Fitness Goals: Relief for Exercising Feet (cont.)

Seek out a sock with some cushioning on the sole, in one of the new microfiber fabrics designed to wick away moisture, the experts advise.

"Moisture that builds on the skin contributes to blisters, as well as foot odor, skin fungus, and fungus of the nails," says Catanese.

Socks should also be white, he says, particularly if you suffer from diabetes.

"People think we recommend white socks because of the dyes in colored socks, but actually it's because the white allows you to immediately see if there is a problem," he says. "Any stain on the sock, either blood or a yellow-tinged fluid, or even a clear liquid, you know something is wrong, even if you can't feel it."

3. Become One with Your Inner Sole

If your shoe doesn't have a built-in arch support, Plancher recommends investing in a shoe insert that supports the foot from heel to toe.

"You're not looking for cushioning as much as for the arch to be supported," he says. "You should feel the insert pushing gently against your arch, so that your body weight is supported symmetrically across the entire foot."

This one step places the foot in the correct biomechanical position, which automatically reduces the risk of blisters, corns, and calluses by at least 50%, he says.

Experts say good arch support also helps prevent another common workout problem: plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the band of tissue that supports the foot arch.

"Good shock absorption may help some, but it's really all about the mechanics of the way the foot functions," Morin says. "If the arch caves in and collapses down, you're going to have a problem."

Signs of plantar fasciitis include pain in the arch or heel that is strongest when you walk after resting.

4. Curb Your Enthusiasm

While being excited about your new workout program is a good thing, doing too much too soon is the quickest way to put your feet out of commission.

"One of the most common -- and the biggest -- mistakes folks make when they start to exercise is working themselves too hard," says Morin. "They try to walk three miles when they haven't done that since high school."

This not only helps lead to blisters, corns, and ingrown toenails, it can also cause more serious problems, including plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and tendonitis.

"Your feet are like the barometer for your whole body," says Catanese. "If they begin to act up, it's a sign you're putting too much stress on your heart, your lungs, your muscles, your bones, as well as your feet."

The key to avoiding most problems, he says, is a gradual progression of activity that allows feet to get used to all the new action.

5. More Tootsie Care: Do's and Don'ts

Even if you follow all the advice, experts say you may end up with at least a few days of foot discomfort. To keep small problems from turning into big ones, our experts offer WebMD these self-care Do's and Don'ts:

  • Do self-treat corns and calloused skin with non-medicated donut pads designed to take pressure off the affected area.
  • Don't use salicylic acid preparations or any compound designed to "eat away" dead skin. "The compound doesn't know good skin from calloused skin. You could really harm your feet," says Catanese.
  • Do soak feet often in warm water with a mild soap.
  • Do use foot files and pumice stones regularly to smooth and soften skin.
  • Don't use razor-like or other cutting devices in an attempt to cut away dead skin or remove a corn or callous. If it's that thick, says Morin, you need medical attention.
  • Do use medicated foot sprays, designed to kill athlete's foot fungus, after showering in a gym or other public facility.
  • Do check your feet every day, including the bottoms. Look for signs of redness, swelling, irritation, cuts, blisters, or corns. If you have diabetes, don't try to self-treat these problems -- see a doctor right away.
  • Do moisturize feet, but only at night before going to bed. Doing it during the daytime can make shoes slip and cause more friction and irritation.
  • Don't try to lance a blister. Instead, let it go down or drain on its own and keep the area bandaged and clean until it heals.

Published September 29, 2006.


SOURCES: Dominic Catanese, DPM, director of Podiatry Service, Montefiore Medical Center, New York. Morris Morin, DPM, chairman, Podiatric Medicine, Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, N.J. Ken Plancher, MD, director, Plancher Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Greenwich, Conn. and New York; associate clinical professor of orthopedics, Albert Einstein School of Medicine, New York.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


Last Editorial Review: 9/29/2006