This is the time of year when the most sins against feet are committed. Trudging around shops, laden down with bags of shopping can be hard on the lower extremities but usually the main cause for sore seasonal feet is wearing vertiginous shoes, especially if you're more used to trotting around in flats.
Ill-fitting shoes are frequently at fault but sometimes even trusted heels can turn rogue and mysteriously start to hurt. Cue, high-heel hangover the next day, which can be both painful and uncomfortable. Symptoms can include aches in the calf, localised pain in pressure points, swelling, and even cuts and bruises. Any severe pain should be treated by a professional but try the following to get back on your feet.
Both heat and ice are great if your feet are swollen. Apply an ice pack to any part of your foot that's inflamed - this will numb the pain and cause the blood vessels to constrict, which will reduce swelling. Podiatrists usually recommend soaking feet in a warm bath to help with pain relief and to promote the heeling process. A few drops of essential oils, such as peppermint (good for cooling), eucalyptus (an anti-inflammatory) and rosemary oil (excellent for circulation) will also help you on the road to recovery. An Epsom salt foot soak is also effective. Containing magnesium and sulfate, Epsom salts have anti-inflammatory properties and work to relieve pain and heal small wounds.
Your foot has more than 100 tendons, ligaments and muscles, and the potential damage a pointy stiletto can cause them is great. Simple exercises can help alleviate pain. Try sitting facing a wall with your legs straight and your feet flat against the wall, then bend forward as far as you can to stretch the calf muscles. Another is to draw a pretend alphabet with your big toe, which will get the blood flowing. For heel pain, sit on a chair and put a water bottle or a rolling pin on the ground. Slowly roll it from the ball of your foot to your heel for a minute or so, then switch to the other foot.
They're painful things but small blisters and blood blisters will usually heal by themselves and are best left alone, protected by a loose bandage. If the blister is on a place that you put pressure on, a blister cushion pad, available from pharmacies, will help to protect, heal it and keep the area clean. The temptation to burst a blister might be great but it's not advisable unless it's very large and uncomfortable - the fluid in the blister keeps the skin clean and prevents infection. But if you absolutely must, and after thoroughly washing your hands, use a sterilised needle to make a small hole and gently squeeze the fluid out. Do not remove the skin from a blister, and apply a dry, sterile dressing to protect it afterwards.
Quite often, toenails that are not correctly cut can cause discomfort when wearing high and pointy heels. Give yourself a home pedicure and cut your nails straight across to just above the skin; nails should not extend over the toe. Thick calluses, those patches of dry yellow skin on feet, can also cause pain. Get rid of these by soaking feet for 10 minutes and gently rubbing the affected area with a pumice stone. It's really important to keep feet moisturised, especially after bathing. Extra pressure on the feet can cause dry skin, leading to potential cracks and painful fissures. Special feet creams are recommended to prevent this happening. If you suspect that your foot woes need something more serious than a home pedi - calluses that won't go away, bunions or similar - seek professional help and visit your doctor.
There's not much comfort in this when you're feet are more like hooves after a big night out. But for the next time, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. You don't have to wear flats but do consider going down in inch in terms of shoe height - the higher the heel, the potentially greater the heel hangover. Insoles, which you can pick up in any pharmacy, give shock absorption and help distribute your weight across the ball your foot and not just your toes. And where possible, if you're going to be on your feet all night, avoid hard surfaces and try stand on a carpet or rug, which lessens the strain on legs and feet.
Health & Living
Christmas is upon us and, with it, the annual snowstorm of seasonal stress. It is an unfortunate fact that a time of the year that is, in theory, supposed to bring sweetness and joy can be an endless source of tension, frustration and unhappiness.