Spring means the return of cute sandals. Too bad some of them are so flimsy! “Podiatry waiting rooms are flooded with people struggling with pain,” reports New York foot doc Sophia Solomon, DPM. Here’s how to sidestep sore soles...
1. Gain support by fortifying footwear.
Wearing flip-flops and ballet flats, which offer little support or cushioning, increases your risk of plantar fasciitis (PF) — heel pain caused by the inflammation of the ligament along the sole of your foot — by as much as 85 percent, say Boston University researchers. A smart fix: “Add support with adhesive gel arches or heel pads,” suggests Dr. Solomon. “And give your feet stress breaks by switching to sneakers or cushiony sandals whenever you’ll be walking for long periods of time.”
2. Flush pain with a cold rub.
Simultaneously cooling and massaging the soles of your feet calms pain nerves and flushes out trapped fluids and inflammation, easing heel and arch pain in as little as eight minutes, plus helps prevent it if you treat your feet twice daily, Canadian researchers say. Fill two water bottles with icy water, sit in a chair and roll your feet over the bottles.
3. Reduce swelling with tuna salad.
The omega-3 fats in fish are powerful natural anti-inflammatories and painkillers. No wonder two studies suggest that the more fish or seafood you eat, the lower your risk of painful heels and arches. Already achy? Enjoying 16 oz. of fish or seafood (or four meals) weekly can cut your foot swelling, inflammation, and tenderness by 45 percent.
4. Cut flare-ups by stretching on stairs.
Regular foot stretches cut your risk of PF flares by 60 percent, says William Levine, DPM, a podiatrist in Long Island, New York. To do: Stand on your stairs with your heels hanging over the edge (hold the handrail for safety). Lower your heels as far as comfortable and hold for 30 seconds, then rise onto your toes for five seconds. Repeat three to four times daily.
5. Frolic barefoot in the park.
University of Connecticut researchers say kicking off your shoes and walking barefoot on grass for 10 minutes a day prevents pain for 72 percent of women by stimulating acupressure points that relax tight tendons.
6. Put your shoes to the "bendy" test.
Can you fold your shoes in half? “A good pair will bend only at the ball of your foot,” says podiatrist Velimir Petkov. “If they bend easily in the middle, use them only at the pool or the beach.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.