Military Foot Care from Heels to Toes
You don’t need to be an expert strategist to know that mobility is key to any operation. Any impediment to getting where you need to go can have an impact on your success—and that goes for your organic equipment as much as your inorganic!
While tanks and vehicles tend to operate on a tight schedule of inspections and maintenance, military foot care is largely up to the individual soldier. Taking the right steps to take care of your feet and ankles, however, is very much rewarding when you’re not suffering from problems on long marches and other treks.
While there is often an underlying implication that the best way to prepare your feet for military action is by making them suffer and “toughen up,” this is not truly the best way to go about it.
There is a common belief that complaining about your medical problems will leave you vulnerable when promotions are considered. That is no reason to try ignoring the matter, though. Just complain to us instead. We can not only provide help for any current problems, but help you avoid others in the future.
Maintenance is a big key to lasting comfort and performance. Following are some of our tips for keeping your feet ready with proper care.
Have Full and Personalized Support
The boots or other footwear you have is likely going to be something you will spend a lot of time in, and should provide the right accommodations and support for your feet.
Many people have abnormalities in their foot structure such as flat feet or high arches that can be a cause of heel pain. While flat feet that causes chronic foot pain is often a means of disqualification from service, that does not mean you can’t still serve with a condition that might cause occasional heel pain—but it’s still no fun when you get it!
Your boots should provide proper support for your feet. If you wear custom-orthotics inserts, you must make sure they accommodate the use of them as well. Those inserts are key to reducing the excess stresses against parts of your feet that can cause energy- and motivation-sapping pain.
If you occasionally suffer from heel pain, it’s also a good idea to have a check-up with us to see whether personalized treatments can help you stay more comfortable.
We are especially big believers in custom orthotics. They are not only useful in ending foot pain from flat arches, but can also prevent connected knee, hip, and back problems that come from long-term misalignment.
Be Wise About Your Socks
Socks might seem like an afterthought—just a covering for your feet—but few things are farther from the truth when it comes to military foot care.
Socks should fit you properly. If they’re too loose, they’re going to move around in your feet and increase your chance of blisters. If they’re too tight, they’re going to irritate your foot, cut off circulation to your feet and potentially cause swelling.
Your sock material can also make a huge difference. Go for a good, moisture-wicking composition such as wool or certain synthetic materials. Cotton is not a good choice, as it tends to shrink fast and absorbs sweat instead of wicking it away. This keeps sweat closer to your skin, like wrapping your feet in thin sponges. The more moisture your feet are swamped in, the more miserable you will be, and the more likely you can develop skin conditions.
If you are an excessive sweater, even a good pair of socks might not be enough. Have a spare pair of socks you can swap into during the day, if you can.
Keep Your Feet Clean
Clean feet are healthy feet, and it’s not enough to just let the soapy shower water run down your body and over your toes. That’s weak.
Wash your feet directly, with soap and water, and between your toes. Make sure they’re fully dry before you stick them in socks and shoes, as well—again, including between the toes. Keeping your feet wet like this can increase your chances of athlete’s foot and other fungal infections, especially when you’re using public showers.
(In fact, it’s a good idea to wear shower shoes into public showers, if possible. But yes, you still have to wash your feet.)
Trim Your Toenails Properly
Do not neglect trimming your toenails! Letting your toenails grow too long can cause a few different uncomfortable problems. You may snag your nails and tear them on your socks, for one. And if your nails are continually slamming up against the front of your boots, you can suffer from painful black toenails as well.
The way you trim your nails also matters, though. Use a pair of larger toenail clippers (not the dinky fingernail clippers) and cut straight across the nail. If you cut your nail too short (leaving no white at the ends) and curve too much on the corners, you risk causing yourself pain and increasing your risk of getting ingrown toenails.
Take Care of Calluses
Calluses try to lend themselves well to the “hardened feet” school of training, but they can do more damage than good. Calluses themselves can sometimes be painful, and you definitely do not want a blister to form beneath one.
Calluses are easy to treat by soaking your foot in water for 15-20 minutes and rubbing the callus with a pumice stone (you can also do this after you get out of the shower if you don’t have much opportunity for soaking). Callus removal takes time and a number of sessions to complete. Do not try to do it all in one go by grinding it off—you will end up damaging your skin and hurting yourself.
Peak Podiatry Performance
Don’t fall into the trap that you must torture your feet to bring them up to military muster. Do you “toughen up” a tank by ramming it through walls? No! You take care of it so that, when the day comes when you must send it through the wall (hopefully never), you know it will hold up!
Burlington County Foot & Ankle is committed to the best foot care for our military, from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to all others who cross our path. If you need help with a foot or ankle problem, we will do all we can to serve you in the most effective manners possible.
Call our office at (609) 714-0052 to schedule an appointment. If you prefer to reach us electronically, simply fill out our online contact form.