Despite the fact that they are responsible for keeping us independently mobile, feet don’t receive nearly as much love and attention as they deserve. Take a minute to look at your feet. Go on—kick off your shoes, peel off your socks and pay some attention to those undervalued and unsung heroes. They may be a bit achy if you are at the end of your working day, and they may also be a bit dry and cracked on the heels and in need of some lotion and a foot rub. But there’s more to taking care of your feet than that. With a little time and effort, you can ward off most aches and pains, injuries and infections—and keep your feet looking and feeling their best.

Here are 10 tips to help you step into 2015 on healthy, happy feet:

1. Walk barefoot now and again

Take off your shoes and walk around barefoot, especially inside your home. Let your toes spread, feel the temperature of the ground through your feet and embrace the sensations! Our feet are much like our hands, so let them explore, feel and add value to your life!

2. Pick up your arches

Whenever you are at home barefoot and have a few moments, like while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for the kettle to boil, try this simple exercise to help your feet become more strong and flexible: Stand with your feet hip width apart, and lift your toes so that only your heel and ball of your feet are touching the ground. You will feel your arch lift and stretch. Hold your toes there for the count of ten, then lower and repeat.

3. Wear the correct sized shoe

Don’t squeeze your feet into shoes that are too small just because you like their look and they were the only size left at the store. Cramping your feet into shoes that are too small can cause hammertoes, corns, calluses, blisters and all sorts of other problems. And it hurts!

4. Keep them clean and dry

This might seem like a bit of a no-brainer, because – well, it goes without saying that unclean, smelly, mouldy feet are just ew! So just a gentle reminder of how important it is to keep your feet clean, dry and moisturised.

5. Heels in Moderation

You had to know this was going to feature somewhere along the line – yes, it’s those high-heels again… I have written at length on the hazards of wearing high-heeled shoes so I won’t elaborate to much here – suffice to say simply this: wear high-heeled shoes in moderation!

6. Pick the Right Running Shoes

There are at least five different categories of shoes for runners, ranging from stability control to minimalist. Your arches will play a big role in finding the right fit, and to make 100% sure you are getting the right shoes, visit one of our Healthy Steps Podiatry clinics in Auckland and one of our podiatrists will take a look at your feet and watch how you run (either on a treadmill or on the sidewalk), and suggest a few options. Then it’s up to you to pick the pair that feels the most comfortable and supportive—not necessarily those that’ll attract the most admirers on the trail…

7. Do Some Stretches

Walking is one great way to stretch and exercise your feet, but you can also spend a few minutes each day focusing on foot and leg stretches. Click here to read about some effective foot exercises.

8. Make Sure Your Pedicure Is Safe

If you’ve ever seen someone’s toes after acquiring an infection from a nail salon, you’ll know that a little vigilance is well worth the effort. Make sure that tools like nail files and buffers are properly sterilized between clients, or bring your own kit (some salons even require this). Better till, do your own pedicure – click here to find out how.

9. Foot Soaks And Scrubs

Take time out each week to pamper your feet – they’ll love you for it! Click here to see some simple home remedy foot pampering recipes.

10. Give Yourself a Massage

We’re not going to claim that this is just as good as getting a rubdown from a professional or a loved one, but giving yourself a foot massage can be surprisingly relaxing, and it can effectively ease soreness and tension, improve circulation and reduce inflammation. Consider making it a part of your calming bedtime ritual, just like applying moisturiser to your face and hands before you hit the hay. Use a scented foot lotion, body oil or even coconut oil (a Canyon Ranch staff favorite) warmed between your hands. Work your way up and down each foot, applying pressure on reflexology points or where it feels tender…ahhhh. Even if you don’t take a few minutes to massage your feet, simply moisturizing them before bed every night can help smooth cracked heels.