In some ways feet are the most remote outpost of the body: the point furthest from the brain, the heart, and the lungs. When we think about our overall health, we often overlook them—out of sight, out of mind. But that’s the wrong approach! In fact, your feet are foundational for healthy living. Your entire body rests atop them, so when feet hurt or are misaligned, you feel the pain throughout your body, and are prevented from enjoying daily activities.
But what key factors contribute to keeping feet healthy? Here are a few of the big ones:
- Body weight. This one is pretty simple: the lighter you are, the less pressure you place on your feet. Because the impact force on your foot when you step can be several times your actual weight, losing even one pound around your midsection can translate into 2-5 fewer pounds of force on your feet during activity.
- Physical conditioning. Just like the rest of your body, feet need regular stretching and exercise to remain strong, mobile, and resistant to fatigue and injury.
- Structure and biomechanics. The unfortunate truth is that some feet (flat arches, unstable ankles, overpronation, etc.) aren’t quite as effective at resisting wear and tear as others. Although you can’t help the feet you’re born with, you can usually address these issues effectively with orthotics.
- Footwear. This one is pretty simple, too. Good, comfortable, cushioned shoes will help keep feet healthy and happy. Poorly fitting, toe pinching, heel-hoisting shoes are the fast track to pain.
- Hygiene. Keeping feet clean and dry and nails properly trimmed helps you defend against bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, dry and cracking skin, ingrown toenails, and more.
- Activity. Lifestyles, hobbies, and occupations that require a significant amount of standing, walking, running, jumping, or other kinds of high impact forces can lead to fatigue. Of course, we still want you to stay active; fortunately, a few simple modifications to your routine can often make a big difference.
- Diet. As they say, you only get out what you put in. Eating healthy meals will keep your feet healthy, too. Feet are especially susceptible to bone weakening (osteoporosis) and nerve damage, so nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, and B vitamins are particularly valuable.