Don’t let diabetes hurt your feet! Sidestep foot pain with these tips from physical therapist Frank Musumeci, director of the Sports Clinic, an orthopedic and sports rehab center in Miami.
- Cushion your landing.
Although going barefoot in warm weather sounds fun, the easiest way to take a load off your feet and your joints is to wear shoes that absorb the shock for you. Go for a rubber sole, and make sure the toe box is wide and flexible. The shoe should bend at the ball of your foot, where you push off, not in the middle. Easy test: If you can fold the shoe in half, skip it.
Don’t do this: Wear flimsy sandals or flip-flops. Instead, try a sport sandal with good arch support. Find suggestions at the American Podiatric Medical Association’s website at apma.org (search “sandals” and “seal of acceptance”).
- Give your big toes TLC.
If you have to wear tight or pointy shoes—say, for a wedding—foot experts recommend this stretch: After taking off your shoes, sit down, place your feet side by side and loop a thick rubber band around your big toes. Slowly pull your big toes apart to gently stretch the ligaments and joints. Hold for 10 seconds; repeat five times.
Don’t do this: Wear heels over 2 inches. Anything higher puts too much pressure on your forefoot, and your big toe joint is often forced to take the brunt.
- Stretch your calves. Flexible calves help you walk more efficiently and ease stress on your connective tissue. Stretch after a shower or 15 minutes of exercise, when your muscles are warm and pliable. Two exercises to try:
Wall stretch: Lean against a wall, hands flat, with your right foot forward and left foot back. Keep both heels on the floor and press your hips forward, feeling the pull in your left calf and Achilles tendon. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat three or four times.
Towel stretch: Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you. Loop a towel around the ball of one foot and pull the towel toward you, keeping your leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat three or four times.
- Loosen your ankles.
To prevent pain, it’s important that the bones between your ankle and shin glide easily over each other. To keep joints lubricated: Sit on a chair, raise one foot slightly off the floor and “write” each letter of the alphabet with your big toe. Repeat with the other foot. If your ankle doesn’t have full range of motion, physical therapy can help restore movement.
- Let wheels do the work.
If you usually walk for exercise, mix it up by taking bike rides. Walking on a hard surface forces three times your body weight onto your feet and ankles. Riding a bike is less jarring and a great way to get exercise while giving your feet a break.