Soothe Tired Feet

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

“My dogs are barking!” After a long day on your feet, it’s common to have sore feet. Exercise, shoe styles, excess weight, high arches, and inflammation can all cause tenderness in your feet and toes. It’s a common ache and pain for many of my patients, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. Pain in your feet can prevent you from enjoying healthy physical activity and enjoying your life. I wanted to share some natural remedies you can try at home to soothe sore feet.

As with all health issues, prevention is key. There are many steps you can take to relieve foot pain before it starts limiting your activity.

1. Take inventory of your shoes

Poor fitting shoes are a primary cause of foot pain. Heavy shoes or poorly ventilated shoes can also cause pain. Take a close look at your shoes and start by asking yourself if any of your shoes hurt your feet more than others. (For ladies, I recommend nothing over a ½ inch heel. Heels crowd your toes and are known for causing other issues such as bunions.) “Well-loved” shoes can also be contributing to your foot pain because they alter how you are walking. Donate anything that is not comfortable.

Over time, your feet change just as your body does. Tendons or ligaments stretch over the years and your feet may be a different size than you once thought. Shoes that are too tight or too big can cause more strain on your feet and lower leg muscles which will increase swelling and discomfort.

If you are shopping for new shoes, try on shoes near the end of the day because that is when your feet are largest because of swelling. You might be surprised to learn you’ve been wearing the wrong size shoe all along!

2. Make sure you have adequate arch support

In order to avoid foot pain, you need to make sure your shoes have sufficient support and cushioning. A pair of over-the-counter arch supports can have a big impact on the comfort of your feet. They help decrease the shock that your feet feel as you take a step. The heels and balls of your feet can be very sensitive to pain, full-length arch supports can help add extra cushion to these areas.

Stiff soled shoes can also help provide more arch support as well. Running shoes have a lot of cushion, and even some sandals with a thicker sole are more preferable than flip flops or flat-footed shoes.

3. Watch your weight

Excess weight can lead to a number of health conditions. When it comes to your feet, carrying additional weight can increase the pressure on the bones and muscles in your feet, ankles and lower legs. This additional pressure can cause strain on your ligaments, muscles, and joints making it more difficult to walk, exercise, or even stand for long periods of time. Many times, people with weight issues tend to have flat feet and are more prone to injuries. Again, good arch support is key as well as implementing healthy weight-loss strategies.

4. Give yourself a pedicure

This doesn’t have to include polish! It’s important to trim any calluses or corns on your feet. The hard dry skin on the bottom of your feet can lead to cracks, infection, soreness, and pain. Make sure to soak your feet in warm water for a few minutes before you begin your pedicure. Use a pumice stone to remove the hard spots, and use a good moisturizer on your feet when you are finished. Put on a warm pair of socks to seal in the moisture when your pedicure is complete.

These simple suggestions will give your feet a head start before your next long day!

If you are already experiencing foot pain or soreness...what can you do? Here are some basic at home remedies to help you get back on your toes.

1. Elevate your feet

Swelling and inflammation is the main cause of sore feet. Elevating your feet when you are sitting or laying down will encourage blood and lymph fluid in your lower legs to return to circulation. If possible, raise your feet as high as your heart. Remove your shoes and socks and use as many pillows as possible to promote circulation. (Make sure not to cross your legs, as this will hinder circulation.) Now, take a deep breath and relax.

2. Take an Epsom salt bath

Epsom salt can significantly reduce inflammation in your feet, especially if your pain is caused by muscle tension. Fill a small foot tub or bathtub with warm water and 2 tablespoons (per gallon of water) of Epsom salt. Soak your feet for up to 30 minutes. The magnesium in the salt will help your muscles start to relax.  You can purchase Epsom salt at any pharmacy, drug store, or health food store.

3. Stretch

As with all muscles in your body, stretching can help counteract muscle tightness. It’s a great idea to stretch your feet at the end of the day or after an Epsom salt foot bath when your feet are already relaxed. You can use a resistance band, your hands, or even a towel for these stretches.

-Toe Stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs and feet straight out in front of you. Wrap your resistance band around your toes and slowly pull the band and your toes towards you. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds. Do three sets.

-Step Stretch: Stand with your toes on a step or stair with heels hanging off the edge. Slowly lower your heels and stretch the arch of your foot. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds. Then lift your heels and return to the starting position.  Do five sets.

- Calf Stretch: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your right knee comfortably as you push your left heel into the ground. You should feel your left calf stretching. Hold his for 10-15 seconds and switch to the other calf. Do three sets.

4. Movement

Even though your feet are already tired and sore from a long day, a few simple movements can help alleviate some of the pain.

-Pick up objects with your toes. Sit comfortably in a chair. Pick up a handful of objects with your toes and move them from one pile to another. Switch feet and repeat.

-Point your toes. While standing, lift up to to the tips of your toes. Get your heels off the ground as much as possible. (Imagine a ballerina.) Do 5 sets.

-Pump your ankles. Sitting comfortably, move your foot up and down about ten times. Switch feet and repeat.

-Make circles with your ankles. Sitting comfortably, make a circle with your right ankle. Start making 5-10 clockwise circles followed by 5-10 counter-clockwise circles. Repeat with your opposite foot.

-Roll with a frozen object. Freeze a water bottle, tennis ball, or golf ball. Roll the ball on the bottom of your feet. This will feel especially good if your feet are swollen.

5. Self Massage

Touch therapy can have a big impact on the pain in your feet. Apply lotion or oil to the bottom of your feet and massage gently. Use pressure with your thumb to any specific sore areas. Focus on the plantar fascia which connects your heel to your toes. This tissue is important because it absorbs the shock when your feet walk on the ground. If this tissue is tight it can cause heel pain and soreness. Gently massage the plantar fascia with your thumbs. Flex your toes upward to get an even deeper massage.

You can also use a small wooden roller on your feet. Wood is more effective for relieving tension in your feet than plastic or metal rollers. You can find a good wooden roller at most drug stores. You want to pick one with grooves or ridges to best massage pressure points in your feet. They are very easy to use, simply roll your feet back and forth over the top of the wooden roller for 5-10 minutes each.

If these home remedies don’t heal your pain, or you are experiencing more chronic foot pain that limits you for doing the activities you want to do, I would recommend trying some natural therapies outside of the home.

1. Acupuncture

For more than 3,500 years, people across the world have been using acupuncture to treat and eliminate pain. Acupuncture can help alleviate the pain and soreness in your feet as well.

Your body is made up of a number of pathways or meridians that transport energy, blood, and oxygen. Pain is typically caused by a lack of energy flow, in this case, to the feet or lower extremities. With acupuncture, we can pinpoint these areas and stimulate blood flow to your nerves and muscles. This triggers endorphins, your body’s natural pain reliever. We teach your body how to naturally heal itself.

2. Professional Massage

Get a professional foot and calf massage. Massage is proven to reduce muscle tension and inflammation. This will help with better circulation in your feet and help reduce the pain. Massage therapists also use trigger point therapy on the soles of your feet where they focus more pressure on your arches or sore areas of your feet.

3. Reflexology

Reflexology is similar to massage but not the same. Reflexology focuses primarily on specific pressure points and areas of the feet to stimulate internal systems and improve your overall health. An easy way to understand the difference is that a massage therapist works from the outside in, focusing on external muscle groups to improve your health, and reflexologists work from the inside out, stimulating your nervous system to release tension.

4. Podiatrist

If your foot pain is chronic and severe, you may want to see a podiatrist or foot specialist. They will be able to tell you if you have a foot condition or need more invasive help.

As you’ve learned, there are many things that can cause foot pain and soreness. While it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s normal. You don’t have to suffer. There are many things you can do right now to prevent these aches and pains, and naturally heal your body.

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