DR. C’S JOURNAL: SOME TIPS FOR CARE OF THE FEET

When not walking barefoot at night or on the beach, my toes have been squeezed together most of my life. Closed-toe compression stockings for my varicose veins plus inadequate space at the front of my shoes have encouraged my big toe to “scissor” and to cross over the second toe. At that point I started wearing open-toe stockings, and tried to give my toes more room in larger shoes. I also used a spacer to push the big toe out.

Walking on the beach is a wonderful place to free up your toes. For a while, I walked in the deep sand at the top of the beach, trying to get more exercise. Periodically I would get some thorns in my feet, and go to podiatrist to get them out.

During one visit, the podiatrist told me that I was getting a hammer toe in the toe right next to my big toe, and I now use a little ring shaped cushion for that second toe, incorporated with a spacer.

It is amazing how little we use the musculature of our feet, and how surprisingly well they hold up. People that are really in good athletic shape stress flexibility as being very important, and athletes often do stretching exercises before they do their workout. Practically anything that will stretch a joint is helpful, such as flexing, extending, and spreading the toes, plus flexing and extending the foot.

You can overdo it, however, as I have learned to my discomfort. You must do any exercise within the limitations of your body, beginning slowly, and working up to your desired level.

My big toe has almost no flexibility, and the joint that attaches it to the foot is enlarged and pretty fixed. I am very careful how much range and pressure I use .Even something as simple as stretching the Achilles tendon can be a problem if you do too much of it all at once. Always work slowly into your exercises to make sure that you do no harm.

Ingrown toenails have also bothered me from time to time. I very carefully try to trim them back and avoid breaking the skin; the foot is easily infected, particularly among diabetics and older people. A podiatrist is very helpful if you let things go too far.

My toenails, particularly on my big toe, are getting white and thick with a nail fungus. This can be treated with an oral medication, dispensed by a doctor or a podiatrist. I have chosen to keep it in check with clotrimazole cream, and that seems to be working. I worry from time to time about creating a resistance factor in the fungus, but they are very slow growing, and not likely to develop a mutation.

If you would like further discussion on foot exercises, please check the following reference, one of many on the Internet.

—Dr. C.

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