As old man winter begins to stir for much of North America, people’s thoughts drift to figuring out how to stay warm and safe. However, the feet are often ignored in one’s preparation. Here are some tips on how to keep your feet protected and in good shape this winter.
Your feet and ankles are in constant danger of injury in the icy environment. Sprains and strains are common following slips in the ice and snow, and fractures can even occur with greater frequency. By ensuring you are wearing the correct shoes for the slippery terrain, exercise slow caution on surfaces which may be frozen or slippery, and avoiding distractions such as carrying loads on slippery surfaces or using electronic devices, you can lessen the chance of injury. It is also important that your foot and ankle are limber and flexible via stretching. This flexibility will allow for the ligaments of the foot and ankle to accommodate stretching and straining experienced in a slip and fall, and may lessen the likelihood of a serious sprain or fracture from occurring.
Caring For the Skin On Your Feet
People often ignore their foot’s skin as the feet stay enclosed in shoes all day, and hardly make a public appearance. Beyond cosmetic considerations, the skin of the feet can significantly dry and become cracked. This is due to the fact that your feet sweat less in the winter than in the summer, to preserve body heat. With less moisture and oil secretion, the skin can become drier, flakier, and eventually areas (especially on the heel) can crack. Some of these cracks can go deep, and can sometime bleed. They are nearly always painful. By moisturizing the feet daily during the winter (some people need to do this twice a day), this can be reduced, and even prevented. Some people also need the use of pumice stones or an emery board after bathing to remove the hard skin build-up that leads to cracking.
Proper Shoes For the Season
It goes without saying that proper shoes are needed during the winter. In additional to warm, enclosed shoes with an appropriate tread for the slippery surfaces, another consideration is the stability and durability of the shoes. Older shoes can be dangerous, even if of an appropriate style for the winter. People wear shoes for far too long, well past the point most shoes should be replaced. Shoes tend to have greater wear internally where it cannot be seen, leading to instability of the foot inside the shoe. This can lead to a greater chance of slipping and falling. External wear including cracks or thinning across the outer covering will not be effective at keeping snow and moisture out of the shoe. Likewise, excessive wear on the sole of the shoe can allow the same moisture in, and can also make the shoe treacherous to walk on in slippery conditions.
One last consideration for your feet in the winter involves your socks. Simply put, socks keep the feet from developing cold damage. A winter sock needs to be warm and dry. Heavier socks are needed during the winter months as opposed to the spring or fall. Synthetic materials are better than cotton for keeping moisture off the foot during the summer months when the foot sweats, but may not be thick enough for colder temperatures. A thicker synthetic like CoolMax, or even soft wool will provide greater warmth. You must change wet socks as soon as possible to avoid cold damage to your foot’s skin. Frostbite and other cold thermal injuries are common in the winter, and it does not take much for these conditions to develop without you being aware.
Follow these tips this winter, and you stand a greater chance of surviving the wintry months with healthy feet ready for the spring.