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Are Your Feet Vacation Ready?

Although rest and relaxation are the goals for most vacations, they usually involve a lot of walking and a lot of walking usually involves sore feet.

"Walking is great exercise and one of the most reliable forms of transportation," says Marybeth Crane, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon with Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas, LLP in Grapevine, Texas. "But if your feet aren't in the best shape or you don't have the right shoes, too much walking can cause foot problems."

According to Dr. Crane, good foot care is essential if you plan to subject your feet to long periods of walking. Some simple foot care tips include:

1. Wear thick, absorbent socks (acrylic instead of cotton) and change them often!

2. Dry feet thoroughly after bathing, making sure to dry between toes. Use powder before putting on shoes and even anti-perspirant on your feet if you sweat profusely.

3. Nails should be cut regularly, straight across the toe. Check for ingrown toenails and avoid cutting them too short.

4. Moisturize your feet regularly and watch for athlete's foot fungus infections.

5. Massage any aching muscles after exercise and apply ice to any sore joints for at least 15 minutes.

6. Bunions, hammertoes or any other serious foot problems should be evaluated by a podiatric foot and ankle surgeon prior to your planned vacation. Custom in-shoe orthotics can help balance your feet so your walking vacation can be more enjoyable and pain free!

"The right shoe is also important to healthy walking," say Crane. "The ideal walking shoe should be stable from side to side, and well-cushioned, and it should enable you to walk smoothly. Many running shoes will fit the bill." She adds there are also shoes made specially for walking. Walking shoes tend to be slightly less cushioned, yet not as bulky, and lighter than running shoes. Whether a walking or running shoe, the shoes need to feel stable and comfortable.

Never wear new shoes for the first time on vacation. Always "break them in" for at least a week to make sure the fit is proper and there are no seams rubbing! Blisters can put a damper on a vacation!

Also, two pairs of shoes can be very helpful in making your vacation more comfortable. After a vigorous day walking, your shoes need almost 24 hours to dry out and become more functional.

Warming up exercises to help alleviate any muscle stiffness or pulled muscles is also advised before walking. Loosening up the heel cords (Achilles and calf) and thigh muscles before a walk is especially effective.

"If you're not accustomed to long walks, start slowly and rest if your feet start hurting," says Crane. "And above all, have fun."