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Sole survival, taking one step at a time

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- It can be said that all well-built structures possess a solid foundation. Every building, whether it's a residential dwelling, office building or skyscraper, begins with a specific design for a tough and firm foundation.

The exact same can be said for the human body. Our feet are the rock-solid structures designed to take the punishment we put our bodies through on a daily basis.

It is important for people to understand the fundamentals necessary for the proper long-term care of the human anatomical foundation ... the foot.

Although only a small percentage of the population are born with foot problems, more than 70 percent of all people in the United States will have painful conditions in their feet at some point during their lifetime.

Generally speaking, foot pain is not normal and quite often neglecting your feet will result in pain elsewhere in the body.

The essential criteria for maintaining a healthy pair of feet includes a basic understanding of the foot, appropriate shoe selection, basic foot-care, and the ability to identify a potential problem.

The foot is considered to be more complex than any other skeletal unit in the human body. Yes, it's true; those aching "dawgs" you cram into your shoes every day contain 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles each.

In fact, one fourth of all the bones in the human body are in the feet.

During every step, these individual parts must work together like a finely-tuned machine to absorb the constant impact and loads we put on our feet through the course of our lives.

For example, during a typical day, your feet endure a cumulative force of several hundred tons.

Additionally, the average person engaging in non-strenuous activity takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

One thing all of us can do is to select the proper shoe. With the virtually countless number of brands and styles of shoes, finding the perfect fit for a specific foot type may be overwhelming.

First, people shouldn't buy shoes that are uncomfortable. Many people purchase shoes based on style and not comfort. A good fitting shoe should hold the heel firmly, have ample arch support, and provide enough room so you can wiggle all of your toes.

When looking for the best shoe, stand up and walk around to ensure the shoes are supportive and don't pinch.

Secondly, shopping for shoes is best done in the afternoon, when your feet have swollen a little.

Lastly, it is common for an individual to increase up to two shoe sizes over the course of a lifetime. This is because the structural integrity of bones and ligaments weaken over time and cause your feet to widen and increase in length. The wrong shoes can cause or aggravate foot ailments. Do your body a favor and treat your feet to the protection they deserve.

This is all the more important with the increased levels in physical training supporting the U.S. Air
Force's "Fit to Fight" concept. If you are experiencing difficulties with prolonged foot pain which limits normal activity, consult with your primary care provider.

The 374th Medical Group Physical Therapy Clinic also offers a walk-in "Running Shoe Clinic" every Tuesday at 10 a.m. For more information, call 225-7577.