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Footcare for the Great Canadian Winter

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Now that summer is over and the cooler months are here, it can be tempting to neglect your feet over the winter because they are more out of sight. Out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind; doing this is not the best decision for the feet or the rest of the body!

It’s easy to forget about going out to exercise when the winter weather arrives as it is easier to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy! The problem is that sitting around all day can lead to foot and ankle swelling. Without your calf muscle pumping, the blood circulating through your body starts to pool in your feet and ankles. If you must stay inside, then be sure to do a few basic foot and leg exercises, as advised by your Canadian Certified Pedorthist, to keep your blood flowing. The key message is to stay active and continue your exercise routine during the winter.

Winter Footwear Selection 

It is important to consider what you are going to be doing for activity and select the right shoe or boot for the job. There are different types of footwear with a variety of fancy features on the market. It does not matter if you are walking to work on snow-covered sidewalks, hanging out at the rink, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, it is important to choose proper winter footwear that keeps your feet warm, dry and protected. Wintertime shoes should have ample padding and warm lining but still be roomy enough as to not cut off circulation in the feet and toes. Having some space around your toes allows warm air created by your body temperature to circulate in that space. Avoiding synthetic materials and other non-breathable fabrics can help control foot sweat; too much perspiration could create an extra chill that can lead to frostbite on the coldest of winter days. A Canadian Certified Pedorthist can assist you in finding the best pair of shoes for you.

Your Pedorthist will advise that it is important to wear shoes with good grip and strong arch supports, like custom foot orthotics, so that you do not slip or fall. It is also very important that the feet remain dry when it is wet and cold out. Make sure that the shoes or boots you wear fit when wearing thicker and warmer socks. The socks should fit well to prevent blistering and should help keep moisture from sitting on your skin. Socks that wick away moisture from the foot will help keep your feet warm and will help reduce the chances of frostbite when you are outside for an extended period. As it is difficult to avoid wet or cold feet completely, it is important to remove wet footwear as soon as possible and get the feet dry and warm as soon as possible.

When you go out in the cold, be sure to allow time for extra stretching as winter weather can make you less flexible and therefore prone to more injuries to your feet and the rest of your body. Also, when you are out walking and running, shorten the stride length to help increase stability when you go over slippery and icy patches.

Winter is a time when humidity is lower, and skin can dry out. Work to keep your skin moisturized to avoid problems that come with dry skin such as painful cracking, calluses and other rough spots.

Winter Footcare for People with Diabetes

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes? In winter, foot care for people with diabetes becomes more important. There are potential problems that can arise from moisture, cold, and dryness. Here are some tips to keep top of mind:

  • Lower temperatures can enhance neuropathy and numbness. This can lead to sores, blisters, and trauma to the foot.
  • Keeping feet warm and dealing with dry skin is of utmost importance
  • Dry feet can lead to cracking followed by skin breakdown. This breakdown can lead to wounds and infections. Daily foot inspections, cleaning and moisturizing the feet with foams or lotion formulated for the feet of people with diabetes can help prevent issues seen in this area.
  • As always, people with diabetes must maintain control over their blood sugar levels
  • There is no let up in the need to keep nails trimmed straight across and not rounded. Trimming may be done after bathing when the nails are softer. Seek help from a licensed provider if you are unable to do this yourself.
  • Footwear for people with diabetes in winter should follow basic principles of comfort, fit, and protection from the elements. It is more important for people with diabetes that seasonal footwear should provide adequate padding, room and protection from wet and cold temperatures.
  • The toe box of your footwear should be square or rounded to allow all the toes to wiggle freely. Avoid footwear that has seams whenever possible.
  • It is almost impossible to avoid dampness in shoes and socks over the winter, so it is important to remove wet shoes and socks as soon as possible. Allowing dampness to sit on your feet leaves them susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. Try to carry an extra pair of socks for emergency situations. Make sure that shoes are thoroughly dry before wearing them again. If they’re not fully dry, choose a new pair to help keep your feet healthy and clean.

For further information, please consult a Canadian Certified Pedorthist. You can find one in your area by visiting https://www.pedorthic.ca/find-a-pedorthist/.

By Jim Pattison, B Sc., C. Ped (C)

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