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Stand up to healthier feet; take these steps to keep your feet strong and pain free.

Your feet are not just the foundation for your body, but your life, too. "Without strong, healthy feet, you cannot stay mobile and enjoy an active and vibrant life as you age," says Brendan Riley, DPM, with UCLA Health.

Foot issues that often plague people age 50 and older include plantar fasciitis, bunions, and regular, everyday soreness. Most of the time, these problems are self inflicted due to poor footwear choices or lack of proper foot fitness. Yet with the right steps, you can remedy and avoid these issues and keep your feet happy, healthy, and moving forward.

Plantar fasciitis

The most common cause of foot and heel pain, plantar fasciitis occurs when the band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that extends from the heel to the toes becomes inflamed. This often is caused by general overuse, but weak calf muscles also contribute. "These muscles act like shock absorbers when you walk, and when they become tight and inflexible, your body compensates and places more stress on your feet," says Dr. Riley.

* FIX IT: Calf raises can improve calf strength and flexibility. With your feet shoulder-width apart use a wall or chair for support and rise up on your toes and hold for five to 10 seconds. Lower and repeat five to 10 times.

Another source of plantar fasciitis, especially for women, is choices of footwear. Wearing high heels on a regular basis can cause the Achilles tendon to constantly contract, which can cause tension on the plantar fasciitis when you take off your shoes, according to Dr. Riley.

* FIX IT: The ideal shoe should have a low heel-nothing over two to two-and-one-half inches, with some arch support, a wide forefoot to keep the toes from bunching together, and a rubber sole for support. A well-fit-ting walking or running shoe works best. You should wear them any time you will be on your feet for long durations.

Visit a podiatrist or running store to have your arch measured and gait evaluated to determine your pronation--whether your foot rolls inward or outward or is neutral. "This can help find the appropriate size and arch support for your shoes, which can reduce stress on the bottom of your feet," says Dr. Riley.

Bunions

Another common ailment is bunions--a visible bump on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe. This is caused by the misalignment of bones in the foot. More than one in five adults suffer from bunions, and up to two-thirds will develop one in their lifetime.

As bunions progress, they can become sore and inflamed, which makes walking difficult. Bunions are often hereditary, but wearing shoes with a too-narrow toe box that bunches the toes together is a more likely reason. Overtime, this cramping causes the big toe to lean inward and changes the angle of the bones until it produces its tell-tale bump.

* FIX IT: Shoes with a wider toe box can help reduce pressure and lessen pain. Another remedy is rubber toe separators placed between the big and second toe, which helps to straighten the big toe.

Even though bunions can be unsightly, it is rare they cause lasting problems, says Dr. Riley. Doctors do not recommend bunion surgery for cosmetic reasons, but only if the pain becomes so severe it interferes with daily activities. If you do have surgery, the recovery period can take up to six to eight weeks, depending on your age, previous mobility, and pain tolerance.

Soreness

Staying off your feet for a while often is all you need to recover from everyday foot fatigue. For more intense pain or soreness, apply an ice pack to the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes, three to four times a day, which can help to reduce inflammation. "If the pain does not go away in a few days, you should have it looked at by your doctor," says Dr. Riley.

* FIX IT: You can also take steps at home to strengthen and protect your feet. Go barefoot whenever possible to allow your feet to move in their natural state. Massage your soles by rolling a golf ball, tennis ball, or similar massage tool under the ball of your foot and then up and down the arch to help relieve cramps and ease fatigue. Ankle circles also can keep your feet flexibile and prevent stumbles. Rotate your feet in a circle 10 times, and then repeat in the opposite direction.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Tips to support healthy soles:

* Visit your podiatrist or running store to have your arches and gait measured to ensure you wear the right sized shoe.

* Perform regular calf raises to protect against plantar fasciitis.

* Avoid shoes with too-wide boxes, which can irritate bunions.

* Massage bottoms of feet regularly to ease fatigue and soreness.

* Skip the pedicure. The cuticles can get cut, which increases risk of infections.
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Title Annotation:HEALTHY AGING
Publication:Healthy Years
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:810
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