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5 Tips to Prevent Common Holiday Foot Problems

The holiday season is one of the most joyful times of year, but it can also lead to aching feet. One source of seasonal foot pain is gout, a type of arthritis exacerbated by consuming too much of certain holiday foods and beverages. As you celebrate, prevent gout flare-ups and other painful afflictions with these five tips for healthy holiday feet from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).

1. Don’t overindulge in holiday cheer. Your feet can sometimes feel the effects of too much holiday cheer. Foods and beverages high in purines, such as shellfish, red meat, red wine and beer, can trigger extremely painful gout attacks, a condition when uric acid builds up and crystallizes in and around your joints. According to foot and ankle surgeon and Associate Member of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, Josh Sebag, DPM, AACFAS, “Often, it’s the big toe that’s affected first since it’s the coolest part of the body and uric acid is sensitive to temperature changes, but this may also occur in other parts of the foot and ankle.” If you do experience pain in your big toe or other parts of your foot or ankle, drink appropriate fluids, elevate your foot and immobilize it. Frequently, non-aspirin equivalents of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are used to treat gout. In severe cases, contact your foot and ankle surgeon.

2. If the shoe fits, wear it. When hitting the dance floor or shopping malls, don’t compromise comfort and safety when picking shoes. Narrow or overly high-heeled shoes or shoes that aren’t worn often, such as dress shoes, can irritate feet, leading to blisters, calluses, swelling and even severe ankle injuries. “Choose low-heeled shoes that fit your foot in length, width and depth while you’re standing,” says Dr. Sebag.

3. Be pedicure-safety conscious. Heading out for your holiday pedicure? Nail salons can be a breeding ground for bacteria, including MRSA, a type of staph infection that causes fever and painful red bumps, and can be life-threatening if left untreated. Reduce your risk of infection. Choose a salon that follows proper sanitation practices and is licensed by the state. You may also want to consider bringing your own pedicure instruments for safety.

4. Watch for ice and snow. Though winter wonderlands are beautiful, they can also be dangerous. Use caution outdoors, watching for ice or snow patches. The ankle joint can be more vulnerable to serious injury from falling on ice. “Ice accelerates the fall and often causes more severe trauma because the foot can move in any direction after slipping,” Dr. Sebag explains. If you fall, take a break from activities until you can be seen by a foot and ankle surgeon. Use RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) to reduce pain and control swelling around the injury.

5. Listen to your feet. Don’t let foot pain ruin holiday fun; inspect your feet regularly for evidence of injury, ingrown toenails, bruising, swelling, blisters, dry skin or calluses. “If you experience foot pain (while at rest or with activity), swelling or notice signs of problems, make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon,” Dr. Sebag says. “Often, especially for people living with diabetes, and those with altered foot sensation, what may seem like a simple issue can turn into a larger problem if medical care is delayed.”

For more resources or to find a foot and ankle surgeon near you, use the FInd an ACFAS Physician search tool. Treat your feet right. Being proactive, protective and preventive can mean a healthier holiday season for your feet—and your whole body.