All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Foot Care for Pilgrims on Parikrama

Please look after your feet

Tips by Anindita Dasi, in light of her parikrama experiences....

During a pilgrimage, tired and achy feet and legs are the norm. Your feet are the shock absorbers for your entire body. Each time you step down you can place up to five times your body weight on your foot. It's no surprise that parikrama particularly is a testing time for your feet, and if they are not in good health they can spoil your pilgrimage.

Dos and Don'ts for Healthy Parikrama Feet

Do take the time to care for your feet. Inspect your feet regularly and make your foot care part of your daily routine.

Don't ignore pain. Painful feet are not normal.

Don't ignore what might seem like trivial complaints such as peeling, dry skin or itching.

Do avoid, where possible, walking bare foot outside of the Math. Bare feet are more prone to injury and infection.

Do keep your feet as clean as you can. Wash them regularly in tepid soapy water. But, contrary to popular belief, don't soak your feet, as afterwards, this may cause the skin to become dry.

Do dry your feet thoroughly, especially in between the toes.

Do apply moisturising cream all over your feet, except in between the toes.

Do remove any hard skin. You might think that hard skin will protect your feet more if you are walking barefoot, but actually this can lead to other dry and split skin conditions.

Don't burst blisters. Let nature take its course.

Don't carry out bathroom surgery. It can be dangerous and can lead to further problems with your feet.

Do break in new shoes and sandals before your pilgrimage. Avoid ‘Indian style' sandals with toe loops. These often cut into the soft skin between your toes.

Don't forget to put sun block on your feet as well as the rest of your body.


How To Deal With Common Parikrama Foot Problems

Hard Skin

Hard skin on your feet is most often caused by standing for periods of time, particularly on hard surfaces such as marble floors. Hard skin may seem insignificant, but if left untreated can lead to other and more painful foot problems.

Tips for dealing with hard skin 

Keep your feet nice and clean, and always apply a moisturising cream twice daily. Give them extra treatment last thing at night.

Use a pumice stone to reduce the thickness of the hard skin.

Never try to pare away hard skin yourself with a razor blade or a pair of scissors.

Always wear shoes or sandals outside the Math, even if you are just popping over the road. Avoid wearing thin soled shoes outside the Math.

Cracked Feet

Cracked feet are usually caused by hard and dry skin. The soles of your feet can very quickly dry out when you are walking barefoot over hard and dry ground or in wet and dusty places, especially when you are not used to it. For most people this is merely a nuisance but when cracks become deep, the skin bleeds easily and makes it very painful to walk even short distances.

Tips for dealing with cracked feet

Moisturise your feet. Make sure you apply a moisturising cream twice daily to the affected areas.

Don't soak your feet to soften cracked skin. Although this may bring immediate relief, it can actually end up drying out your feet making the problem worse.

Cover any cracks in your feet with dressings to stop dirt getting into cuts and causing infections.

Whenever possible, wear your shoes outside the Math.

Broken and Split Nails 

Nail injuries, whether soreness or bruising to the nail area, or split and broken nails, can be very unpleasant. What might seem like a small nail injury can easily become infected due to the very tender skin underneath, and can leave you limping your way round the parikrama path.

Tips for dealing with nail injuries

When you moisturise your feet don't forget your nails. This stops your nails from becoming brittle and splitting.

If you are suffering from a split nail, massage some simple oil or moisturiser into it twice a day to keep it supple and stop it from getting worse. Keep trimming the nail as the split grows out.

Nail injuries can have a tendency to bleed for a while. Be sure to wrap the injured toe with a clean bandage for 30 minutes or so until the bleeding stops.

No matter how tempting, it's not a good idea to pull off the nail if it is hanging on. The old nail will act as a guide for the new nail to grow in. Use a plaster to hold the nail in place.

Use antiseptic cream to reduce the risk of infection. ‘Boroline' is good. Keep checking your nail and if it looks like infection is setting in, seek medical attention.

Shin Splints

Shin splints are the most unpleasant exercise-induced leg pain that might be encountered by devotees going on parikrama. This is caused by the tendons being pulled away from the shin bone. Walking fast on hard ground and trying to keep up with tough footed Bengalis can cause this problem. Shin splints can literally make your parikrama agony. So if you are a novice walker and you are not used to long pilgrimages over several days, take care.  

Tips for dealing with shin splints

To avoid shin splints on parikrama, try to walk on the softer sandier parts of the path. This will soften the shock to your legs.

If shin splints set in, regrettable though it is, you should stop parikrama immediately, no matter how tempting it is to go on.

Rest and elevate your legs and take time to recover. Don't spoil your recovery by going back on parikrama too soon. Aggravating this condition can lead to you being off your feet for a considerable period of time.

Ankle Sprains

Ankle sprains are very painful and can put a stop to your parikrama altogether. Ankle sprains come in varying degrees. If you can still hobble or put weight on your injured ankle your injury won't be too bad. You will be up and about in no time, but heavy and demanding walking should stop.

 Tips for dealing with ankle sprains

If you are walking over uneven or rough ground take care.

If you sustain an injury, the best thing to do is apply ice to the affected area as soon as possible. Of course that may not be possible, but try and cool the ankle area by resting your foot in cold water for at least half an hour.

It is helpful to add some compression to an ankle injury by adding a tight — but not too tight bandage.

Rest and elevate your foot.

Take it easy and keep off your feet until any swelling and pain has subsided.

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