By Dr. Garrett Harte –

Healthy Lifestyle from the Ground UpWe have all heard the expression “When your feet hurt you hurt all over!”  So, it only makes sense to take proper care of your feet and keep them as healthy and strong as you can. Most of us would agree that to achieve a healthy lifestyle, one of the first things we should do (if we aren’t doing it already) is to simply get up and get moving. With that being said, proper care for our feet is essential in helping us reach and maintain our goal of a healthy lifestyle.

As with any health plan, diet and exercise go hand in hand. The fuel we give our bodies ultimately determines how well we perform. It bares repeating that a diet with a good blend of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein goes a long way in promoting good health. Maintaining a healthy weight has multiple health benefits, including minimizing the physical load the feet endure with each and every step you take.

Your feet are two areas of your body that help you maintain balance when walking, running, jumping or performing any other standing movement. Maintaining strong feet can help prevent injury to your ankles and all the bones, joints, tendons and muscles that involve movement of the feet. When your feet are weak, your whole body is at risk; you may even find yourself falling and injuring your hips, shoulders or other areas as a result of poor foot and ankle strength.

There are various exercises you can do to help strengthen your feet and keep you standing strong and upright:

Ankle Dorsiflexion and Plantarflexion
Ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion exercises stretch your ankle flexors and extensors and can be done by both feet at the same time. Place a rolled-up towel underneath each calf, and move your left foot toward your body and your right foot away from your body. Hold each position for six seconds, and switch positions for each foot. Return both feet to the starting position, and perform six repetitions with each foot.

Ankle Circles
Ankle circles strengthen your ankle rotators as you perform the exercise sitting on a chair. Sit up straight with your back firmly against the back of a chair. Slowly lift both feet off the floor, rotating your right foot in a clockwise direction, and your left foot in a counterclockwise direction. Repeat this movement six times. Avoid slouching, and keep your knees bent throughout the exercise.

Heel-to-Toe Walk
The heel-to-toe walk focuses on establishing balance in your feet so you can perform actions such as walking up stairs and down stairs with ease. Stand up straight with your arms at shoulder level and fully extended out to your sides. Position the heel of one foot slightly in front of the toes of your other foot; they should almost touch each other. Walk in a straight line toward an object, focusing on it to keep you steady as you approach it. Perform 20 steps toward the object and 20 steps back to your original starting position.

Toe and Heel Stands
Toe and heel stands work your ankle extensors and flexors and the muscles that surround your toes. Stand in front of a solid object such as a table and, placing your palms flat on the object, raise yourself up on your toes. Hold this position for six seconds, and slowly return to starting position. Rock back and balance on your heels, holding this position for six seconds. Return to starting position and repeat the entire exercise six times.

Get out there and walk, jog, run, skate, jump, skip whatever you can do to keep moving. The goal is always to move towards getting healthy and staying that way throughout life. As physicians, our job is to help our patients make healthy and smart decisions in their exercise choices. The doctors of Cortez Foot and Ankle Specialists can help you with your foot and ankle health so that you can achieve your health goals.

Dr. Garrett Harte received his B.S. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and received his doctorate at Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine (Temple University). He completed his 2 year surgical residency at West Jersey Health Systems and Wound Care Center in Camden, New Jersey. Dr. Harte is board certified in foot surgery by the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. During his residency he volunteered his time with a team of fellow surgeons in Guatemala to perform reconstructive foot and ankle surgery on children. He found his mission, and pediatrics as a whole, very rewarding. He enjoys lecturing to the public and to his colleagues on topics such as common foot deformities, wound care, limb salvage and surgery and diabetes. He currently is the vice president of the Manasota Podiatric medical society. He also sits on the Surgery committee and the credentials committee at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Harte is an exercise enthusiast and has been running in local marathons, half marathons and triathlons for the past 8 years. He completed the Florida Ironman in 2009 and enjoys treating fellow athletes. His wife Christine is a personal trainer here in Manatee County. He spends most of his free time with his 3 children, Jonathan, Patrick and Kaylee. His philosophy is to treat all his patients as if they were part of his own family and give them the best care he can at all times.

Dr. Harte joined Cortez Foot and Ankle Specialists in 1998 after practicing in the Fort Myers area.

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