Looking after your feet during the festive season

Mr Anthony Perera, orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon, The London Foot and Ankle Clinic, Bupa Cromwell Hospital

Christmas parties and long shopping sessions can wreak havoc on ladies’ feet, says Anthony Perera, a specialist orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon at the London Foot and Ankle Clinic, Bupa Cromwell Hospital. Here he gives his top tips on looking after your feet during the festive season.

“The majority of women don’t wear the correct size of shoe, and tight, pointed-toe shoes can cause more problems than a high heel itself. Try standing on a piece of paper and drawing around the outside of your foot. If your shoe fits inside this outline then you need to be fitted again.

Also, high heels alone don’t cause bunions and other foot problems, but they can exacerbate these conditions. The foot tends to slide down the slope of the shoe and get wedged in the toe-box. The current trend for a platform under the forefoot gives the shoe height whilst reducing the slope, which can make life much more comfortable for your feet.

  • Try to limit wearing your skyscraper stilettos to no more than a few hours at a time and take a pair of flat shoes in your bag. Pain over the top of the toe joints after wearing heels may be a sign of wear and tear like hallux rigidus in the big toe or synovitis or Freiburg's in the second toe. In the early stages, these conditions can respond well to a simple injection, though occasionally surgery may be required. Hammer toes may benefit from a simple taping that you can be shown to apply yourself.

  • Try to vary heel height each day during the festive season so that you’re not straining any one part of your foot. Variety is important – wearing flat shoes for long periods of time can also cause problems by straining the Achilles tendon. Sheepskin-style flat boots may seem comfortable and cosy during cold weather, but if they are poor quality imitations or over-worn, they can cause serious damage to your feet. If your feet are slipping over the side of the boot, bin them – and put a good quality pair of genuine boots on your Xmas list.

  • Wearing high heels may be inevitable for many women over the party season, but you can reduce your risk of spending Xmas Day laid up with a broken ankle by choosing a sturdier high heel for stability, rather than a very thin one. Wedges are a better idea in the ice than stilettos.

  • Remember to wear-in your new party shoes before the big night out – if they hurt in the house they are going to be agony once you are out. Break them in around the house with a pair of thick socks on.

  • Silicone gel pads sold to soothe tired ‘party feet’ won’t get to the heart of the problem. If you’re experiencing burning, unbearable pain in the balls of your feet on high heels, it is likely you have a condition called Morton’s Neuroma – an enlargement of the nerve between the toes. This is exacerbated by high or narrow-toed shoes.

  • For long shopping sessions, stick to shoes that have about a 4cm heel, that are wider at the toe and have something supportive such as a strap or laces over the instep to stop the foot slipping towards the narrower front of the shoe. Your feet will thank you.

  • If you’re on a fitness regime in the run-up to Xmas, make sure you’re wearing the right type of footwear. You may need motion control trainers if you have flat feet and tend to ‘over-pronate’ when running. If you have high arched feet, cushioned trainers are best. Make sure they are changed regularly as the support wears out after 350-500 miles depending on your running style. That’s every 4-6 months for running addicts.

  • Look after the skin on your feet as dry, cracked skin is more prone to infection. Feet are prone to dryness and poor circulation, so moisturise regularly. If your shoes are rubbing try putting the plaster (or better still silicone pad) on your shoe rather than your foot. Be sure to get the pad in the right place (use lipstick on the sore spot of your foot to mark the correct point on the shoe) and don’t use fabric plasters which slip and leave glue that sticks to your feet."

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Looking after your feet during the festive season