11 Things Your Podiatrist Wants You to Know
- For Happy, Healthy FeetMany people only think of visiting a podiatrist, or foot doctor, when they have foot pain or a foot-related injury. But podiatrists are actually trained to deal with all sorts of foot and ankle concerns, from helping you choose the right shoes to performing surgery. Learn the insider info that podiatrists want you to know about foot health.
- 1. “Make a list before your appointment.”You’ll receive better care if you can accurately communicate your key problems and concerns, says podiatrist Erika Schwartz, DPM (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine). So jot down a few notes before your visit. “Write down when the problem started, when the pain occurs, and where it occurs,” Dr. Schwartz says. Your podiatrist will also want to know what you’ve done to remedy it on your own, and whether or not these measures have helped, adds podiatrist Alison Garten, DPM.
- 2. “Bring in your shoes.”Tote a couple pairs of shoes to your appointment, suggests podiatrist Keith Penera, DPM. “We’ll inspect shoes to find out if there’s abnormal wear and see if there’s anything in the shoe that’s rubbing.” The wear patterns can show your doctor a lot about the way your foot works as you walk, run or stand. This can help your podiatrist diagnose the cause of aches and pains. If you use shoe inserts, bring them in as well, Dr. Penera says.
- 3. “See a podiatrist if you sprain your ankle.”“People often think there’s nothing they can do for an ankle sprain, so they may not seek care,” says Dr. Schwartz. The truth is if you continue to walk on a sprained ankle without seeing a doctor, the ligaments can heal improperly. As a result, your ankles can become weaker and more prone to sprains and strains down the line. See a podiatrist if you still have pain a day or two after an ankle sprain, Dr. Schwartz advises.
- 4. “You shouldn’t have to ‘break in’ shoes.”Shoes should fit comfortably right out of the box. Don’t assume you’ll break in a pair of kicks over time. “The truth is, you shouldn’t buy shoes that don’t feel good in the store,” Dr. Schwartz says. Poorly fitting shoes can lead to corns, calluses, and other problems.
- 5. “Put lotion on your feet daily.”Most people clean their feet regularly, but do you put lotion on them afterward? If not, it’s time to start. Applying lotion to your feet daily helps prevent cracks and open sores that can become infected, Dr. Penera says. “By keeping calluses well hydrated, you can decrease the rate at which the callus develops.” A good trick is to slather thick lotion on your feet, pull on a pair of cotton socks, and climb into bed. You’ll have happy feet when you get up!
- 6. “Realize when it’s time to retire old shoes.”If your feet ache, the solution may be as simple as buying new shoes, Dr. Penera says. Shoes don’t last forever, and wearing a pair past its lifespan can mean it doesn’t offer as much support and cushion. Dr. Penera offers this pro tip: Put the shoes on a flat surface. If it doesn’t lie flat, the shoe has worn unevenly, which could be contributing to overuse injuries or other pains.
- 7. “Don’t ignore ingrown toenails.”“In most cases, unless you actually remove the part of the nail that’s growing into the skin, it won’t go away,” Dr. Penera says. And sometimes cutting it yourself can make it worse. Getting expert treatment early on can prevent problems like bacterial infections. See a podiatrist if you have redness, swelling or drainage at the site of an ingrown toenail, Dr. Penera adds.
- 8. “Avoid shoes with pointy toes.”Bunions—a bump at the base of the big toe that occurs when the bone or joint is out of place—can’t always be prevented, Dr. Schwartz says. But avoiding shoes with narrow or pointy toes can limit a bunion’s severity or decrease your chances of developing pain, she explains. Look for shoes with a wide toe box (front part of the shoe) that allows you to wiggle your toes a bit.
- 9. “Everyday foot care can prevent toenail fungus.”Toenail fungus is one of the most common reasons people visit a podiatrist. Simple steps, however, can help prevent a fungal infection, Dr. Penera says. For one, be sure to trim nails straight across. Clean your feet every day, and dry them well any time you get them wet, he recommends. “When you notice a nail is getting thick, file down the top of the nail,” he adds.
- 10. “Clean your athletic shoes regularly.”At least once a month, give your athletic shoes a cleaning, Dr. Penera recommends. You can use a soft brush to knock off any loose dirt or debris. Most shoes can be washed with mild soapy water. Be sure to leave the shoes out for 24 hours so they dry completely. “The majority of the odor and dirt hides in the laces and insoles,” Dr. Penera notes.
- 11. “Avoid wearing flat-soled shoes.”Flip-flops and ballerina flats without arch padding may be on trend, but they don’t give your foot enough support, Dr. Garten cautions. “Arch pain and heel pain can result from wearing these types of shoes too often,” she says. In general, look for shoes that cup the heel and support the arch of your foot.
11 Things Your Podiatrist Wants You to Know