Wednesday, 21 May 2014

MIND  YOUR  FEET:  You  have  no  spares

On the average, Canadians walk 200 thousand kilometers in their lifetimes. That is slightly more than walking around the world 15 times. Housewives walk 16 kilometers a day and the accumulated weight placed on their feet each day as they put them down step  after  step  is  approximately  13  thousand kilograms. Men walk less and as  such, their 12 kilometers a day results in  their  feet  being  subjected  to  only  nine  thousand kilograms  of  weight  per  day.  Naturally, a person weighing 150 pounds will  place half that amount on each foot if he or she stands on both feet at the same time but will subject both feet to the full 150 pounds on each foot each time that person lifts the other foot. The average person subjects his or her  feet  to  as  much  as  240 thousand metric tonnes  of  weight aggregated over a lifetime. A Greyhound bus weighs 12 metric tonnes, therefore the aggregated weight that the bones, ligaments and muscles our two feet are subjected to in a lifetime is the combined weight of over 20 thousand Greyhound buses.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone reading this piece that if our feet aren't treated right, their reaction to our indifference will make the palace revolt seem like a school debate and as a result, we won't being going anywhere.
The human foot is constructed of an astonishing number of parts, a fact which accounts for its high degree of resiliency. Surprisingly enough, one fourth of all of our individual bones are in our feet. Each foot contains 26 bones which are linked through 33 joints and lashed together with ligaments.
The heel bones are of course the most important bones in our feet because our body weight rests on these two bones. The second most important bones in each foot are the five long metatarsal bones in each foot whose heads form the ball of the foot. They more or less control the balancing act we must go through every second we are standing on our feet. If you doubt that, try standing still on your heels alone. The third most important bones in our feet are the bones of the toes, called the phalanges. It is these bones that prevent us from falling on our faces when we walk or run.
At birth, 99 percent of feet are perfect. But as we get older, our chances of having perfect feet are lessened. Around 8 percent of us developed problems in one year, 40 percent at age five, and 80 percent at age twenty. We limp into adulthood on corns, calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails, hammer toes, plantar warts, sprained ankles, torn ligaments, and frostbite, just to name some of the causes of the palace revolt.
It is believed by many foot specialists (podiatrists) that our shoes are the causes of all the problems we face with our feet. When you consider that of the millions of barefooted people in the world who have nothing to protect their feet from rocks and thorns, only 7 percent have foot problems which says something about ill-fitted shoes.
Because it takes 10 years to grow the metarsal bones and the toe (phalanges) bones and twenty years to grow the heal (tarsal)  bones,  children  are  growing  out  of  shoes  quite frequently. Pre-schoolers and grade school children up to ten-years of age need new shoes every few months, 10 to 12-year olds, every four months, 12 to 15-year-olds, every five months and 15 to 20-year-olds, every six months.
Unfortunately, the cost of shoes are high and children whose parents cannot afford  the  luxury  of  buying  them  shoes  that  often,  will invariably suffer from problems with their feet in later years.
The best kind of footwear is of course, running shoes. They are generally made with 'support' in mind. However, it should be kept in mind that most shoes, be they running shoes or dress shoes, lose about 30 percent of their shock-absorbing qualities after the wearer has walked or run about  800 kilometres in  them.  So  in  effect,  if  a  woman  walks 16 kilometers  a  day,  her  shoes  will  have  lost  much  of  their shock-absorbing features after using them about a month and a half. With men, the 30 percent loss will have taken place after they have used them for two months. This is not to imply that we should all go out and buy new shoes every couple of months. We can use the same shoes for years. It's just that we should accept the fact that the shoes will lose much of their shock- absorbing features during the first two months.
Improper support of our feet will cause strain on our feet, ankles, shins, hips and back. Since we all have individual peculiarities in our ambulatory style, we should go to a qualified shoe salesman who can advise us as to the right kind of shoes needed to fit our specific feet. Unfortunately, most shoe salesmen are not trained or experienced enough to guide us to the right footwear and worse yet, most shoes are universal and may not specifically deal with problems related to our feet.
Never buy shoes in the morning. The reason is obvious. As we walk about during the day, our feet swell. If you put your feet in  new  shoes  in  the  morning,  they  will  fit. But by the afternoon, you will find out too late that your new shoes are going to be very tight and they will be tight every afternoon from then on.
Beware of rip-offs. Hundreds of millions of dollars each year are spent by feet sufferers for arch supports, lifts, and ready-made corrective shoes. There is no such thing  as  a ready-made corrective shoe that suits all feet. Watch for sales- persons who will tell you that they have the right shoes for flat feet. The truly flat foot functions well and there is no pain connected with it, as many athletes can testify. And if the salesperson tells you that he has specially created supports for your 'dropped metatarsal arches', you tell him or her that there are no metatarsal arches to drop. Listen carefully to their favorite line about support for your  fallen  arches.  Your longitudinal arch may break but rest assured, it won't fall.
I would be remiss however if we didn't mention that there are corrective shoe inserts that will help those persons whose feet require some form of support. The solution to these ailments is called 'orthotics'  These are custom-made shoe inserts that improve control, support and cushioning for the wearer both in relaxed and more strenuous activities. There is a specially designed orthotic for seniors called 'Geriflex' and it is created from resilient plastic. It provides a great deal of flexibility and springiness not available in anything you buy at a drug store or shoe store. The cost of these specially fitted orthotics is approximately $250 a pair and this includes the X-rays, examinations and custom castings.
Although millions of people complain, "My feet are killing me." only about 2 percent of these sufferers will spend the money or time to seek professional care. They would rather spend their money on make-believe cures that they think exist in the shoe  store.  Mind  you,  there  is  nothing  that  feels  so comfortable as a soft cushioned sole insert but unfortunately, most don't last very long. With some people, the insert ends up in the toe area of their shoes or it bunches up into a ball within hours of its initial insertion. Relief then comes when they can take their shoes off and throw away the offending insert.
Have you ever noticed that no matter which movie theater you walk into, you are greeted with the same pungent smell? Many people take their shoes off when they watch a movie and after they have left, the smell of their socks remains behind as an almost permanent fixture
Sweat in our feet is caused by sweat glands in the soles of our feet. Bacteria acts on these secretions and causes foot odor. Believe it or not, spicy foods exude themselves through the glands of our feet so if you are going to eat spicy foods and then go to a movie, give the other patrons a break and keep your shoes on
Most foot deodorants contain anti-bacterial agents that kill bacteria and eliminate foot odor. It has been said that alternate cold and hot water foot baths with a final soak in ice cubes and lemon juice with an alcohol rub-down is a sure way to fight foot odor but commercial deodorant foot powders and sprays and other odor-eaters all are suffice for combatting bacteria and foot odor and a lot simpler to apply.
It's a good idea to take your shoes off once in a while if you can, especially if you have the urge to do so. Your feet are telling you something that your mind is not. Obey your feet.
There are people around the world who can afford to buy shoes but refuse to do so. A man living near Newmarket, Ontario spent most of his adult life walking around in socks. Everywhere he went, he only wore socks. But the world record for this kind of fetish must surely go to John Akers, 84 of Oklahoma. Ever since he was a baby, he refused to wear socks or shoes. He has lived through a life-time of hunting, fishing, and farming without wearing any kind of footwear. He even tramps through the snow in bare feet. He stated in January 1989 that the soles of his feet are as hard as leather and he doesn't feel a thing even when standing on ice
There is no doubt in my mind that this man is eccentric but he has made an interesting observation that cannot be overlooked. When asked what his eccentricity has done for him, he replied, "I haven't been sick in years, mostly because my feet never hurt. When your feet hurt, you start hurting all over.
If you develop a blister (and we all do sometime or another) a sure way to get rid of it is to puncture it and soak your foot in a pan of hot water sprinkled liberally with baking soda. It dries up the blister and you should be OK the next day
Here are some of the other common problems that people suffer from relating to their feet
Corns:  These are pinpointed thickened areas of the skin above the bony areas of the toes and in between the toes. They can be quite painful, especially with tight fitting shoes.  They are usually 3mm to 10 mm in diameter and have a hard centre. They form to protect the skin area from injury caused by constant irritation. The pressure causing the irritation causes cells in the irritated area to grow at a faster rate, leading to overgrowth. They are found on other parts of the body also but corns on and between the toes are caused by ill-fitted shoes
To get rid of a corn, get rid of your shoes and get new and better fitting ones. Use corn or callus pads to reduce pressure on irritated areas. You can rub the surface of a corn with a pumice stone to wear it down. To peel it, soak your foot in warm water first. It will take about three weeks for the corn to go away. Never use a razor blade on it or use commercial 'corn cures' because they can destroy the surrounding skin. There are pads with a hole in them that you can place around the corn so that your socks will not rub against it. If the corn persists, despite your attempts to remove it, see your podiatrist
Bunions: This is a painful deformity caused by the inflammation and swelling of the base of the big toe which in itself is brought about by wearing shoes that bend the toe inward. Sometimes, the big toe will be forced to overlap the second and third toe. This puts pressure upon the joint connecting the big toe with the foot. When the pressure is continuous, the lubricating pouch of the joint becomes inflamed and tender. With continued irritation, a bony deposit develops and to make matters worse, a corn or callus at the pressure point adds to the pain. If nothing is done to remove the bunion, the sufferer is forced to change the manner in which he walks. The change in his gait will put abnormal stress on his feet,  hips and spine and cause greater discomfort
Bunions can be avoided or corrected at an early stage by wearing properly fitting shoes. Heat and foot exercises can be used for temporary relief of pain.  At night time, the sufferer should place a small pad between the big toe and the other toes to separate them. If the bunion won't go away, then surgery is necessary
For a long time, the removal of a bunion was a fairly involved  procedure.  The patient  was  put  under  general anesthesia and a six inch incision was made. After the excess bone was removed, wires, screws and staples were used to hold the remaining bone together. Then the incision was sewed up with 15 to 20 stitches. The patient could end up in a cast for weeks
But for some time now, a newer and easier method has been utilized to simplify the operation. It is called 'minimal incision surgery'. First, it only requires a local anesthetic and an  incision  which  is  only  an  eighth  of  an  inch  long.  The podiatrist grinds down the bone with specially designed burrs. Since the incision is small, it decreases the risk of infection and only one stitch is used. The patients walk out of the office and are back to work in a day
Calluses:  These are thick layers of dead skin that build up on the ball of the foot under the toe joints. Aside from getting them from walking around in bare feet, especially when outside, calluses are often the result of defective toe function but for the most part, they generally result from friction against that specific area because of foot imbalance. The best way to remove calluses is to soak them in warm water and wear them down with pumice stone or emery paper
Plantar warts:  These are warts that are found only on the soles of the feet. They begin in size as a pinhead and enlarge to about 2mm or 3mm. The wart compresses underlying tissue when walked upon and can be quite painful. They are caused by infection from the human papilloma virus. (all warts are caused by this virus)  The virus invades the skin, making infected cells reproduce faster than normal cells.
Since it is difficult for many people to see the soles of their feet, they should consult a doctor for treatment of these warts.  Treatment  consists  of  paring  away  the  overlying calloused  skin  and  applying  chemical  cauterises  such  as trichloracetic acid to the warts. They are usually curable in 6 to 10 weeks but recurrence is quite common
Hammer toes:  Some people have one or two toes that have been bent and cannot be extended without corrective surgery. It is necessary to correct this deformity otherwise the feet can never be slipped into ordinary shoes
Ingrown toe nails:  Many people do not realize that toe nails should never be
cut in the same manner as fingernails. The latter look very nice when the nails are rounded but they are not subjected to the pressures that toe nails are, hence rounded toe nails invariably curve inward and dig into the flesh under the nails--a very painful experience every time the sufferer walks Accordingly, toe nails should be cut so that the ends are square
There  is  a  relatively  new  method  which  removes unwanted ingrown toe nails. It involves laser surgery. The laser allows for less cutting and pain by vaporizing the ingrown nails. A local anesthetic is administered for this minor operation done in the podiatrist's office
Athlete's Feet: This ailment is a very extremely contagious trichophyton fungus infection of the skin around the areas of the toes. It is extremely itchy and will create blisters on the skin. It is recognized easily enough. The areas infected will have moist, soft grey, white or red scales on the surface of the skin.
Treatment involves following very simple hygienic rules such as, washing the feet often, walking barefoot as much as possible so that air will get at the feet, dusting them with talc, keeping  the  feet  cool  and  dry.  Treatment  can  be  self- administered by the sufferer by removing the scales and other material from the toes daily, using non-prescription antifungal powders, creams or ointments after each bath and if these don't work, seeing your doctor. He may prescribe oral antifungal medication. As to sleeping with someone who has athlete's feet, our response to that is summed up in one word—DON'T
In summary, we wish to say that our feet play a very important role in our lives and we tend to take them for granted. It was King Richard III who was quoted as having said that he would give up his kingdom for a horse. If you lost both feet, how much would you give up to have them back. If you take care of them, the question becomes academic. If you don't, there are a great many amputees who can assure you that the replacements will never be the same.


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