Happy Feet: Your Guide to Feeling Good All Day

Get foot-focused without giving up your heels.

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First Thing in the Morning

Do an A.M. rollout. Your feet get a much-needed recharge during sleep — that's when your body repairs damaged and tired tissue. But lying still for hours can also leave your tootsies feeling stiff. Roll each foot on a golf or tennis ball for a few minutes to get blood and fluid moving, suggests Emily Splichal, a New York-based podiatrist and human movement specialist. The nerves there are connected to your core; loosening them up can help your whole body become more flexible and resilient, and may even combat chronic aches in your knees, hips, and back, says Splichal.

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Remove rough spots. Calluses are easier to prevent than treat, so a few times a week, at the end of your shower, get rid of dead skin after water has softened it. An exfoliating scrub might do the trick; for stubborn rough patches, buff with a pumice stone. Just be sure to store the pumice somewhere dry to prevent nasty fungus growth. Then rub on moisturizer — a regular body lotion is fine, but one with lactic acid or urea may do a better job.

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Feed and fortify your bones. There are 26 of them in each foot (together, that's about a quarter of all the bones in your body), and they need calcium to help protect against far-too-common fractures. To shore them up, start your morning with a cup of regular yogurt (which usually has more calcium than the Greek kind). Don't do dairy? Try fortified almond milk. Either of these delivers about one-third to one-half the calcium you need in a day.

When You're On the Go

Slip on the right shoes. Here's why: By the time you turn 50, you will have walked roughly 75,000 miles — that's about three times around the globe! You don't want to be doing that in the wrong footwear. (Hint: Anything that pinches your toes or constantly rubs your feet is not made for schlepping.) During your commute — or anytime you're running errands or grabbing lunch — the operative words are comfy, low, and supportive. Sorry, there goes the flip-flop option. Smart shoes will soften the blow of all those steps — and they'll even let you get away with wearing a fun pair of heels when you're at a party or giving a presentation.

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During Your Day

Watch the height. No big surprise that high heels are the number one cause of foot pain in women; a pair that's three inches high can increase pressure on the ball of your foot by more than 75 percent — ouch. But heels are pretty! Happily, many podiatrists agree to this cheat: Avoid wearing them when you're standing for long stretches, and swap them out for low wedges or supportive flats a couple of days a week.

Take a stand. Sure, walking can be hard on your feet, but so can sitting. "As the body part farthest from your heart, your feet are the first to feel sluggish when blood accumulates there," says Hillary Brenner, a New York podiatrist and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. Avoid swollen ankles (and maybe varicose veins) by going for at least a two-minute walk every hour. Stuck in a meeting? Scrunch and release your calf muscles to get your blood pumping again.

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Skip the salty snacks. Your feet naturally swell during the day (gravity gets us all), and sodium makes it worse. Munch on berries or unsalted nuts, which have inflammation-fighting antioxidants.

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At the Gym

Exercise in good kicks. Your feet could be subjected to nearly 1 million pounds of pressure during an hour of hard work, so wear sneakers designed for what you're doing! (For instance, running sneaks cushion where you land; tennis shoes support side-to-side movement.) Other than that, don't stress over "neutral" versus "stability" models. One study found that the best sneakers to prevent injury may just be the comfiest ones.

In for the Night

Massage away the ache. The too-tight shoes 88 percent of us wear combined with daily swelling? That's a recipe for pain. Ease the throb with a massage — it gets those fluids moving and helps relax tuckered-out muscles. 

Loi's fix: Put body lotion in your hands and, starting at your toes and making your way down to your heel, move your thumb in a circular motion. Reflexology practitioners believe that certain spots on your feet correspond to organs and body regions; pressure on those points boosts well-being. It's not scientifically proven, but we promise it feels reeeally good.

Pull on some socks. Slipping them on before bed might help you fall asleep with less tossing and turning, some studies show. Warming up your feet dilates the blood vessels there — a cue to your brain that it's time to rest. Bonus points for a cute pair.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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