“Foot Care,” Ensign, Feb. 1996, 72–73
When missionary or other activities suddenly cause walking to become a primary means of transportation in many types of weather in an unfamiliar climate, a person may develop foot problems unless preventative measures are taken. Here are some common foot ailments that missionaries and others might experience, along with some tips to minimize these problems.
A very serious foot ailment experienced by soldiers in the cold, wet European winters during World War II was trench foot. This condition develops from prolonged exposure of the feet to dampness and cold, which in turn causes poor circulation in the lower limbs. Then the feet may become discolored and swollen and extremely tender and painful.
Preventative measures for trench foot are aimed at maintaining adequate blood circulation in the feet. It is useful to remove shoes and socks temporarily and massage the feet carefully. Avoid sleeping while wearing cold, damp footwear. Carrying along an extra pair of socks for changing is also helpful.
Secondary infections associated with common foot problems such as athlete’s foot, broken blisters, and cuts and scratches may develop serious complications. Carefully wash and dry the feet and treat minor problems promptly, before infection develops.
Warm weather and hot climates can also present potential foot problems. In many areas organisms such as worms and insects are found in the soil. While some of these may be merely a nuisance, others pose a risk for serious foot problems or other health disorders if they enter the body. It is easier to avoid these organisms than to get rid of them after infection occurs. In such areas the major precaution is to eliminate any possibility of direct skin contact with the ground. Don’t go barefoot outdoors in areas not known to be suitable for such activity, such as places where the ground may be contaminated by human waste. The same precautions also apply to wading in water of unknown characteristics, especially in warm climates.
Incorrectly trimmed toenails can cause problems. Toenails should be trimmed carefully; if not trimmed to the correct shape and length, they may cause irritation to adjacent skin areas. Trimming toenails too short is a common cause of foot problems.
Socks and stockings should be chosen carefully, keeping in mind the conditions that may be encountered. Well-fitting light wool socks are probably the best selection for most uses.
Sturdy, well-fitting shoes are of prime importance in preserving feet in healthy condition. Tight shoes may aggravate toe problems and should be avoided. Two pairs of shoes, worn alternately to help keep them dry enough to inhibit deleterious organisms, will do much toward preventing many foot problems.
New shoes should not be used for extended walking until they have been broken in. Excessively worn shoes, especially in the heel area, may cause foot problems due to misalignment of bones at the joints in the foot and ankle.
Good preventative foot care is an important part of being able to serve and function well—at all times and in all places.—Donald Starkey, Dundee, Florida