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Keep that spring in your step

What’s your favorite body part? No, not that one.

OK, let me put it another way. What parts of the body are essential to keep you mobile, able to travel, ready to dance and stable enough to stand forever in the pharmacy line?

Yes, the feet.



Poor feet – they are so far away from our eyes, down south of the body, that they get short shrift. Out of sight, out of mind, especially if the tummy gets in the line of sight.

But feet begin to enter our conscious minds when, as older people, we decide to not go on trips because of the walking, when we realize that corns, bunions, hammer toes, fallen arches, and calluses are keeping us from doing what we want. We had other plans for ourselves in retirement, ones that didn’t involve Dr. Scholl.




Now, that’s a downer moment – the time when we realize that some things are beyond us. We can’t hike the Pacific Crest trail or the Hill Towns of Italy. We may have trouble walking to the mailbox.

Ways to Fight Back

Well, life and feet aren’t perfect, but here are a few ways to keep those tootsies in the best possible shape:

Shoes

The right shoe can make all the difference in your ability to get around. I have been lurking on the hiking and travel Web sites and here are some of the brands walking folks love: Ecco, Rockport, Mephisto, Merrell, Teva, Clarks, New Balance and Easy Spirit. And then there are the sport shoe brands that became famous for making sneakers on steroids, among them Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Brooks. But remember each of these brands makes a great variety of styles. Some will fit you and others will not.

Whatever brand you choose, get a good fit. If shoes are not comfy in the store, taking them home won’t change things. Look for a sole that will flex with you, but is still thick enough to protect your feet from concrete and pebbles.

When it comes to shoes, I think lightweight is good. The more like a cloud, the better I like them. And today’s shoes can be engineered so that they can provide support and protection and still not weigh much. It was yesterday that walking shoes had to be made of heavy leather.

Make sure there is room in the toe box so you can wiggle your toes. (I still look for my mom to pinch the toe and declare it adequate for another school year. Some rituals never die.). And make sure there’s room for the socks you usually wear. Plus the heel shouldn’t be slipping and most of all, you shouldn’t be in a hurry when you are in the store. Take your time. Shoes are mega-expensive and blisters hurt.

Double check your decision: Take the shoes home and wear them around the house. If they don’t feel good, back they go pronto.

Socks

Socks have come a long way since you wore bobby socks. Some wool socks like SmartWool can be washed without worry. Brands like Thorlo make socks with different levels of padding. To me, a padded Thorlo on the foot can make almost any shoe far more comfortable. Though these and other padded socks are not cheap, they are worth it as an escape from foot torture.

Pads, liners, inserts, etc.

These accessories from the foot section of the drugstore take experimentation. Some are helpful and some just make things worse.

Be kind to yourself after walking.

Some people soak their tootsies in a cold tub. Others roll their feet back and forth over a tennis ball on the floor. Still others massage with products like the Body Shop’s peppermint lotion for feet. And if there are cracks in the heels, there are heavy-duty creams to take care of that problem. At night, just rub the cream in well, put on clean socks and go to bed. (If you do this in the morning, you may slide around in soggy socks all day.)

Foot docs

If you are having persistent pain in your tootsies, get thee to a foot doctor who can often help with just some simple suggestions. Get a second opinion if anyone suggests surgery.

Well, time’s up, so it’s toot, toot tootsie … goodbye. Take care of those feet and be glad you’re not a centipede.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.


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