Gung ho about racing into a spring exercise program? "Don't rush!" cautions Regina foot specialist Dr. Riaz Bagha.
"Do it gradually," the veteran podiatrist recommends to prevent foot and ankle pain and injury.
"An average person puts 700 tons of weight on each foot each day," Bagha points out. "So take good care of your feet."
"If you are generally healthy and you develop sudden onset of foot and ankle pain, remember RICE ... Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation."
Proper footwear is important.
"When spring hits, people may want to jump into flip flops," he notes. "Short-term use of flip flops is fine, but for prolonged walks, use sandals with an arch to avoid heel pain and forefoot pain."
Here's what to look for when shopping for an orthopedic shoe, according to Bagha. It should have:
a firm counter at the very back of the shoe to stabilize the heel; a good forefoot rocker for easy toe-off; a padded collar and tongue; a slightly elevated heel from the front.
Your shoe should also be lightweight and laced with adequate width.
While there are definite benefits to a good orthopedic shoe, Bagha points out that a sports shoe is designed with all these components, but it costs considerably less, which "will save you a bundle."
When buying sports shoes, buy a shoe that is one size bigger than the end of your longest toe while weight-bearing.
"Make sure you shop at the end of the day when your feet swell," Bagha recommends.
"That will save you a lot of foot problems."
"Generally, for higher arches buy a neutral sports shoe, and for low arches buy a sports shoe known as an anti-pronatory shoe that has a firmer inner sole base."
Buy a sports shoe that breathes during hot weather.
Diabetics should pay special attention to their feet, stresses Bagha. "The best advice is: prevention and education. Know what can lead to foot problems, avoid it and see your doctor as soon as you notice a problem."
Foot problems can often be treated without medication, he explains. Newer technologies include deep-penetration laser therapy and shock wave therapy, which can be used to relieve heel pain, for example. The therapy usually takes one to three sessions of five to 10 minutes.
"It's painless treatment. The response is immediate. The healing is amazing," Bagha says. When it comes to foot problems, it's important to address the cause, instead of just the symptoms, he stresses. "Address the cause and the symptoms will disappear by themselves."
Heel pain is usually due to a ligament that runs across the arch and pulls on the heel bone where it's attached, Bagha explains. So supporting this ligament across the arch will often work wonders.
"Use a firm arch support, rather than simply cushioning the heel ... Use a firm arch support during the day in your sports shoe and in your house slippers when at home."
Also, soak your feet in an Epsom salt bath once or twice a day. And allow your feet to air dry.
Today's foot-clinic technologies can help people walk away from foot pain and injury. But for medical advice, consult your doctor first, Bagha advises.
"You need to take good care of your feet so that you can keep walking. You already know that walking is the best form of exercise. What you may not know is that in an average lifetime, you walk five to six times around the world. Now that is news to put a spring in your step!" [email protected] Twitter.com/ISeiberling