Taking care of your feet will help keep them healthy and pain-free. Are the muscles of your feet flexible and strong? Unfortunately, most people ignore these muscles and their feet in general, leading to a wide range of foot problems, including bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.
Practice good foot hygiene:
Perhaps the best thing you can do for your feet is wear supportive, comfortable shoes shoes most of the time and well-fitting athletic shoes for running, aerobics, and other high-impact activities. While occasionally wearing high heels or tight shoes for short periods won't cause lasting damage, the more you wear them, the greater your risk of not only foot problems but also knee, hip, and back pain.
Can you pick up a small towel using only your toes? It's a great exercise. See this Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
If you have flat feet, see exercises for flat feet at Somatic Reflections.
It's important for your feet to have the right amount of pronation and supination — the foot's natural rolling movement while walking or running. Too much pronation or supination causes a number of problems that affect your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back.
Pronation is the inward roll of the foot during normal foot movement. Too much pronation flattens the foot arch and overstretches the muscles, tendons, and ligaments on the bottom of the foot.
Supination is the outward roll of the foot during normal foot movement. Too much supination strains the muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle and can lead to ankle injury.
For a relaxing foot soak, add Epsom salts to a basin of warm water and soak your feet and ankles for at least ten minutes. You can also add a few drops of essential oils diluted in a few drops carrier oil. Some suggestions:
For a foot scrub to exfoliate and invigorate, blend a little olive oil, a tablespoon of sea salt, and a drop of your favorite essential oil. Scrub your lower leg and the bottom of your feet.
A benefit of foot massage is it can make your entire body feel better. This effect is due at least partly to the feet's many nerve endings that send relaxation signals to the rest of the body.
Note: Although reflexology is sometimes referred to as massaging the feet, real reflexology isn't massage but an energetic technique that uses pressure on specific points on the feet (and hands and ears) to affect the whole body. However, many massage therapists do combine reflexology and massage techniques.
People with diabetes are prone to foot problems because of decreased circulation to the feet. eMedicine offers tips for taking care of your feet if you have diabetes:
People with diabetes can receive gentle foot massage as long as there are no problems such as excess swelling or lack of feeling. If in doubt, ask your doctor.