Foot Care Is Crucial For Healthy Aging, Says An MD: How To Show Your Soles Some Love
You might not think too much about foot care, save for the occasional pedicure or Epsom salt soak (those prone to ingrown toenails know this pain). But according to functional medicine physician Frank Lipman, M.D., author of The New Rules of Aging Well, tending to your feet is crucial for healthy aging: "Your feet are one of those areas you ignore, but once you get older, you start realizing how core all these areas are," he shares on the mindbodygreen podcast.
Here's why aging well starts at the soles.
Why foot care comes in handy.
"As you get older, when things aren't functioning properly, your body compensates," says Lipman. Specifically, when certain foot muscles experience some wear and tear, you might feel the aftershock crawling up your calves or hips. In fact, one 2017 study found a significant association between foot pain and knee or hip pain. "The foot is the first part of the body that makes contact with the ground," podiatrist Rock G. Positano, DPM, MPH, one of the lead researchers of the study, said in a news release. "Its primary function is a shock absorber. If the shock-absorbing capability of the foot is somehow altered or minimized, it's going to affect other body parts."
It's a similar scenario to reversing bad posture: If you find yourself slouching all day long, many experts would advise you to fire up your glutes with a couple of strengthening exercises. Your feet can affect your posture as well, turns out, with research showing that hyperpronation (aka, when your arches collapse and your ankles roll in) can affect spine alignment.
The bottom line? Your feet play a bigger role than you might have realized. It's time to give them the love they deserve.
How to show your feet some love.
Of course, there's always the indulgence of a lovely foot massage, but, alas, you might not be able to regularly see a professional or hop to the salon for a pedicure. Here, Lipman suggests a couple of ways to tend to your feet at home:
- Walk barefoot: So, you don't want to hobble around unshod for the entire day (here's why), but taking a few moments to connect with natural surfaces can benefit those soles. "Walking barefoot on the beach or on the grass is important," says Lipman. Of course, figure out which foot type you have—rigid or flexible—as this can help you determine which surface is best for your own feet (be it softer surfaces, like grass, or harder surfaces, like wood).
- Roll out the fascia: "Rolling it out affects your whole body," says Lipman, so make sure to stretch out those arches from time to time. Whether you hit pressure points with your own thumbs, grab a foam roller, or use a hard rubber ball (or tennis ball) under the soles, it's a delicious feeling. One study even found that self-myofascial-release (participants used the tennis ball method) improved hamstring and lumbar spine flexibility.
Your feet are your body's foundation, so to speak—it only makes sense that your soles can shed light on any harbored tension in your body. Even if you don't face any foot or joint pain of late, caring for your feet now might help your muscles down the line. It's an excuse for indulging in that foot massage, if anything.
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