Hip to toe

PUBLISHED: 16:51 04 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:46 20 February 2013

Hip To Toe...

Hip To Toe...

Your legs may not be getting the exposure they get in the summer months but it's worth taking care of them now so that you have perfect pins when it's time to cast off the winter woollies, says Petra May.

Your legs may not be getting the exposure they get in the summer months but it's worth taking care of them now so that you have perfect pins when it's time to cast off the winter woollies, says Petra May.

Varicose veins, dodgy knee joints, bunions, infected toenails. There's plenty that can go wrong with our legs and feet. And when something does go wrong it can be painful, unsightly and plain miserable.

Good shoes

Women suffer more foot and hip problems than men and one of the main causes are our shoes. Not only are 90 per cent of us wearing the wrong size of shoe (according to an American study) but those killer heels that we're so fond off are playing havoc with our tootsies too - 70 per cent of women over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis in their feet. Very few adults have their feet measured after the age of 20 yet our foot shape does change over the years and it's worth having your feet measured now and then.

We love our high heels and the fashion at the moment is for sky-high heels à la Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham. The trouble with heels is that they throw the weight of the body onto the ball of the foot and that can lead to bunions, corns and deformed toes. Another problem is that it alters your centre of gravity forwards causing your spine to bend backwards to compensate - and keep you upright - and that can lead to back and hip problems. As if that wasn't bad enough wearing high heels causes the calf muscle to tighten and shorten. This can become permanent in women who wear heels all day every day and eventually causes fallen arches in the foot as well as knee, hip and back problems.

Well we girls aren't going to give up our high heels whatever the warnings about the damage we're doing to ourselves, so the Association of Podiatrists and Chiropodists has this advice:

  • stick to heel heights of 4cm for everyday and keep the ultra-high heels for the occasional evening out.

  • calf and heel stretches will help - stand facing a wall with feet hip width apart and slightly bent at the knee. Take one step forwards, and using your arms to lean against the wall, keep your leg in front bent and the leg behind straight. Both feet should be flat on the ground. Lean in towards the wall, as you do, you should feel your muscles stretching in your calf and heel. Hold and slowly return to a standing position. Do this with each leg about five times.

  • vary your heel height - high heels one day, flatties the next.

  • backless high heels should only be worn on very special occasions when you won't be walking far - backless shoes force you toes to claw as you walk.

Great legs

You have the legs you were born with but everything can be improved and the best way to good legs is exercise.

Walking is great for legs, so are swimming, cycling, running...exercise moves blood up to the heart (helping to prevent varicose veins) and keeps your muscles toned.

If you're deskbound at work you still need to keep your legs moving, here's how:

  • Sit at your desk with you legs in front and feet on the floor. Lift one leg up off the floor a few inches while bending your knees and hold it for 10 seconds. Then relax. Repeat with the other leg. Helps tone your inner thigh.

  • Tone your lower legs by stretching both legs out in front of you. Point your toes, hold for five, then point your toes upwards and hold for five.

  • Walk to talk to people at work instead of phoning or using the dreaded email. You'll get your blood flowing and you might bump into someone interesting on the way!

  • One leg at a time, extend your foot and rotate your ankle for ten seconds in both directions. Then repeat with the other foot.

  • Sit without a chair...Lean against a wall with your back straight and lower yourself into a seated position with your back straight and your feet flat. Hold for 15-30 seconds then relax. Repeat to a total of four minutes ...

And the golden rule for beautiful legs is ...never ever cross them when you're sitting down!

For more information on leg and foot health you may find these websites helpful:


The Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists: www.iocp.org.uk

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