I’ve always recommended Nordic Walking to my patients. I like it as a way of keeping fit because not only does it exercise all the body, but most importantly, it is low-impact on the joints. As we age or have chronic injuries, high-impact sports such as jogging are no longer an option. For people who have kept fit all their lives, it is difficult for them to accept they can no longer participate in the sports they love. Nordic Walking gives them the choice to continue to exercise and keep fit.
Since moving to the New Forest this year, I have taken-up Nordic Walking myself, and as a Foot Health Practitioner, I am very aware of how important it is to look after our feet to get the most from this wonderful form of exercise. Now having experienced Nordic Walking for myself, here are my thoughts on how to keep your feet in tip-top condition.
Choose the right footwear for your feet. There’s no such thing as ‘one style fits all,’ so there’s no one make I would recommend. We all have different foot shapes, but there are a few guidelines to follow when choosing a pair.
- Generally, shoes are better than boots unless you plan on walking in deep mud, as they are much lighter.
- Make sure they are comfortable as soon as you try them on. You may have to go up a half size or even a whole size to allow for thick socks or orthotic insoles. Can you wriggle your toes?
- Make sure they are supportive, offer protection, are lightweight, have cushioning and have flexible soles with good grip.
- Are they breathable? Do you want them to be waterproof?
- Always check the inside of your footwear before walking for foreign objects, torn linings, etc.
Buy the right socks.
- Badly fitting socks often cause foot issues. For example, if they are too big, they can slip and cause blisters, if they are too small they can cause ingrowing toenails. Socks shrink in the tumble dryer!
- Some fabrics are not very good at wicking away sweat which can cause infections and blisters. Look for socks which contain natural materials such as cotton, silk and wool but especially bamboo, charcoal and/or silver.
- Change your socks after every walk.
Skin and Nailcare.
- Trim your nails regularly and, ideally, file them to avoid any sharp edges. Long nails will hit the top of the shoe, which can cause bruising, thickening, increase the risk of fungal nail infections or cause ingrowing nails. If this happens regularly, it can lead to permanent damage.
- Always check the skin on your feet regularly too. Athlete’s Foot is very common, especially between the toes, but also on the soles of the feet. Treat with an anti-fungal cream and make sure you wash and dry your feet and toes thoroughly.
- Filing and creaming is also important. Often the feet can have a build-up of callus and the heels can be dry or cracked. Also, by filing and creaming you reduce the risk of friction, which can lead to blisters. Callus can also be an indication of a biomechanical issue, such as bunions, so it is worth seeking professional advice.
- If you suspect you have corns or verrucae, then seek professional help.
Finally, it is always important to stretch before and after your walk. If you have an instructor, they will do this with you. If you feel any aching or tightness in your feet, a soft ball or roller can relieve the symptoms. My favourite treat is a foot soak in Epsom Salts or Dead Sea Salts at the end of the day. However, if you are experiencing long-term pain, do not ignore it. Find a local foot health professional who will help you to get you back on your feet.