Healthy Tips for Happy Feet

Healthy Tips for Happy Feet

Kaiser Permanente podiatrist Thomas Kaschak, DPM, offers common sense advice for taking care of your feet.

By Dolores Radding

If you haven’t given much thought to taking care of your feet, consider these facts from Kaiser Permanente Fresno podiatrist Thomas Kaschak, DPM.

Thomas Kaschak, DPM

Thomas Kaschak, DPM

He said the average person takes about 7,500 steps each day. If you stay relatively active and live to the age of 80, that adds up to about 217 million steps in a lifetime or 110,000 miles — the equivalent to walking around the world more than four times.

That’s a lot of miles, and as Dr. Kaschak puts it, “Taking care of your feet will make the journey a lot more enjoyable.”

Look InsideKP NCAL spoke with Dr. Kaschak about common sense foot care.

What tips can you offer for keeping your feet healthy?

Be aware of the type of shoes you’re wearing, and inspect your feet daily for any changes such as calluses, blisters, redness, swelling, or anything that doesn’t look normal. If you can link the problem to a particular pair of shoes or a certain activity, it’s time to make a change.

In California, a lot of people wear flip-flops or sandals, especially in the summer months. This can lead to the formation of dry, cracking calluses, especially around the heels and big toes. This problem can usually be solved by using a pumice stone and a moisturizer after bathing and switching to an enclosed shoe.

How do shoes affect the health of our feet?

If you have relatively normal-shaped feet, wearing almost any style of shoes is not usually an issue in the short term. However, even normal feet squeezed into tight, high-heeled shoes will eventually experience problems.

I like to see my patients wearing shoes that give proper support and fit the foot appropriately. I advise people to use common sense. If your shoes are uncomfortable, don’t wear them, or wear them infrequently.

What are common reasons people seek medical care for their feet?

The most common nonurgent reason is for a condition that causes pain in the ball of the foot called metatarsalgia, and for heel pain, otherwise known as plantar fasciitis. These are generally chronic conditions that can be helped by wearing appropriate shoes with supports and performing stretching exercises that help reduce the pressure on the heels or on the balls of the feet.

Have you noticed any trends over the years?

I’ve seen an increase in open sores and foot infections associated with people who have diabetes. With the rise in obesity, we’re seeing more patients with type II diabetes. When I first started practicing, we would mostly see type II diabetes in older patients. The trend has expanded to include middle-aged people, young adults, and even children.

This is a serious challenge for health care providers who struggle to keep patients with obesity-related diabetes from developing problems that have the potential to lead to amputation. For diabetics, there is no minor problem with your feet.

When should someone see a podiatrist?

If you have a serious problem such as a fracture, cuts, redness or swelling, you should get care right away. This is especially true for diabetics who have a tendency to develop numbness in their feet, which can often result in the development of open sores that may be limb-threatening.

If you are in good health and develop non-urgent problems such as corns, calluses, mild ingrown nails, you may try over-the-counter remedies. General aches and pains are often relieved by simple measures such as wearing more comfortable and supportive shoes, or using over-the-counter pain medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin.

If you have no relief or if the problems worsen, it’s time to call for an appointment.

Think about taking care of your feet in the same way you think about brushing your teeth. A little daily attention can make a big difference down the road.