angle to your outstretched leg and does not dangle, then you have less mobility in the talus and will be more comfortable in flat shoes than in high heels
  • If the top of your foot falls forwards, in a straightish line following your leg, you are a natural heel wearer
  • To find your optimum heel height, get a friend or partner to help stretch the tape measure from your heel in a straight line parallel to the floor, then place a pencil at the ball of your foot at right angles to the tape
  • Reading the tape measure where it hits the pencil will give you your ideal heel height

Summer shoes

Emma Supple advises: “When it comes to summer footwear, be aware of wearing flip flops day in and day out. Flip flops provide the feet with almost no support and you’d be surprised how many people injure themselves by tripping in flip flops. For everyday wear, or if you’re walking around a lot, try to opt for a summer sandal with a strap to hold your foot in place such as a gladiator sandal.”

Bunions

Mike O’Neill, a consultant podiatrist from The College of Podiatry who specialises in surgery and foot pain said: “A bunion is a bump that starts to develop where your big toe joins the foot. Contrary to popular opinion, bunions are not actually caused by shoes, certain people have a genetic predisposition to them.

However, footwear can make the problem worse, so if you are developing a bunion it’s important to see a podiatrist who will be able to assess you and advise on appropriate footwear and exercises to help avoid the problem getting worse. In some extreme cases, surgery is required, but a podiatrist will be able to advise on your individual case.”
Some tips for bunion sufferers:

  • Try to avoid wearing pointy shoes so your toes have room to move around
  • Keep your heel height to no more than 3cm for maximum comfort
  • Walk around bare foot as much as you can
  • Orthotics can help ease the pain but it’s best to see a podiatrist to have orthotics fitted for you
  • To help muscular arrangement, you can practice grabbing a piece of paper under the big toe and sliding it outwards towards the midline as an exercise

Feet and working out

Whether it’s pounding the pavements on a run, an exercise class or an after work netball match, choosing the right footwear is critical to making the most of your work-out. Research from The College of Podiatry shows that half of Brits who take up running or a new sport quickly get injured and two thirds of us only replace our trainers once they have fallen apart.
Consultant podiatrist Matthew Fitzpatrick, who works with the London Marathon, gives his top tips for active feet:

Buy a specific trainer for the sport you are doing. The feet need very different support when running compared with doing a sport like netball or basketball. Go to a good sports shop for a proper fitting and explain what you need the shoe for.

Shin splints – it’s a term you’ll often hear in the gym, but it isn’t a real condition. Shin splints are a catch-all term for pain in the shin, so it’s a bit like saying you have a head ache; it’s a symptom not a condition. If you experience ongoing pain in your shins, see a podiatrist who will be able to diagnose the cause and treat you.

Hygiene is key – washing your feet and airing your trainers to reduce the chance of a build-up of fungal elements and bacteria will help to protect your feet. Try wiping the shoes with some surgical spirit to help kill bacteria and allow shoes to dry out in-between exercising.

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