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Wet feet are bad for your health but they don’t cause colds

As a child, when I played outside during the winter, my mother always used to tell me to come inside if my feet and hands got wet as she was concerned I would catch a cold. Although colds are caused by viruses, not cold, wet feet, my mother was right to make me come inside to dry off. Today, as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist, I advise my patients to do the same.

When water seeps through your footwear, your skin absorbs the water causing your feet to become waterlogged and wrinkly. The longer your feet are wet, the greater the damage to your skin, including tears and the formation of blisters and deep painful cracks. Depending on where they are located on the foot, these injuries can be painful and may limit your mobility. If you are living with diabetes the injuries can be life changing as they may lead to serious ulcers that become infected and take many months to heal.

Here are some tips to help keep your feet dry and healthy this winter:

  • Your winter boots are critical – a good quality pair of lined, properly-fitted winter boots is essential for winter in Canada. If you are using the same pair as last winter, inspect them closely to make sure there are no rips or cracks that could allow water to permeate through to your feet.
  • Weatherproof your everyday shoes – snow and sleet are unpredictable, and we’ve all been caught at the office without our boots when a storm hits. Water and salt can quickly destroy a good pair of leather shoes and damage your feet, so weatherproof your office shoes with a qood quality spray or cream before the winter sets in. Just remember, weatherproofing is not fool proof – it will offer some protection in a pinch but won’t hold up for repeated wearing in wet weather.
  • Stuff wet shoes to dry – if your shoes do get wet, don’t leave them on a radiator or use a hair dryer to dry them as the heat will cause the leather to crack and shrink. Instead, pat the outside of the shoes dry and stuff them with newspaper or paper towels. Be sure to change the stuffing frequently.
  • Wear wool or moisture wicking socks – Socks provide an important layer of protection, particularly during the winter. Avoid cotton or synthetic blends as they trap water against your skin. Opt instead for merino wool or moisture wicking materials.

Canadian winters are tough on feet so take the time to protect yours. Most importantly, if you notice a wound that does not heal, particularly if you are living with diabetes, book an appointment with your Canadian Certified Pedorthist or family doctor right away. Early intervention is critical to preventing a serious injury that could have long term implications.

By Brandon Wittig C. Ped (C) Kitchener, Ontario


Surviving the holiday season in high style

Holiday parties are all about sparkle and for many women that means cocktail dresses, bling and an elegant pair of high heels. Unfortunately, what looks great in the evening, often doesn’t feel good in the morning, especially when it comes to high heels. As a Canadian Certified Pedorthist, I’ve treated patients with foot, back and knee injuries that have stemmed from high heels and I often get asked if it’s possible to wear high heels to a party without suffering the following day and beyond.

High heels cause pain because they unnaturally force your weight onto the ball of your foot, a part of the body that is not designed to bear weight for an extended period. The pain is compounded as raising your heel shortens your calf muscles which forces the muscles in your knees, hips, pelvis and lower back, to work harder than normal to stop you from falling forward. The higher the heel the more your body is forced to compensate.

So, what’s a fashion-conscious girl supposed to do during the holiday season when glam is the theme of most social events?

To minimize the stress on your body, it’s best to wear heels that are as short and wide as possible. This means 2.5 cm or less in height and a solid base. Choose this style for as many holiday functions as possible.

If you need to be full on glam for one or two events and a 2.5 cm, wide heel simply won’t cut it, look for higher heels that have a platformed forefoot and incorporated toe spring. Heels with these features look fashionable and they also provide some cushioning to the ball of your foot.

Whether you are wearing very high heels or a lower style make sure they fit your foot’s length and shape. Heels that are too loose or too tight will cause additional injuries including corns, bunions, blisters and nerve damage.

Show stopping heels are going to hurt as they are designed for fashion, not comfort. If you must wear them for an event, keep them on for as little time as possible. Put them on as you arrive and take them off when you depart. If you’re sitting at a table for part of the evening, take them off and give your feet a break.

As a foot expert, I know high heels are not good for your feet. But as a woman I understand the need to balance style with comfort. Following the above tips will help you survive the holiday season in high style.

By Jenn Ambroise, C. Ped (C), Burlington, Ontario

Sweaty Feet

My feet are so sweaty it’s embarrassing.

Jokes abound about smelly, sweaty feet, however, if you persistently have wet, uncomfortable feet you know it is no laughing matter. Sweating helps our bodies cool down, but if your feet sweat profusely in hot weather and cold, you may have Hyperhidrosis, a condition that causes excessive sweating. In addition to being unpleasant and often embarrassing, sweaty feat can cause a host of other foot conditions including blisters, plantar warts and athlete’s foot.

If you are suffering from sweaty feet, here are some tips to help ease your discomfort and reduce the risk of developing sores, fungus and other skin conditions:

  • Wash your feet thoroughly every day with anti-bacterial soap. Carefully pat them dry, making sure there is no moisture left between your toes. If you have trouble bending or reaching, dry them using a hair dryer on the low setting.
  • Wear socks but choose them carefully. Steer clear of nylon and 100% cotton options as they tend to trap moisture against your skin. Instead select socks made from absorbent materials such as wool or cotton blends. If your socks get wet, change them.
  • Look for shoes made from materials that let your feet breathe, such as leather. Avoid shoes made from rubber and other synthetic materials.
  • Rotate your shoes each day and don’t wear them again until they are completely dry.
  • Your Pedorthist can also recommend the best footwear for you and make sure it fits properly. A properly fit shoe, with a breathable upper and antimicrobial lining may be better suited for you.

Sweaty feet require extra care but they shouldn’t slow you down or make you feel uncomfortable taking off your shoes. Maintaining a daily foot care regime along with careful sock and footwear selection will make a significant difference.

By Mike Neugebauer C. Ped (C) Langley, BC

Weekend Warriors

Tips to keep weekend warriors injury free

Many time-deprived parents know that engaging in an intense bout of exercise one day a week while remaining sedentary the other six days increases their risk of injury, but they still persist with irregular, hard workouts. I understand completely as I’m often at fault of the same behaviour. Since my son arrived this summer, I have been trying to balance my desire to spend as much time with him with my busy clinical schedule. On the days I work this means I rarely find time to exercise.

Lack of conditioning or pushing oneself too hard often results in lower limb injuries, particularly heel pain, ankle sprains and damage to the Achilles tendon. Although exercising regularly throughout the week is the best injury prevention, if you are a weekend warrior, here are a few things you can do to lower your risk of injury:

• Wear the correct footwear for your sport and make sure it fits properly. Equally important – replace it when it gets too worn. Watch for excessive tread wear and weakening of the heel support structure.

• Gradually increase the intensity of your activity over time. If you can only train once a week keep your goals realistic.

• Take time to warm up properly. Stretch all your major muscle groups and then begin with a moderate activity.

• Work with a professional such as a personal trainer or neighbourhood running group. Discuss your limited workout time and then devise a program that is appropriate for your schedule.

• If you get hurt, rest and apply ice. Don’t try to push through the injury.

• If you experience a recurring foot or lower limb injury or it doesn’t heal with rest, book a consultation with a Canadian Certified Pedorthist in your community. Your Pedorthist will determine if different or custom-made foot orthotics will help.

Exercise plays a crucial role in your overall physical and mental health so even when your time is limited it is important to stay active. Following these tips will help to lower your risk of injury until you are able to follow a more regular exercise program.

By Kevin Fraser C. Ped (C) Toronto, ON

Put shoes at the top of your back to school shopping list

It’s back to school shopping time. As school-aged children play hard and grow during the summer holidays, new shoes should be at the top of all parents shopping lists.

Here are the tips I give parents who visit my clinic:

• Never hand shoes down from an older child to a younger child even if the shoes are only slightly worn. The shoes may not fit the younger child properly and the wear patterns from the older child will be incorrect for the new wearer.

• Even if your child is in the middle of a growth spurt, don’t buy shoes that are more than one size bigger than their measured size. Shoes that are too large do nor provide adequate support, can cause painful rubs and blisters and are a tripping hazard.

• Only purchase shoes from a store that has experience fitting children, and staff who take the time to properly fit your child. Most importantly make sure your child goes with you. Don’t just buy the next size up. Your child’s feet may have grown more than one size since your last purchase or may not have grown at all.

• Most schools require children to have indoor and outdoor shoes. Avoid the temptation to buy one or even two pairs of inexpensive shoes from a mass retailer. Your child will spend all day, everyday in the indoor pair and will be active in the outdoor pair so both need to fit properly and provide good support.

• Running shoes with adjustable closures are the best choice for school-aged children. If your child hasn’t mastered laces yet, select shoes with Velcro so the shoes can be adjusted easily to ensure a snug fit.

• If your child requires custom foot orthotics, two pairs of orthotics are best as children won’t take the time to switch their orthotics from their indoor shoes to their outdoor shoes at recess and lunch.

Investing in your child’s feet will provide them with the foundation for a pain free active life. If you have any concerns about their feet or lower limbs book a consultation with your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist. Pedorthists are foot and lower limb experts and they can determine if your child’s feet should be left to develop naturally or if custom foot orthotics or a change in footwear is required.

By Amy Chapman, C. Ped (C), Kingston, Ontario

Plantar Fasciitis Tips

Don’t let plantar fasciitis slow you down

Do you have pain in your heels and through the arches of your feet first thing in the morning and after you have been sitting for a while? If you do, it could be plantar fasciitis, a swelling of the plantar fascia – the main tendon that holds up your foot arch. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of foot pain.

Unlike muscle, the plantar fascia has very little flexibility so it can easily become irritated, inflamed, over-used or torn. Plantar fasciitis is painful but fortunately it is quite easily treated. Here are some tips for easing plantar fasciitis:

  • Before getting out of bed, warm up your foot muscles by doing some ankle stretches and pulling your toes back towards your shin to open up the arch of your foot.
  • Once out of bed, continue loosening up your muscles with a few calf and hamstring stretches.
  • Keep a small water bottle, or pop bottle filled with water, in your freezer. Place it under the arch of your foot, apply some pressure, and gently roll your foot across the bottle. The ice will soothe your pain and the rolling will help stretch your foot muscles.
  • Wear supportive, properly-fitted footwear to control the motion of your foot. Excessive rolling places extra stress on your plantar fascia.
  • Book a consultation with a Canadian Certified Pedorthist to see if you require custom foot orthotics to support and correct your foot. Depending on your individual biomechanics, custom foot orthotics may make a world of difference if you have plantar fasciitis.

Plantar fasciitis is painful but it is treatable. If you think you have plantar fasciitis book an appointment with your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist so you can get started with a treatment program right away.

By Jim Pattison, C. Ped (C), Prince Albert, SK


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