The chilly weather is finally here, and that means some of us start to feel the cold, especially in our feet! We talk to QUT Health about how to keep our feet happy and healthy in the colder months!
The good, the bad and the Uggies
Ugg-style boots or other warm slippers are a great solution for around the house for both adults and kids. But even when it’s cold, our feet still perspire, so make sure they’re worn with socks to keep them clean inside and prevent bacteria from building up. No-one likes smelly slippers! Bamboo, cotton and other natural fibres are a great choice, as they’re absorbent and breathable. Some socks even come with antibacterial or antifungal treatments these days, which is a nice bonus but they can be expensive. Regular socks are fine for most people, as long as kids know not to “recycle” them – everyone should get a fresh pair every day (and of course more often if they’re participating in sports).
Boots made for walking?
The issue with Uggies is when they’re worn around town as a fashion statement, or even a big day of spring cleaning or renovating at home. Most people really need more arch support if they’re doing a lot of steps that day, so the flat footbed can lead to foot and leg pain over the next couple of days. Swap them for a pair of sneakers if you’re at home, or a nice pair of supportive boots can be a stylish and warm option for going out. If you have orthotics that you struggle to wear with Summer footwear, it’s also a perfect time to take advantage of the cold weather and wear them more often.
Boots generally provide excellent ankle support, as long as they’re not the elastic-sided kind. Laces, Velcro or zip-up boots are all great as long as they fit well, just watch the heel height. No greater than 2 ½ centimetres is best for adults, and around one centimetre for kids. Look for heels with a wider base and definitely avoid stilettos – they can get caught in grates or cracks and lead to a painful injury! Pointy-toed boots tend to put extra pressure on the small joints of your foot and can even compress the nerves, so they’re best avoided.
I still love my sandals!
In Queensland, it’s often warm enough in Winter to still wear sandals, at least in the daytime. That’s totally fine, but we need to be aware that the dry weather at this time of year, along with indoor heating and fireplaces, can tend to dry out our feet. It’s not just a cosmetic issue, as dry and cracked heels can lead to infection, but it’s easy to prevent. Slather on some moisturiser every night at bedtime – any basic body lotion will do, or sorbolene or vitamin E cream is a good choice – and pop on a pair of socks so that the cream really soaks in. If you do start to develop a lot of hard skin on your feet, your podiatrist can help – especially important if you have other health issues such as diabetes. If you have cracks in the skin, medicated creams can cause more of an issue, so seek some medical advice from your doctor or podiatrist.
When choosing sandals for yourself or kids, ideally look for a pair that has a bit of an arch contour on the footbed to give some support. Obviously, you want a good fit, and make sure the straps will hold the foot securely. Thin straps can dig in or leave you having to grip with your toes, which can lead to foot, shin or Achilles tendon pain from the muscles having to work too hard just to keep the sandals on your feet. Sandals with Velcro or clip-fastened nylon straps can be great for both adults and kids because of the wider strap around the ankle and heel, and are often washable too.
What about my hottie?
Hot water bottles are one of the lovely compensations for the cold. Most of them come with a cover these days, but if yours doesn’t have one, just make sure there’s something between it and your feet. A blanket, towel or socks on your feet can provide a barrier to make sure your feet don’t get burned overnight. Snuggle up and enjoy!
If you need advice on footwear for adults or kids, help with foot and leg pain, gait assessment or treatment for foot conditions, the QUT Podiatry Clinic provides high-quality and inexpensive podiatric patient care to the community. The clinic has a dedicated sports clinic, paediatric facilities, surgery services and a high-risk foot clinic. Give them a call on 07 3138 9777 or visit www.healthclinics.qut.edu.au
by Natalie Lisignoli, Clinic Coordinator, QUT Podiatry Clinic
This article was published in Issue 22 of our print magazine, June/July 2017.