IT'S NOT EASY BEING FEET. We may pamper them with pedicures, but then we parade them about for hours in cramped, uncomfortable shoes. Is it any wonder that feet are more liable to injury than any other body part?
Seventy-five percent of Americans experience foot problems at some time, frequently caused by a lifetime of abuse and neglect. You can blame the strain on the stress of walking--an average day brings a force equal to several hundred tons to bear on the feet--but weakness, imbalances, and ill-fitting shoes also play a role. Discomfort can then travel up your legs and ultimately lead to impeded posture and movement, along with pain in the shins, knees, hips, and back.
The solution? Strengthening and stretching your feet and selecting the best shoe support for your foot type. Stephen M. Pribut, D.P.M., a podiatrist in Washington, D.C., and president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine in Rockville, Md., prescribes the following three exercises and offers tips on choosing optimal fitness footwear. Practice the moves at least three times a week--up to three times a day--and your feet will be primed to perform and less prone to problems.