6 Ways You Could Treat Your Feet Better

How to avoid spending the rest of your life in orthopedic shoes.

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No. 1: You Walk Around Barefoot

Taking off your shoes after a long day and walking around barefoot may be liberating, but not being mindful of the strain on your feet may have consequences years from now. "Barefoot walking when you're home eats away at your foot's fat pad over time," says Vionic Innovation Lab Member Dr. Jackie Sutera, a podiatrist based in New York City. The fat pad provides a vital layer of cushioning on the soles of your feet. "You have to protect that layer or you'll basically be walking on skin and bone if it withers away," Sutera says. Ultimately, a thin fat pad can cause more pain and injury.

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Fix It: Find slippers or sandals with cushioning that are casual enough for lounging around the house, but don't look like your grandmother's house shoes.

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Pointed Babouche Slippers by Bohemia in Coral, $45, wolfandbadger.com.

No. 2: You Wear Heels… a Lot

We're not telling you to completely overhaul your high-heels collection, of course, but your feet could use a break from pumps and stilettos. "The reason why heels are so bad in the first place is that all of your weight moves forward," Sutera says. "Your knees and your hips shift forward, which means your back has to hyperextend backwards." Heels can pretty much distort the shape of your body, from your feet to your spine!

Fix It: Sutera suggests wearing different shoes throughout the day. If you commute to work or school, wear sneakers on the way and then slip on your heels when you reach your destination. Wedges and platforms are better options if you want a lift, because they provide support to the balls of your feet.

No. 3: You Keep Old Shoes

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Sadly, it might be time to get rid of your favorite pair of Converses, you know, the ones with holes wearing through the rubber soles. Sporting worn-out shoes damages your feet over time and can strain and inflame the ligament in your heel (this is called plantar fasciitis, and it's very common and incredibly painful). "It really depends on how much you wear the shoe and what it looks like, so I always tell patients to do a tabletop test," Sutera says. "Put them on the tabletop and look at them at eye level. If they slope inwards or outwards, then the sole isn't flat and they either need to be repaired or replaced."

Fix It: See if you can get your shoes repaired at a local cobbler, and if not, throw them out.

No. 4: You Get Pedicures

Every once in a while, it's nice to treat yourself to a skin-smoothing pedicure! But if you're a frequent visitor to your local nail salon, you should take some precautions to avoid infections of any kind. Sutera suggests investing in your own tools, and making sure that the salon you frequent uses plastic liners in the foot tubs.

Fix It: If you don't want to buy and carry your own pedicure tools to every appointment, try an at-home pedi! Sutera suggests cutting your toenails straight across about twice a month. "You can't have them too long or too short, or you'll run into injury and infections easily," she says.

No. 5: You Don't Have Shower Shoes

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When you're at a hotel, pool, spa, locker room, or any other wet public space, bring a pair of cheap flip-flops. Sutera mentions that these places are breeding grounds for bad bacteria and fungus. If you notice some weird discoloration on your feet or toenails, go to your doctor. "Now is the time to start taking care of those things, because come April, it's almost too late," Sutera says about sandal-season preparation.

Fix It: Purchase a pair of affordable shower shoes early in the season—say, by April—and throw them in a gym bag or in your suitcase when you're traveling.

No. 6: You Don't Follow a Nighttime Routine

After a long day, your feet are in desperate need of a good stretch, a massage, and occasionally some ice. Carve out about 20 minutes before you go to bed for a little TLC. "When you get out of the shower or bath, your tissues, muscles, and skin will be warmed up and ready for at-home physical therapy," Sutera says.

Here are a few techniques that Sutera suggests!

The Metatarsal Shuffle: "Press down between the long bones, or metatarsals, that separate your toes," Sutera says. "Go in between the spaces from top to bottom and then grab the long bones and gently pull them apart." This will help relax and even out the spaces so you can avoid pinched nerves.

The Tic-Tac-Toe Massage: Before you start this, warm lotion or massage oil between your hands. With your thumb, gently press and draw an imaginary tic-tac-toe board in the arch of your feet. Do this about three times per foot, moving in a slow motion.

The Knuckle Dig: Walking can also cause some fatigue on your calves, so make sure you're giving them some love, too. "When lotioning your calf, take your knuckles and dig into the muscle," Sutera says. "There's so much lactic acid buildup in there, which causes sore tension—if the massage is painful, that means you need to do it more."

30-Second Calf Stretch: This one's pretty simple! Lay your legs out in front of you and flex your feet to stretch out the back of your calf. Do it twice, for 15 seconds each rep. "You're stretching the achilles and your calf, which is attached to your heel bone that is attached to your fascia—everything is connected."

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The Icy Chill: Prop your feet up and put a bag of ice on them. Rest like this for about 15 minutes, which is a quarter of the show you're currently watching on Netflix. "Ice is a safe, natural, and effective anti-inflammatory that cuts down on the need for medications, injections, and physical therapy in the future," Sutera explains.

If you're having foot pain, or have more questions, talk to your doctor or podiatrist.

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