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NHS HIGHLAND: Taking care of our feet is important for keeping us well

By Andrew Dixon

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Choosing the right shoes can be important.
Choosing the right shoes can be important.

At this time of year my mind often turns to shoes. I don’t have a fixation on Cinderella pantomimes or a desire to have a collection of bespoke trainers.

Instead, my focus on shoes in January arises from two different reasons and both have some relation to me having small feet. I sometimes have difficulty in finding shoes that fit me and some shoes are not available in my size. Yet at sale time it is the less popular sizes of clothes and shoes that seem more likely to be reduced in price. So, I can often find shoes in the sales.

Another consequence of the size of my feet is that I seem less stable than many people and more likely to fall over. Perhaps my overall balance could be improved too but I do need to make sure that I take extra care during the winter walking on icy pavements. I slipped a couple of times on my way to work today.

Feet don’t often feature in discussion of how to improve our health, but feet and their care are important for keeping us well. For many people, care of feet is a vital part of healthy living. For example, for people with diabetes, changes to nerves and blood supply can mean that small injuries can develop into serious problems. Everyone is at risk of falling, especially in bad weather, when it is snowy and icy or when there are obstructions. As we get older, that risk of falling tends to increase and at the same time the consequences of a fall become more serious. Our bones and muscles are less strong than they used to be, and we are more likely to break bones. Despite the excellent treatment available, a fall and a hip fracture could end up damaging someone’s health so much that they become unable to live independently.

So, we should pay attention to the risk of falling. It is important to have well fitting and comfortable shoes and slippers. The best shoes for avoiding falls are those that are high sided, with low heels, thin soles and good grip. Balance training can be helpful and it important to keep physically active. However, at this time of year it is also vital to take care on potentially slippery surfaces and watch out for black ice. There are many other things that we can do to help prevent ourselves and others falling too. These include checking our sight and hearing and ensuring that we are taking the right medicines for any health conditions we have.

I will try to improve my own health tomorrow by going for a run. But in view of the weather conditions, I will be staying indoors. I have running shoes, which fit well and which I didn’t buy in a sale, but they are women’s shoes rather than men’s since my feet were too small for the men’s shoes in the shop!

  • Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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