Walking is the ideal exercise for many people. It helps maintain weight, promotes cardiovascular health and reduces the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers and stroke.
"It's also easy to do and requires very little cost beyond a good pair of walking shoes," says Arnold Ravick, DPM, a podiatrist and a spokesman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. "However, people do get injured when doing a walking routine, so it's still important to take care of your feet and your general health."
Dr. Ravick offers these suggestions on taking care of yourself when you walk.
Wearing the appropriate type of shoe is the most important part of foot care for walkers and can make the difference between pleasure and pain when you head out for a stroll.
"The ideal walking shoe should be stable from side to side, well-cushioned and enable you to walk smoothly," says Dr. Ravick. "When buying new shoes, go to the shoe store late in the afternoon when your feet are slightly swollen, and wear the same socks to the store that you'll wear while walking."
Try on at least four pairs of shoes. Put on and lace both shoes of each pair and walk around for a minute or two.
When the shoes are on your feet, the heel should be snug and you should be able to wiggle your toes. There should be a half to a full thumb's width between the end of the longest toe on your longer foot and the end of the shoe.
If you have bunions, hammertoes or other foot problems, ask a podiatrist about the best shoe and walking routine for you.
If you're a walker, you can maintain foot comfort and prevent injury by doing the following:
Wash your feet every day. Pay particular attention to the area between your toes, and make sure you dry your feet thoroughly.
Inspect your feet daily. If you have calluses or red spots that indicate friction, apply petroleum jelly to the area and add a shake of talcum powder to your feet before putting your socks on.
Watch for fungal infections, such as athlete's foot. Symptoms include itching and redness between the toes.
Wear clean, thick, absorbent socks when you walk, and change them after you exercise.
Cut toenails regularly, straight across the toe.
Small blisters usually resolve themselves. Don't try to drain large blisters by yourself because of the risk of infection. Seek help from a physician or podiatrist.
© 2013 Main Line Health