What Podiatrists Won't Do And The Foot Care Mistakes To Avoid
Foot issues can be particularly debilitating. Think about how often most of us need to use our feet throughout the day as we move from point A to point B.
That’s why it’s important to do what we can to keep our feet healthy and functioning — including avoiding certain footwear and behavior.
“As a podiatrist, we literally see the worst of the worst foot cases,” Dr. Ebonie Vincent, a board-certified podiatric foot and ankle specialist in California, told HuffPost. “Naturally there are things we would refrain from doing knowing what we know.”
Below, Vincent and other foot and ankle health experts share the behaviors they avoid in order to protect their foot health.
In recent years, Crocs have come back into style — to many podiatrists’ chagrin.
“Don’t get me wrong, Crocs are a decent shoe to wear around the house or while doing small tasks,” Vincent said. “However, when I see people wearing Crocs at Disneyland or for long hours of standing, I know they will probably suffer from some foot issues down the line.”
She recommended wearing “a good walking shoe” from brands like Brooks, Asics or New Balance for long days of standing or walking.
“Women who live in high heels will eventually suffer from foot pain from bunions, corns, heel spurs or even Achilles tendon pain,” Vincent said.
Plenty of people enjoy putting on high heels for special occasions, so wearing these shoes is not a “never” behavior. Still, a healthy balance is crucial. We’re not Barbie, after all.
“You should wear high heels [in] moderation, not the entire day or every day,” said Dr. Jason Gold, a board-certified podiatrist at the Foot, Ankle & Leg Vein Center in Florida. “Wearing high heels causes your foot to go into pronation, which can lead to bunions, hammer toes or plantar fasciitis.”
In general, he tells patients with foot pain to wear a supportive shoe at least 80% of the time. For the other 20%, they can wear whatever shoe they’d like. He noted that platform heels can help alleviate stress on the foot and muscles on the leg.
“During COVID, people began to work at home a lot more than ever,” Gold said. “I found this caused more foot and ankle issues because people stopped wearing shoes as often.”
He recommended having a pair of supportive sneakers to wear when walking around at home, especially if you’re on tile and marble more than carpet. You can buy a “house”-specific sneaker for indoor use only if you’re concerned about bringing in germs from the outside.
“Time and time again, we hear that people live on their bare feet and are supposedly comfortable that way,” Vincent added. “If you consistently don’t provide support for your feet, you will develop calluses or even fat pad atrophy. If this happens, walking barefoot will no longer be comfortable, and you will limit your options on which shoes you can wear in the future.”
“Avoid running in shoes that are not running shoes,” said Atlanta-based podiatrist Dr. Jay Spector. “Many people will get a cheap pair of shoes and try running, and that can create pain.”
He recommended changing your running shoes every 300-500 miles or every six to eight months.
“Also, wear the right shoe for the right activity,” Spector added. “Avoid wearing running shoes to play tennis and vice versa.”
Dr. Michael J. Trepal, a professor of surgery and academic dean at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine, warned against wearing zero-drop shoes (in which your heel is not raised, but on the same level as your toes) or running barefoot.
“Not only can a bare foot subject the skin on the bottom of the foot to injury, but [it] also supports poor mechanics against a non-deforming ground,” he said.
Even if the idea of going barefoot in the bathroom at a gym, hotel or another public place doesn’t gross you out, podiatrists would still advise against it.
“I never walk barefoot in a hotel or take showers without flip-flops to avoid chances of wart/verruca or foreign body exposure,” Gold said. “Walking barefoot in a hotel or public places increases your chances of obtaining a virus on your feet, which is known as a plantar’s wart or verruca. Warts can multiply and come quite large on the foot and are sometimes difficult to remove.”
The fabric of your socks can also make a difference in terms of foot health, Spector noted.
“Avoid wearing cotton socks, as they retain moisture and can cause blisters and foot and nail fungus,” he said. “Stick to the synthetic materials, as they wick out sweat and moisture.”
“I would never go to a salon that doesn’t sterilize their instruments after usage, which helps avoid chances of fungal or bacterial infections,” Gold said. “Fungal infections will cause your nails to become severely thickened and discolored with time.”
Ensure you’re going to salons that follow hygiene and cleanliness standards you can trust.
“Do not ... soak your feet at a pedicure without a liner, and make sure you see them open instruments that have been in an autoclave,” Spector said. “We see a lot of what I call ‘post-pedicure syndrome’ where we have seen MRSA staph infections, ingrown nails and foot cellulitis.”
“I would not recommend using products such as Outgrow for ingrown toenails, as it is an acid that can lead to greater infections,” Spector said. “Also, with an infection such as an ingrown toenail, I would not swim in a lake or river where you don’t know what the E. coli levels are running.”
Trepal similarly advised against self-treating ingrown toenails due to the risk of infection and other complications.
“I also wouldn’t ignore foot pain because it could be a sign of something more serious,” he added.
“Especially in pediatric patients, I would avoid not opening laces and retying them when putting on,” Trepal said. “The support function of the shoe is lost or greatly reduced in an unlaced or under-laced shoe.”
He noted that this is especially true with a flat or low-arch foot type, as those are prone to developing symptoms with inadequate support.
“Those with diabetes should never go barefoot,” Vincent said. “This is because diabetes can damage the nerves in your feet. Not wearing shoes puts you at risk for injuries to the bottom of your feet that you may not feel due to loss of sensation from nerve damage. About 1 in 5 people with diabetes who go to the hospital do so for foot problems.”
She recommended inspecting your feet daily and wearing supportive shoes that fit properly to prevent complications.
“I would receive periodic professional foot exams if I suffered from diabetes or poor circulation,” Trepal said, adding that he would also never use a heating pad or place his feet on a radiator if he had these conditions, as the limited sensation means an increased risk of burning your feet.
Looking for the best walking shoes? These comfy shoes keep older folks in mind with features like orthopedic support, roomy toe boxes and Velcro straps, and they’re recommended by podiatrists.
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Senior Reporter, HuffPost Life