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We're talking, of course, about your feet. Sure, you may treat them to the occasional pedicure or prop them up at the end of a long day. But experts say we ought to be much, much kinder than that. "The feet are the second-hardest working part of your body. The first is your heart," says Steven Ross, MD, president elect of the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society. "Your feet are your foundation; if they hurt, you're going to be a very unhappy person." So let's spread a little love. Here, everything you need to know for feet that feel good all day, every day -- no matter what you put them through.
The five most common things that can go wrong down there -- and how to eliminate every last ache and pain.
Before you even set foot in the store to buy a pair of sneakers, ask yourself these key questions, says Todd Galati, clinical exercise specialist for the American Council on Exercise and an adjunct professor of biomechanics and kinesiology at California State University, San Marcos.
Surprising misconceptions -- finally set straight:Lie #1: Flip-flops are totally foot-friendly.
They may seem ideal, but traditional flip-flops don't have support or cushioning. So chances are, your feet will hurt after walking in them for a few hours, says Jim Christina, director of scientific affairs for the American Podiatric Medical Association. In fact, wearing flip-flops for long periods can lead to tendinitis, arch pain, and ankle sprains.Lie #2: Foot size and width stay pretty much the same.
Pregnancy, weight gain, even the simple fact of aging can cause ligaments in your feet to stretch, making them potentially a half to a whole size larger, says Donald Bohay, MD, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Michigan State University.Lie #3: Some foot pain is completely normal.
"Definitely not!" says Dr. Ross. Any discomfort means that you need to wear different shoes, give your feet a rest, or change the surface you're exercising on (by switching to a treadmill, for example, which is more forgiving than concrete or pavement).Lie #4: The best athlete's foot prevention is wearing flip-flops in the locker room.
It helps, but what really causes this virus to grow and spread is trapping your feet in a moist environment (like sweaty socks or sneakers that aren't well-ventilated) after being exposed to it. Immediately after exercise, swap your sneakers out for a pair of treads.
The newest wave of tech-y kicks are all about making your workouts easier and more comfortable -- in fact, they do everything but actually run or walk for you. Check out these state-of-the-art sneaks.
You can get a salon-quality pedicure at home. For feet that look polished without the actual polish, from Roxanne Valinoti, who handles education for Creative Nail Design.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, June 2007.