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Noreen Noelle Oswell, DPM

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Up With Feet!
Do"s and don"ts for taking care of your tootsies.
-LifetimeTV

by Holly Pevzner

Blisters, bunions, calluses: ouch! Season after season, we cram our feet into to-die-for shoes — strappy sandals for summer, pointy, high-heeled boots for fall — that end up killing our feet. "People don"t realize that your feet aren"t supposed to hurt," says Noreen Oswell, D.P.M, a Los Angeles podiatrist. "That pain is preventable and treatable." Read on for professional foot care do"s and don"ts.

DO have your feet measured every year. Like the rest of your body, your feet change size and shape over the years. "Pregnancy especially affects your feet, generally resulting in a half-size increase," says Dr. Oswell.
But a bun in the oven isn"t the only factor that can shake up your shoe size; everyone"s feet change with age. Unfortunately, few of us heed our feet"s needs; 70% of us are wearing the wrong shoe size, according to Patti Glick, a registered nurse and foot-health educator in Cupertino, California. "Ill-fitting shoes cause myriad problems, including pinched nerves, ingrown nails and arch pain," she says. Yes, it may be painful to toss out those great slides you bought last year, but you can alleviate the heartache by hawking them on eBay or at a yard sale and making some money to invest in a new, proper-fitting pair of shoes.

DON"T skip the pedicures. Pedicures may seem like an indulgent luxury, but they actually make good health sense. Pedicures prevent the buildup of dead skin, which can lead to inflammation and painful cracks, and keep ingrown toenails at bay. "It"s difficult to cut your own toenails correctly," says Oswell. "But a professional will be able to give you that clean, straight cut you need." (Note: Trimming the corners of your toenails is a no-no that can lead to infection and ingrown nails.) Another foot-care tip: Slather your heels with a thick cream after you bathe. "It feels great and prevents cracking," Oswell says.

DO chill out. After a long day of exercising, shopping or exploring a new city, dunking your dogs in a warm foot bath may seem like a great way to ease your feet"s woes, but it"s really not. "The warm water actually brings the blood to your feet, creating increased swelling," says Oswell. Instead, try icing and elevating your feet to prevent puffiness and pain.

DON"T be a fashion victim. Forget diamonds; shoes are a girl"s best friend. Unfortunately, our closest pals can also be our worst enemies. To ensure that you and your footwear remain on good terms, follow Oswell"s four fashion do"s:

1. DO save mules for special occasions. Backless shoes cause toes to work overtime as they struggle to keep your soles from sliding off. The result: cramps and arch issues. Plus, exposed heels can become extra dry.

2. DO skip skinny straps. The thinner the strap, the more apt you are to get pressure-induced blisters. Opt for broad, wide straps that distribute the pressure more evenly across your foot. The ideal strap size: half an inch or larger.

3. DO keep heels low. If you can"t bear trading in your heels for flats (a great idea!), don"t go higher than two inches.

4. DO sock it to fungus. Wear socks or tights with sneakers, pumps or any closed shoes. If you don"t, air won"t circulate around your feet, and fungus will surely grow in the warm, dank environment. Itching and peeling are the two main symptoms of foot fungus.

DO massage your feet. Why should sore backs get all the love? Here are Oswell"s four quick tricks for treating your feet to a healing touch:

1. Roll them over a tennis ball. Roll, roll, roll your feet, gently on the ball. It will work the kinks out of the oft-strained ligaments under your foot, easing arch pain.

2. Rub from your toes to your ankles. Starting at your piggies, gently rub each toe, slowly moving toward the foot and ankle. This helps return any retained water that has pooled in your ankles and feet back toward your body, keeping your feet from becoming swollen and sore with excess fluid.

3. Grip a towel with your toes. Take a seat and place a hand towel, rolled lengthwise, under your toes. Grasp the towel with your toes and pick it up off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. This exercise not only strengthens your toes and arches, it also works your lower leg muscles. Keeping those muscles strong may help ward off tendonitis— the inflammation of a tendon caused by repetitive movement — in your arches, ankles and lower legs.

4. Bend and flex all 33 joints. Your feet have many joints, and each deserves a stretch. Sit down with your legs out in front of you and devote five minutes to giving each one its due by scrunching up your toes and pointing and flexing your feet.