Our Grandma Dot used to tell us there are two things worth spending the money in your life for good health: a good mattress and good shoes! That advice holds up today. This is one area where missionaries should not scrimp. Do the research and spend the extra money to get good shoes.
• Keep your feet clean. Take a minute as part of your nightly routine to wash your feet. It may even help to apply foot lotion or anti-fungal cream after and let your feet rest. If you are struggling with a foot fungus, try to keep your feet clean and dry. It can also help to use a foot powder during the day to absorb moisture and prevent infection.
• Keep your nails trimmed properly. Learn how to cut your toenails to prevent painful ingrown toenails, and make sure your shoes are a good fit. When trimming toenails, trim straight across and not down into the sides. If you feel an ingrown toenail coming on, take care of it sooner rather than later. Ingrown nails can get infected or may require surgery if neglected.
• Wear some sort of barrier between your shoes and your feet. Wear a sock that wicks away moisture and allows your foot to breathe. Make sure to wear clean socks everyday. We have some excellent socks that have a double padded bottom and mesh top that are very breathable, durable, and help feet stay healthy.
For sisters, going without some sort of sock is the cardinal sin of foot care! It thrashes your shoes to wear them without a sock liner, and creates an environment where foot infections will flourish. Invest in “no-show” socks, and make it a point to never wear your shoes without another layer in between.
• Invest in some shower sandals to be worn around the apartment. Missionary apartments and showers are notorious for the spreading of foot fungi. Keep your shower sandals clean. They will protect your feet from infection that could spread from your companions. Choose shower sandals that are not a flip-flop style, but that have just the band around the front of the foot so you can wear them with your socks as you walk around your mission apartment. This helps your socks last longer. Also, choose a sandal that doesn’t have fabric on it. The fabric or webbing will stay wet, and culture microorganisms. It also means you couldn’t wear them in the apartment with your socks after you shower because they wouldn’t be dry.
• Don’t go for Fashion Grade shoes over Mission Grade. Obviously this is more of a problem for sisters than elders. We see it all the time where sisters choose “cute” over “practical.” The good news is that we have worked hard to carry shoes that are somewhat “cute” as well as Mission Grade. No matter how “cute” they are, if the shoes can’t let you walk great distances comfortably or be on your feet long hours, they are worthless to missionary work.
• Wear the correct size of shoe. Take time to have your foot properly fit in a good shoe. You can sustain serious foot conditions and injuries if you aren’t wearing the correct size, not to mention the discomfort after being on your feet all day long. A shoe that is too big can injure you with a rolled ankle, or cause you to trip and injure your hip, back, or knee. A shoe that is too small can cause painful ingrown toenails. Recent studies have shown that if your shoes are too flat, it can contribute to bunions or plantar faciitis—two
painful and uncomfortable foot conditions that can be avoided or remedied by wearing properly fit shoes. A little support in a shoe goes a long way. Look for a shoe that carries the American Podiatric Medical Association seal of approval. They have a certification process to determine if a shoe is good for foot health, and they will label them as such (see www.apma.org for more information and a list of approved shoes).
Dansko brand shoes carry this certification, and we carry a full line of their approved shoes for women, and their APMA approved shoes for men. Here are our suggestion for shoe care. They will ensure that your shoes serve you well.
• Clean your shoes regularly inside and out. Before you polish your shoes, clean them off with a soft, damp cloth. If your shoes have removeable insoles, take them out and clean them. This will cut down on the microbial growth in your shoes. If the insole wears out, replace it. Often, the shoe is not worn through, it is only the insole. Replacements are not too expensive or hard to find, and they will prolong the life of your shoe.
• Keep the leather of your shoes supple and cared for. Shoes are made of skin and skin will dry and crack if it isn’t moisturized and cared for. The same happens to your shoes. Begin with a leather conditioner that you apply regularly to your shoes, and then polish them at least a couple of times a month. The leather cream/conditioner is like the moisturizer, and the shoe polish is like the “make-up” that makes them look nice. Regularly doing this helps the shoes to be more resistant to water. If you are serving in a very wet climate, regularly apply a waterproofing agent to your shoes. Using a cedar shoe tree also helps remove moisture from the inside of your shoes.
• Rotate your shoes daily. Rotating allows your shoes to recover from the wear and tear of the day before you put them to the task again. Your feet sweat an average of 1 cup of moisture a day. Rotating gives shoes time to dry out, and that helps inhibit microbial infections. It also allows the polyurethane or rubber in the sole to relax a day and rebound. If you find you prefer one pair of shoes over another, take two of the same style. If you aren’t going to wear one of the styles because you don’t like as well, you will wear out one pair by wearing it all the time and not giving it time to rest. In our stores, we suggest taking two pair of the same shoes for this very reason.
• Take time to properly take your shoes on and off. Most of the damage to shoes that we see happens when the are put on and off. If you are going to invest in good shoes, take the time to properly treat them. If wearing a slip-on shoe, don’t just mash your foot into the shoe. Use a shoehorn! If wearing a lace-up shoe, again, don’t mash your foot into it. Don’t treat it as a slipon. If you want a slip-on, buy a slip-on. Unlace your lace-ups to remove them, and unlace them before putting them on again. Also, taking time to reach down and remove your shoes with your hand rather than kicking them off with your feet. This protects the heel collar from breaking down. For sisters, if you are going to take a mary jane style shoe with a buckle, take time to unbuckle them. You will save the elastic behind the buckle and prolong the life of your shoe.
• Pray on your knees without bending your toes in your shoes, or pray without shoes on at home. While at home, if you are going to pray on your knees, don’t wear your shoes. If you must wear your shoes to pray, lay your feet flat underneath you instead of bending up on your toes. This prevents your shoe soles from snapping or cracking right at the ball of your foot. It is easier to buff out scratches on the toes of your shoes than it is to replace the sole.
• If you weigh more than 200 lbs, and serving foreign, it is a good idea to take more than two pairs of shoes. Even with the 2-year wearproof guarantee for elders, shipping charges and duties can easily exceed the cost of a third pair of shoes.