Dr. Rock Positano shares his five best tips for taking care of your feet. (Photo: Getty Images)
Feet aren’t always a priority, but they should be. In the last few years, I’ve suffered from major heel issues and unexplained foot pain. I’ve tried everything from stretching to yoga to adjustments at the chiropractor, and nothing worked. I went to two podiatrists who both told me I needed surgery. Luckily, my husband found an article about Dr. Rock Positano, director of the Non-Surgical Foot and Ankle Service at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Rock specializes in nonsurgical care, and his assessment of my feet was completely different than the previous doctors’: “On a scale of 1 to 10, you are a 2 or 3. Not so bad,” he declared before adding: “Stick with me and you’ll be able to wear stilettos again.” Within weeks my pain decreased drastically. I haven’t worn stilettos just yet, but I can wear high heels for an hour without it being too painful, when I couldn’t even think about it before.
Dr. Rock is full of incredible insight and advice on how to keep your feet strong and beautiful, especially in the winter. Here, he shares his five best tips for taking care of your feet.
Wear shoes that are the right size
A study was done 10 years ago that shows that 90 percent of women are wearing shoes one to two sizes smaller than their foot size. People seem to think that at age 15, their foot size is the same as it is at 25 or 30. Wearing boots that are either too small or too big, both lead to tendons overworking, causing knee pain, back pain, and foot pain. Give yourself a little extra room in the front of the foot if you’re wearing a stylish boot that has a pointy tip — especially if you have any pathology or deformity. Some people have a very narrow heel that moves around a lot in the shoe, and they develop Achilles tendon problems, ankle tendinitis, or plantar fasciitis. If a person has bunions, a hammertoe, or a neuroma, when you put that foot inside a shoe that is very narrow in the tip, it causes irritation and compression of those bones and those structures.
Choose the right shoe type
If it’s 10 degrees and there’s 20 inches of snow, you want a boot that is supportive in all areas. Snow boots do not have the same type of orthopedic support that regular shoes have — the foot has to work harder to make contact with the ground and stabilize itself, and many people develop tendonitis problems. Hunter boots are good because they have a very good arch, a good heel, and they hug the foot better than other boots do. Timberland boots have excellent ankle support and heel support. Uggs are comfortable, but unless you have the right type of orthopedic support in the boot, you run the risk of developing overuse injuries, especially in the arch, the Achilles, and the knee.
Keep feet warm and moisturized
Put lotion on the top, the heel, the area in the back, and in the front over the big toe. Any time you keep the skin hydrated, you keep the protective barrier of the foot healthy and strong, and you’re less likely to develop skin irritations like infections. Being exposed to too much cold weather makes the foot go into spasm. It affects the circulation and also the temperature reading of the muscles and the ligaments. If a foot is too cold for a long period of time, like a few hours, you’re more likely to develop tendon inflammation. If you throw on a pair of padded or furry shoes and don’t wear a pair of socks, it’s very easy to develop frostbite and not even know it.
Love your feet as is — foot surgery should be a last resort
If you’re having a “foot operation” for cosmetic reasons, you run the risk of having a foot that may never work the same way. The foot, unlike other body parts, is direct weight bearing. This is the only part of the body that you can do a textbook perfect operation on and there is no guarantee it’s going to work. If it doesn’t need to be fixed, don’t fix it. You’re likely to make a perfectly functioning foot a dysfunctional foot, which is not only going to mess your foot up, but your knee and back as well.
Exercise your feet
Before leaving the house, do a calf stretch using a towel. Pull the foot back, hold it for anywhere from 20-30 seconds, and do it two or three times to increase flexibility. When you do get out in the cold, you’re less likely to injure yourself.