Have you ever felt embarrassed about how your feet look? Or maybe they cause you pain on a regular basis?
Taking proper care of our feet is something that few of us are taught how to do. Most of the time, feet are lucky to get a quick swipe of moisturizer, while they are quick to get berated for looking dry, being smelly or exhibiting unsightly nail fungus.
Feet are like the pack mule of the body — they do all the heavy labor yet they usually go unnoticed and are taken for granted as utilitarian. They only become the center of attention when they cease to function as they should.
But what if we were to lend some thought to those hardworking feet before things go awry, so that they stay attractive, strong and flexible well into our later years. Here are some considerations for keeping feet healthy, including shoe choices, strength and flexibility, and skin and nail conditioning.
We expect our feet to (literally) carry us through life, yet we subject them to some extreme forms of torture. How good does it feel at the end of the day to take off whatever shoes you’ve been wearing? To walk your natural gait and be able to wiggle your toes freely? This is the clearest explanation of why shoes may be the worst enemy to the health of your feet.
During our waking hours, we are wearing shoes more often than not. Thus it makes sense that our feet adapt to their environment. Is it any surprise that we get disorders like bunions and corns when the natural shape of the foot gets pinched into a point or bears excessive weight in the toes of high heels? Those stilettos might look great for the time being, but if your feet look like the horny paw of a komodo dragon when those shoes come off, who’s sexy now?
We recommend, in the interest of long-term foot health, opting for more practical (but still cute!) shapes when you will be wearing your shoes for any extended period of time. After all, don’t we enjoy taking a “holiday” when we get to “kick off our shoes” and just wear flip flops, or walk barefoot in the sand?
Along that same vein, some holistic health experts recommend that we eschew shoes altogether. This is not only because of the altered physical shape, posture and movement caused by our shoes. Wearing shoes can result in mechanical weaknesses and misalignments that cancause problems all the way up the “chain” of the body, through the legs, hips and spine.
Their recommendations are also based on having contact with our environment through the feet, which are actually very capable and finely tuned to feed us information about our surroundings. In the modern world, we are very focused on the tasks we complete with our hands. Imagine how frustrating and alienating it would feel to wear gloves all day. We would feel that we were not able to understand or interact with the environment to a satisfactory level. But a human being living in nature would also value the information coming from his or her feet. Imagine if we are cutting off a vital section of brain functionality by depriving our feet of environmental sensory input?
If you’re intrigued by this idea, try walking barefoot in a safe environment for some period of time each day. Challenge your feet by walking on different surfaces, such as dry grass or gravel. Also try strengthening the feet and improving flexibility by doing yoga and foot-specific exercises. If you work at a desk, take your shoes off and roll your feet on a massage ball when you’re sitting down. If you stand up all day, try getting a textured mat that encourages you to change foot and ankle positions more often. The key is to stray from that restrictive shoe environment as often as possible.
Got ugly feet? Natural remedies for skin and nails
Now that we have strong and functional feet, let’s talk about making them look (and smell) nicer. Although most observations of foot ugliness will invite treatment with an ointment, cream or device of some sort, it’s important to consider that food and nutrition may have a key role to play. As with the rest of the body, beauty comes from the inside out. If you have a beautiful healthy gut, you will similarly have beautiful healthy skin, teeth, eyes, hair and feet.
So what are some nutritional remedies for prettier feet? We suggest the following, but keep in mind that you should consult a trusted health-care professional before using any unfamiliar foods or supplements.
Zinc—dry, peeling feet may be the result of a nutritional deficiency. A zinc supplement, or increasing the consumption of zinc-rich foods like oysters and grass-fed lamb, may help rectify this. Magnesium and iodine are other minerals which could be lacking. Consider trying a kelp supplement and a topical liquid magnesium.
Omega-3 fats—taking a fish oil supplement or eating wild-caught oily fish a few times a week could help keep skin soft and flexible.
B vitamins—particularly vitamin B12 should be considered, since B12 or iron deficiency can be a cause of rough skin. These two deficiencies are often linked and may be rectified by improving gut bacteria through the consumption of probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Proteins—not just from muscle meats, but from organ meats and homemade broth too. Collagen and gelatin are vital for shiny, healthy nails and flexible joints. You must consume the “rough bits” to obtain these proteins, which are lacking in muscle meats. Vitamin C works in conjunction with collagen, so be sure to eat those oranges and lemons.
Other tips for healthier feet
Prevent bunions by avoiding pointy shoes and using toe stretching separators for a few minutes each evening. You will be surprised how quickly that bunion pain gets reversed.
Protect feet from infections and viruses in public places such as pools and changing rooms by always wearing a pair of flip flops.
Don’t cover up unattractive toenails with polish — that cracking or discoloration is likely a sign of an underlying infection. Try addressing the problem with antifungal essential oils instead. Some options include tea tree, clove or oregano oil.