Give your feet a little treat: Pamper them with a massageIn June, soccer’s 2006 World Cup opens in Germany and as everyone knows the world’s most popular game is played primarily with the feet. The foot is a complicated body part that consists of 26 bones and over 100 ligaments, muscles and nerves. It is obviously indispensable for movement but it also acts as a cushion for the rest of the body and, during vigorous exercise (like playing in a World Cup match) can experience up to 500 tons of accumulated force in one hour. Also, by the time the average person reaches 60 years of age, their poor feet have walked the equivalent of three-and-a-half times around the earth. Despite the importance of feet, in most cases, they are the least cared-for body part. They are stuck into narrow shoes for more than half of the day, and covered in perspiration with little chance to “breathe.” So, let’s pretend we’re on the way to the World Cup and give our feet the same treatment the players give theirs.
One of best ways to relieve foot fatigue is a footbath. Rest your feet in warm water at 42 to 44 degrees centigrade (107.6 to 111.2 Fahrenheit) for 10 to 15 minutes. This will activate blood circulation and help stressed muscles get relief.
Massaging feet also helps. Massage the arch of the sole and the little muscles between the toes. “The foot massage pushes the blood in the foot back up to the heart,” says Lee Kyung-tai, a foot and ankles doctor at Eulji General Hospital. “So it is best to massage the foot from the toe back toward the ankle ,” he added. At home, standing on half cut bamboo mats while washing the dishes will do.
It’s also good to exercise foot muscles. Try to pick up towels or small stones with curled toes, or try repeatedly curling and uncurling your toes while sitting down. Also extend your toes vertical to your foot by pressing them against a stair or step.
Selecting good shoes is also important in caring for your feet ― wearing shoes that don’t fit is one of the major causes of foot damage. Good shoes are made of soft leather with a rounded sole that shifts the body’s weight easily. Also, insoles disperse the weight well. Shoes for marathon running or jogging, or functional shoes known as “grandma’s shoes” could be categorized as good shoes.
With a good shoe, “You feel comfortable from the moment you wear it for the first time,” says Park Si-bok, a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Hanyang University Hospital. “The common saying that feet always ache when wearing new shoes is wrong,” he emphasized.
So-called new shoes syndrome means that a war between the shoes and feet has begun. If the feet win the war, the shoe leather stretches so that the shoe shape is twisted. But if the shoes win, it is the feet that get twisted and deformed.
Typically bad shoes have 3 centimeters (1.2 inches) or higher heels, pointed toes and hard soles, or they are worn down at the heel on one side.
One should note that feet get wider as we get older, so it’s important to buy wide enough shoes. Pointed toe shoes are a major reason that feet get deformed.
“There is an apparent shift of 1.5 times your body weight to each foot when walking,” said Lee Woo-chun, a doctor at the Foot and Ankle Center at Inje University’s Seoul Paik Hospital. “Walking that moves 70 to 80 percent of body muscles is great exercise for feet.” He said that appropriate walking exercise strengthens the small muscles in the foot and reduces fatigue in them.
Some Koreans believe that walking 10,000 steps a day is good for their health and check the number of steps they take each day with a pedometer. But this means walking about 10 kilometers a day and puts a total of 160 tons of accumulated stress pressure on the feet, more than a normal person needs. Foot health experts instead recommend walking between 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day. But if your feet swell or the calf muscles go numb after walking, reduce this number. The number of steps taken by someone who commutes by car is, on average, around 3,000, far less than what is required.
People who work standing up for a long time, such as teachers, department store staff, or flight attendants, should take a rest with their legs raised higher than their heart for about 10 minutes after every hour of work.
When buying shoes, remember:
1. Try on shoes before buying them. (Shoe sizes differ depending on the manufacturer and design.)
2. Buy shoes that have 1.5-centimeters of wiggle room at the toes.
3. Remember that your feet get wider as you get older.
4. Buy shoes in the evening when your feet tend to be swollen.
5. Avoid high heels and shoes with pointed toes.
Source: Foot and Ankle Center at Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital
Walking barefoot on sand or earth
Strength: If one doesn’t suffer from arthritis in one’s foot joints and has normal muscle strength, this strengthens the feet and ankles.
Weakness: If one suffers from arthritis, walking barefoot can worsen the arthritic pain, and joints can swell. If one’s foot muscles are weak, the muscles could become numb, painful and swollen. If one has exstrophy (the big toe points toward the first toe), one’s symptoms could get more serious.
Source: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department at Hanyang University Hospital
by Park Tae-kyun
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