Drink plenty of water before, during and after walking, especially when it’s hot or humid. If you’re going to walk in the heat for an hour, drink water at least 15 minutes before you go out and every 15 minutes during your walk. (If you walk longer than an hour, drink a carbohydrate and salt replacement drink, like Gatorade.) Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink. On long walks, carry water. Belted water bottle holders are great because it’s better to have your arms balanced and swinging freely.
Don’t forget the sunscreen this summer. And don’t worry that it will clog your pores and prevent you from cooling off. Research has shown sunscreen may actually keep your cooler.
Treat ingrown toenails
Ingrown toenails rank 19th on a list of America’s most common health complaints, beating out corns, bunions and other foot and toe problems in the pain category. They occur when the toenail’s edge grows into the soft tissue, usually on the big toe. Some people inherit a predisposition to this problem. Some encourage the problem by not cutting their nails straight across. And some create the problem by stubbing or otherwise injuring their toe. The symptoms are: pain, swelling, and redness (inflammation). Try an over the counter product, like Dr. Scholl’s Ingrown Toenail Reliever, to soften the nail and the skin around it, which relieves the pain. (Don’t use this stuff if you have diabetes or impaired circulation.) Soak your foot in warm water to soften the nail, dry carefully, then gently insert a wisp of sterile cotton beneath the burrowing edge of the nail. The cotton will lift the nail slightly so it can grow past the tissue it’s gouging. Apply an antiseptic as a safeguard against infection. Change the cotton daily until your toe’s healed. Call your doctor if: these strategies fail; the ingrown toenail severely impedes your walking; your toe turns black; the toe is very red and swollen or shows signs of abscess; there is blood showing on the inside of the nail; the pain has been present for two or more weeks. In these cases the only way out may be surgery. But don’t worry; a podiatric specialist can fix you up in the office under local anesthetic. He’ll cut away part or all of the nail (or use a laser) to relieve the pain.
Get shoes that fit
The number-one cause of foot pain is too-small shoes. According to research from the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (AOFAS), most women haven’t had their feet measured in at least five years. Which means they don’t have a clue about their true shoe size. Your feet widen and lengthen as you age and also as you gain weight, according to Carol Frey, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Southern California Medical School. To get the right measurement, step up to these other tips:
- Shop at the end of the day when your feet are largest.
- Stand when your feet are being measured and have them both measured.
- Fit the shoes to the largest foot.
- Make sure there’s at least a half inch between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Never wear a heel higher than 2 1/4 inches.
Walking or other athletic shoes sometimes fool you because their cushioning allows them to feel comfortable at first, even when they’re really too small. To make sure you don’t get temporarily fooled, try this trick: Create templates of both your bare feet by standing on a piece of cardboard and having someone trace your feet. Cut them out and take them to the shoe store. Before you try on any shoes, hold your templates over the soles. They should match up with the soles or be slightly smaller. “In fashion shoes, you could fudge it a half centimeter,” says Dr. Frey, “but that’s just in a pinch.” No more, or it will be a real pinch! If the shoe fits, you may not even have to try our tired-feet tonics.
Replace worn shoes
Walking shoes are a lot like automobile tires: You get better mileage if they’re in tip-top shape. Balding walking shoes don’t absorb shock or give good traction, which means higher risk of injury.
No one can tell you how often to buy a new pair. That depends on how often, how far and on what surfaces you walk, and how many pairs of shoes you own. But podiatrists agree that most people wear their walking shoes longer than they should. The leather uppers may still be beautiful when you retire your favorite pair. It’s the sole of the matter that counts. If the treads on the bottom of your shoes are disappearing, if any portion of the sole is worn down, or if the lining is torn, worn or becoming frayed, plan a shopping expedition. The shock-absorbing materials in your shoes are losing their resiliency if your soles are wearing thin. And the ability of your shoe to fit well to the contours of your foot diminishes as the materials wear out.
Stretch your feet
Hours spent pounding the floors of the Metropolitan Museum or the rocky terrain of a hiking trail may leave your spirits soaring — but your feet sulking. These tried-and-true tonics can ease you through a temporary bout with ordinary, achy feet:
- Roll your foot back and forth over a wooden roller or an old wine or Coke bottle. A tennis ball works really well, too. This works great at relieving cramping and arch strain.
- Raise a board or platform to an incline of 15 to 25 degrees (a book — about an inch and a half thick — and a wooden board do the trick). Stand facing “uphill” with your heels touching the board. This stretches the calf muscles. Stand facing “downhill” to stretch the shins. Then stand with each side facing downhill to stretch more muscles in the lower leg. Whenever you do these, stretch only until you feel tightness; don’t go to the point of pain. Having lower leg muscles that aren’t too tight is very important to foot comfort.
- Go for a swim. Both the cool water, the antigravity effect and the paddling action of the foot will release tension and soothe your feet. If you can’t swim, hanging on to the side and kicking is just as good.
- Soak your feet in Epsom salts and warm water (1 tablespoon per quart). This balanced salt solution can help drain swollen tissues and relieve pressure on your feet.
- Hop on your exercise bike. Set it on the lowest resistance so you can pedal freely and wheel away for 5 or 10 minutes. This light workout helps reduce swelling and aids circulation.
- Soak your feet in a mini-whirlpool bath, the kind made just for feet (available in department stores). Relaxing to your feet and your head!
- Get a foot massage from someone who cares.
- Rub on any type of foot lotion (some herbal ones nowadays smell great!). The rubbing can increase your circulation and the whole comforting, relaxing experience can be good for you, good for your feet.
- Try a pair of “nubby” sandals that massage your feet as you walk.
Wear comfortable clothes
Being fit does not necessarily mean being thin. But your average sporting goods store may have you feeling that way, especially if you wear a size 14 or larger. Junonia.com offers clothing you’ll love for walking. Sports bras, skinny shorts, flowing tops, flashy jackets — in sizes that allow you to move and feel comfortable and beautiful. (The name Junonia is derived from Juno, the Roman goddess responsible for the well-being of women, who is depicted in art in majestic proportions. ) For a free catalog, call 1-(800) JUNONIA (586-6642); it’s time to stop worrying about thinness and start enjoying your fitness!