Best Foot Forward: As footwear preferences change in pandemic era, take care of foot health

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June 06, 2021 2:45 AM

There’s been a noticeable shift from wearing shoes to opting for slippers/going barefoot in the post-pandemic era as people stay in, but one should take care of foot health even while at home, say experts

Avoid walking barefoot at home as it can cause strain in plantar fascia, a ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot, advise expertsAvoid walking barefoot at home as it can cause strain in plantar fascia, a ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot, advise experts

A home-based lifestyle is causing significant change in what we eat and wear. Health and immunity-building foods have gained prominence just like loungewear has become popular for working from home. The same can be said of shoes. Earlier, we had two sets of footwear—a pair to wear outdoors and slippers for home. These have now been replaced by fluffy sliders or rubber chappals. It makes sense to opt for comfortable footwear, as chores like cooking, cleaning, exercising, etc, all done at a stretch, mean added pressure on the feet.

But even as there’s a noticeable shift from shoes to slippers/going barefoot, one should take care of foot health. Experts advise a comfortable pair of footwear for home—slip-on shoes, slippers or sandals. Walking barefoot for long periods can cause many foot conditions, they say. “Avoid walking barefoot at home as it can cause strain in plantar fascia, an inflammation of the fibrous tissue along the bottom of the foot that connects the heel bone to the toes. It can also affect the tendons, arch, balls of metatarsals, leading to conditions like tendinitis, arch sprain to metatarsalgia. The best thing is to wear casual footwear and, at the same time, one should regularly exercise to keep feet healthy. When exercising at home, wear proper shoes. Without proper shoes, it can cause painful foot conditions. Those prone to painful foot conditions must take extra care to invest in well-padded and cushioned footwear,” says Govind Singh Bisht, principal consultant, podiatry, Max Panchsheel Park, Delhi, and Max Gurugram.

However, if one is practising yoga asanas, going barefoot is ideal. According to Mumbai-based Jahnavi Patwardhan, yoga instructor, Sarva, a yoga, meditation and mindfulness app, grounding comes through the feet in standing postures, necessitating the need to go barefoot when doing yoga. Weight distribution between the feet strengthens the feet tissues, as well as the ankle joints. Yoga is, hence, always better practised on a good mat barefoot. “It’s not just about its traditional roots, but also about a lot of physical benefits that come through yoga practice. Today’s lifestyle and fitness scenario involve impact training (running, skipping), so wearing shoes that fit your physical requirement is necessary due to tissue/joint weakness and even due to deteriorating bone health in young people,” says a flat-footed Patwardhan, who practises yoga barefoot. “Yoga has helped me understand the condition and reverse it as much as possible. Due to my flat feet, the shoes I wear for my cardio are pronated (with defined arch). Shoes are selected according to every person’s needs and physical requirements, so they can keep the feet happy and healthy,” she says.

In terms of movement and exercise, bone health, strength and muscle recovery are integral. “Preferred nutrients act like catalysts. Calcium and vitamin D act as the crux for building bone health and minimising bone injuries, protein is pivotal for muscle-building and repair, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B6 calm muscles and strengthen the immune system. Omega 3 is consequential to speeding up muscle recovery and protein development,” says Mumbai-based integrative nutritionist and health coach Neha Ranglani.

Small and everyday habits can bring a change. “Trimming toenails regularly, moisturising cracked heels, opting for a well-fitted shoe can protect heels and soles,” shares Manasi Shirolikar, head dermatologist at Remedico, a Bengaluru-based online dermatology consultation platform.

Shweta Nimkar, founder of Paio, a Mumbai-based PETA-approved cruelty-free, conscious and vegan footwear brand, feels excess pressure by going barefoot can cause issues like bunions and hammertoes. “While it is advisable to wear ‘home slippers’ or ‘loungers’ at home, opt for cushioned slippers with the right amount of padding and softness for heels… sliders provide arch support, a firm grip without compromising on comfort… a slingback slipper can keep your foot in place as you hustle to complete errands,” says Nimkar.

There are other brands as well that promote good health of feet, knees and back, with footwear apt for diabetes, hallux valgus, flat foot, etc. The products of Germany-based healthy footwear brand Von Wellx (now in India) are based on an internationally-patented technology that supports reflexology.

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