cm69_feet_1by Nikki Krug

Our feet bear the weight of our everyday lives, but they are often overlooked until it is time to trade the snow boots for sandals. Luckily, a few of Carroll County’s foot experts have some tips for how to care of common foot problems and get you ready for the summer season.

“Feet are in shoes all winter and this is the time of the year when people start to become concerned about wearing open toed shoes,” said Dr. Erik Diamond, a board certified podiatrist in practice for 30 years, most recently with Chesapeake Podiatry.

Discolored nails, fungal infections, hammer toes, bunions – “a lot of these things take time to heal, so it’s important to take care of them sooner rather than later,” he added.

Fungal infections take about six months for treatment with pills or topical ointment, and some more serious issues may require surgery and a lengthy recovery. Bunions and hammer toes should not be fixed because of how they look, however, but because of pain.

The most common foot problem, according to Dr. Diamond, would be heel pain known as plantar fasciitis, an inflamed ligament caused by overuse and wearing unsupportive shoes.

Additional common foot problems include diabetic foot care and skin issues, according to Dr. Annette Joyce, a board certified podiatrist of 17 years and founder of Freedom Foot and Ankle that has offices in Westminster and Eldersburg. Joyce is also a board member of the American Society of Foot and Ankle Dermatology.

“Summer really reveals the skin,” explained Dr. Joyce. “We recommend doing a skin check every year of your feet just to rule out concerns with skin cancer which can occur in the lower legs and feet.”

“Don’t forget the toes and toe nails,” Joyce added.

Melanoma often occurs in areas that are not even exposed to the sun’s UV rays, so it is important to check between your toes regularly or have a podiatrist check the skin to rule out any precancerous changes.

Important general foot health includes keeping your feet from becoming too wet or too dry. Dry, scaly or itchy skin are all problems your foot doctor can assist with, but are generally easy to prevent. Podiatrists suggest simply using a moisturizer every day, but avoid putting it between the toes to keep from growing fungus.

“The simplest thing to see what’s going on with your feet is to dry them after a shower and check the nails and between toes for abnormalities,” advised Dr. Diamond.

For anyone dealing with foot odor and sweat, Dr. Joyce suggests soaking your feet in a warm black tea bath once or twice per week in lieu of prescription medicines. The tannins in tea help to decrease the sweat function that causes odors.

Looking at the health of your toenails, you’ll want to remove any polish to observe the natural coloration and thickness of the nails that may indicate infections. You can see your doctor for a routine culture which checks your DNA for any fungal infections.

If you get pedicures, be sure to go to a place that has strict guidelines for infection control, including proper sterilization of tools and whirlpools. It is better if pedicurists use tools that come out of sterile packaging rather than dipping tools in solutions and reusing them.

Since unsupportive shoes are a major contributor to foot pain, a lot of podiatrists recommend sandals that have a built-in foot bed. Flip-flops don’t stay in contact with the arch of your foot, so you’ll “want to have sandals that have full arch support,” said Dr. Joyce.

Going barefoot is no better either, in fact, it is probably the worst alternative. The obvious risks come from walking outside and stepping on debris, but by being barefoot, you are also more likely to pick up bacteria from a surface which can lead to warts, fungus, and athlete’s foot.

Whether you’re walking on the boardwalk or dipping your toes in the pool this summer, remember all that your feet do for you each and every day. By taking the right steps to care for your feet, they’ll not only look good, but feel good, too.

Soleful Guidance

The feet have thousands of nerve endings that connect to different organs and systems throughout the body; and as a result, they can sometimes be indicators for something else going on. Reduced pulses in your feet can signal a risk of heart disease, Dr. Daniel Clair, Chairman of the Department of Vascular Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, suggested in a recent article.

Reflexology utilizes these connections to help mend the body holistically.

“Reflexology works with the organs, glands and systems to balance and create homeostasis internally” by stimulating the nerves and pressure points in your feet as well as hands and ears, according to board certified reflexologist, Caroline Klem, founder of Heart and Sole Connections in Eldersburg.

Klem practices reflexology at Your Holistic Center on Liberty Road. While diagnosis and treatment of specific ailments is outside of a reflexologist’s scope of practice, the work of a reflexologist benefits the entire body.

“By doing a general protocol for the entire foot, we’re actually neutralizing the entire body,” Klem explained.

“It’s all about opening those passageways through your messaging systems to create that balance and homeostasis,” Klem said.  “We know stress is an inducer in every condition of imbalance – whether imbalance means disease or imbalance just means one organ isn’t functioning at its optimum – but we know stress is an inducer and reflexology reduces stress, therefore making the environment more available for healing.”

Reflexology increases the oxygen in the blood, which leads to faster healing. It also helps enhance the immune system and circulation.

According to reflexologist Sharon Muranaka of La Bella Medispa in Mt. Airy, patients go to reflexologists for everything from simple relaxation to pain relief.

Issues with insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, hormonal changes, and chronic pain can all be addressed through proper pressure in the hands and feet.