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April 25, 2006 > Proper Foot Health Takes You a Long Way

Proper Foot Health Takes You a Long Way

Focus on Your Feet During Foot Health Awareness Month

The foot bone is connected to the anklebone. The anklebone is connected to the shinbone. Sometimes we forget that it all starts at the foot. Our poor feet sometimes land last on our list of health priorities, but they shouldn't, according to podiatrists.

Foot Health Awareness Month, recognized this month, is a great time to put your best foot forward, especially when 75 percent of Americans will experience foot health problems of varying degrees of severity at one time or another in their lives, according to the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA).

"You want to keep your feet healthy because that's what you walk with," says Dr. Christopher Mah, a Washington Hospital Medical Staff podiatrist.

Dr. Mah points out that many foot problems can actually indicate larger systemic problems, such as diabetes. Even more minor foot ailments, such as odor, blisters or ingrown nails are nothing you have to live with.

"A lot of foot pain is very easily treated by a visit to your podiatrist," according to Dr. Mah. "Foot pain is not a usual finding. If you're experiencing pain, you should probably get it checked out."

That said, the first rule of foot health is never to ignore foot pain, Dr. Mah says. Other important foot health guidelines to follow include:

  • Be aware of any change in your toenails and check for cracks, cuts or growths in the skin.

  • Wash your feet everyday and dry them carefully, especially between the toes where fungus can grow.

  • Cut your toenails straight across to prevent painful ingrown nails.

  • Wear well-fitting shoes.

  • Don't walk barefoot too often, and wear sandals even on the beach.

  • If you're having foot problems - this applies to all ages, from children to seniors - visit your podiatrist regularly.

People who have diabetes, Dr. Mah notes, must be particularly vigilant about foot health, as circulation and the nerves are affected, which can increase the chances of infection.

Women also, more frequently than men, tend to suffer from foot problems, which can be attributed to both genetic disposition, as well as ill-fitting footwear. Wearing high heels over an inch and a half tall, Dr. Mah says, can cause chronic pain in the ball of the foot, and bone changes including bunions and hammertoes.

If you suffer from foot pain, most likely there is a readily available treatment for it, according to Dr. Mah. He says he often sees patients who tell him: "When my feet hurt, I hurt all over." Foot pain can also many times lead to leg and back pain.

An over-the-counter or custom-made orthotic, a special type of insert that is worn in a shoe, can be useful in treating many common conditions of the feet, sometimes preventing the need for surgery. For treatment of severe foot abnormalities, specialized orthotics from a podiatrist can often be customized for better fit.

In terms of overall health, Dr. Mah recommends putting on a pair of well-fitting shoes and start walking regularly.

"Walking is a really good exercise to do, as long as you have good support and footwear," he says. "One thing about walking is it's fun, easy to do and free. And it's good for your health."

Washington Hospital Healthcare System offers free Health & Wellness seminars on a range of different health topics, including foot health. To learn more about upcoming classes, call Health Connection at (800) 963-7070 for a free copy of the Health & Wellness Catalog.

To find a local podiatrist in the Tri-City area, visit and click on "Find a Physician" to search for doctors by specialty, gender and name.
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