It's that time of year: Feet of all shapes and sizes are getting their day in the sun. OK. Maybe some should stay in the shadows. But, each summer, the perfect pedicures as well as the less-than-charming hammer-toes will be out in public, so let's really look at feet.
1. According to a study conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association, nearly 75 percent of all Americans suffer from foot ailments, with heel pain ranking as the most common complaint. Blisters, ingrown toenails, corns and pinched nerves round out the top five.
2. Bourbonnais Podiatrist Dr. Daniel Benoit would also list postponed care as an overriding problem. with many ailments.
"Especially for anyone with diabetic issues," he said. "Because they have decreased sensation in their feet, they don't feel the irritations. They will wind up postponing care until it's more difficult to treat. But it could have been much easier to treat if we could have seen the problem earlier."
And the best thing you can do for your feet?
"Wear good, supportive shoes. And listen to your feet," he said.
3. Apparently the English and Germans are doing that. Those nations now feature "barefoot parks." They're theme parks filled with sensory experiences for your feet. Visitors use the experience to feel different soil textures. They wade through rivers, brooks, and ponds. They do foot gymnastics, with balancing and climbing exercises.
4. Massage therapist Tammy Ratliff is a fan of those European foot spas. She's become the foot specialist at Serenity Massage in Bradley.
"The majority of my clients ask for a focus on their feet," she said. "I see a lot of plantar fasciitis, it's an irritation under the skin on the bottom of your foot. I work on a lot of that."
And what can we do to kind to our feet?
"I suggest you start with a tennis ball and roll it around under your foot," she said. "Then move to a golf ball. It's going to improve your flexibility."
5. If you're willing to put your feet back into shoes, Dino Hellopoulos wants to talk to you about being kind to your feet. His family has been in the shoe repair business in the Kankakee area for 64 years, but he's focusing on fitting customers in new shoes at the Red Wing Shoes in Bourbonnais.
"We work with a lot of people who are going to spend eight hours a day, standing on concrete. All that's between them and that hard floor is a shoe," he said. "So we want them to have a good shoe and a customized arch support to reduce the pressure on certain points."
To that end, he puts customers on a high-tech pad that maps their pressure points. Then he goes through as many as six varieties of custom inserts until he finds the shape that feels best.
6. Other foot problems create a burning sensation, a general numbness or a pins-and-needles feeling. Dr. Wendy Menigoz, a Bourbonnais naprapath, treats that sort of neuropathy almost daily.
"In a way, everything is foot-related," she said. "For many of our patients, a device that sends tiny electronic signals to your nerves provides relief. It's a drug-free, in-home treatment that can eliminate pain and help some folks sleep through the night."
Her more basic advice doesn't require any technology.
"Take the time to take off your shoes and put your bare feet on the ground whenever you can," she said. "We all need to get connected to the earth again."