By Jessica Girdwain, REDBOOK
News for your troubled soles: Problems that originate in your feet and ankles can creep all the way up into your knees, hips, and spine, too. "Feet are like the roots of a tree. If they don't feel good, the rest of your body won't function properly either," says Kristine Petrucione, a fitness instructor and owner of the Art of Fitness studio in Queens, NY. Use these four tips to fix your feet and feel better all over.
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1. Stretch Out the Ligaments
Petrucione has her clients do this simple exercise to strengthen the muscles in their feet and stretch their ligaments, which helps align the body and prevent back pain. While sitting barefoot, simply spread your toes apart as wide as you can, then scrunch them back in. Repeat 10 times. Next, make circles with your ankles-10 in one direction, then 10 in the other. If your feet feel especially achy, try this: Use your hands to twist the arches of your foot in a wringing-out motion, moving from heel to toe.
2. Freshen Up
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When's the last time you really scrubbed your feet? "Most people are so rushed in the shower that they ignore their feet altogether," says Chicago-based podiatrist Debra Young. But skipping the loofah "allows dead skin cells to build up, producing the ideal breeding ground for icky nail-fungus infections and warts," says Young. She recommends swiping a nailbrush across a bar of soap and running it back and forth along your toenails as part of your daily shower routine.
3. Wear Proper Shoes
"As we age, the soft tissues that support our arches lose their resiliency," says podiatrist Melissa Skratsky, a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association-and teetering around in high heels or pounding the pavement in thin-soled flats adds to the ouch. But wearing low wedge heels (so cute!) can help. They distribute your weight better and reduce painful pressure on the balls of your feet and your heels.
4. Soak in Epsom Salts
Rx for a full day spent on your feet: Fill a basin with warm water, add a whole pound of Epsom salts (which contain muscle-soothing magnesium), and soak your feet for 20 to 30 minutes, suggests Lee Albert, a neuromuscular therapist at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA. "Epsom salt also works as an anti-inflammatory, so it's a great, natural way to reduce swelling," says Albert. It's cheap, too-you can buy a four-pound carton at the drugstore for $5. For extra relief, after toweling off, apply an arnica cream such as Arniflora Arnica Gel, which you can find at drugstores; the magic ingredient is a botanical that can help reduce pain and swelling.
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