Way for Happy Feet
How do you protect your feet on energetic walking and hiking tours?
Heed the advice of prominent chiropodist, Kenny Weinberg, D.Ch.
By Toby Saltzman
It served me right. I knew better than to wear flats on walking
tours. Meanwhile, I did just that - four times in a row, with little
rest in between, mind you - on a chain of wonderful trips that took
me from Germany's hilltop villages of half-timbered houses to Italy's
verdant hills of Tuscany to England's cultural icons in London and
across the ocean on the Queen Elizabeth II to the galleries and
shops of New York. If I wanted to look smart all the while, I didn't
feel so smart when the arches of my feet dropped their dissent.
That was last summer. Now, much smarter with hindsight and boosted
by therapeutic (not to mention costly) orthotics, I've learned to
put my feet first, fashion second.
"People who don't protect their feet inevitably develop problems,"
said chiropodist Ken Weinberg while wrapping my feet in plaster-wet
fabric to create a second set of orthotic molds for my golf shoes.
"Don't take chances. It's important to wear good sensible running
shoes with adequate support and good soles that aren't too rigid.
You may be tempted by the convenience of velcro, but lace-up shoes
will hold your feet in a better position. When you need new shoes,
shop at the end of the day, when your feet are most swollen, for
the most correct fit. And shop at a store that specializes in proper
fitting, where people understand foot health, and (if you wear them)
the right shoes for your orthotics."
Since your feet form the entire foundation of your body Weinberg
suggests that even people with apparently healthy feet should see
a foot specialist once a year. "The foot is so complex, yet often
people's feet are asymptomatic of other problems: they may feel
no pain in their feet. Yet they may have a structural problem forming
that they are not aware of. Problems in the feet can throw the lower
back out of alignment, resulting in severe inflammation and pain
in the knees, hips and lower back."
It's important to travel sensibly, says the foot specialist. "Try
to schedule in five-minute rest stops every hour just to give your
feet a break. On long tours, try to elevate your feet during those
breaks to allow less chance of edema or swelling. And while walking,
try to keep the level of perspiration down in your shoes: a light
dusting of baking soda on your feet will reduce the hot, irritable
feeling of "feet on fire."
As for the type of socks, "There's a debate between what's better:
100% cotton or nylon-and-cotton. I wear cotton myself." Surprisingly,
color is important. White is best for diabetics and athletes. Weinberg
cautions people who are diabetic, with all the associated problems,
to wear white socks when walking long distances. "Diabetics can
easily develop neurophaty - a potentially dangerous loss of sensation
in feet - if they get a cut, blister or ulceration, they'll see
the blood and be aware of the problem. Athletes - particularly baseball
and football players and serious golfers - can develop "turf toe"
or bleeding under the toe nail resulting from constant trauma to
the nail from ill-fitting shoes."
My plaster molds were dry and hard by the time Weinberg finished
giving his advice. By this time, too, I'd learned that putting my
best foot forward had more to do with being sensible than being