From slippers and thongs to going barefoot, for many of us spending more time at home due to COVID-19 has meant there's been less call to slip on a pair of shoes.
Now podiatrists are warning Aussies are at increased risk of lower limb discomfort, pain, and loss of mobility due to going barefoot or not wearing supportive shoes during the pandemic.
New research commissioned by the Australian Podiatry Association (APODA) has found since the start of COVID-19, 70 per cent of people surveyed say they've worn less supporting shoes or have ditched shoes altogether and a third have noticed an increase of pain and discomfort in their feet and lower limbs.
This has led to a reduction in daily walks and exercise, difficulty sleeping and not being able to particpate in leisurely activities such as walking the dog or playing with the kids.
APODA podiatrist and spokeswoman, Charlotte Bodell, said this significant shift in footwear behaviour has come as more Australians find themselves working from home and in lockdown.
She said over the last few months patients have come to her with increased lower limb pain due to a change in footwear behaviour. She warned people need to be aware of the importance of wearing suitable footwear and understand the short- and long-term implications of neglecting their foot health.
"The research found that 62 per cent of people who regularly visit a podiatrist have discontinued appointments since the beginning of the COVID period and 36 per cent of people have noticed an increase in pain," said Ms Bodell.
"It's important that patients are conscious to seek advice from their podiatrist not only when they are in pain and to look at their health holistically by considering visiting a podiatrist as regularly you would a dentist or optometrist."
Now APODA is launching a national health campaign aimed at helping Australians better understand their foot health.
Foot Health Week, October 12-18, will also highlight the role podiatrists play in overall wellbeing and getting people back on their feet and living pain-free, especially post COVID lockdown.
"Foot health is often an indicator for other serious health conditions/concerns," said Ms Bodell.
The research results also found that a half of all Australians have had their lives negatively affected by lower limb pain and a quarter of patients have had an underlining health issue identified by their podiatrist, including circulatory issues (38 per cent), diabetes (27 per cent) or heart problems (22 per cent).
Two-thirds said they have never received advice on correct footwear, and cost was one of the largest prohibitive factors in seeing a podiatrist with 45 per cent identifying finance-related concerns preventing them from seeing a podiatrist. Three quarters of people were unaware that some podiatry services are government-funded through the Chronic Disease Management plan.
Meanwhile 95 per cent of those who have seen a podiatrist say that their condition (pain and/or movement) improved after their visit.
APODA recommends seeing a podiatrist if you:
- Have painful feet
- Experience leg pain
- Have painful knees
- Experience sore hips
- Find walking or standing uncomfortable
- Experience leg or foot pain during sport
- Need advice on correct footwear
- Are worried about your child's feet or their movement
- Noticed a change in your mobility
For more details on podiatry and Foot Health Week visit foothealthaustralia.org.au