Why Happy Feet Mean Healthier Life

In an effort to explore the importance of foot health and the role of podiatry in maintaining it, we recently had a conversation with two renowned podiatrists, Dr Saw Yu Ting and Dr Jackie Tey of Straits Podiatry – a member of Healthway Medical Group. As experts in the field, they offered invaluable insights into common foot ailments, the significance of preventive care, and the evolving landscape of podiatry. During our conversation, they emphasised the importance of proper foot care and how it can positively impact overall health and wellbeing.

Q: What are the most common foot problems amongst Singaporeans? 

The most common foot problems we see here in Singapore are ingrown toenails, plantar fasciitis that causes pain in the heel of a foot, and flatfeet.

Q: Are Singaporeans risking injury to their feet and lower limbs in the process of trying to become more physically fit?

This is true to a certain extent. Whilst it is definitely good for our general health if we become more physically fit, it needs to be done in a safe manner. Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen too many patients coming in to seek treatment for foot pain as a result of a sudden increase in their activity levels. The reason is that most people are not wearing the appropriate shoes for the exercise they picked. It could also be because their shoes are not suitable for their foot type (e.g., flat feet, high arch feet) or are worn out. The other reason is that most people are not doing proper warm-ups before a workout and sufficient stretches after a workout. This will cause muscles to undergo increased stress and fatigue, leading to an injury.

Q: What is the right way to restart training for a marathon and prevent injuries after a two-year break from such events?

The best way is to set interval goals and slowly build up to the marathon distance in your training. Gradual progression in terms of duration, intensity, and distance of the run is key to preventing an injury. It is also important to have sufficient recovery or rest days before the next run.

Pre- run warm-ups are also important, such as starting off with running in place and butt kicks, followed by a three-to-five-minute slow jog. Post-run stretches are important to prevent muscles from going overly fatigued and stressed, and the key stretches are quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf stretches. I personally trained for a half marathon, and that was how I trained. I ensured I was regular in my training as well, to make sure my body got used to long-distance running.

Q: Does prolonged running accelerate lower limb deterioration or harm our tendons and muscles?

No, generally sports injuries happen because of four factors:

  1. An underlying biomechanics issue that predisposes an individual to risk of an injury,
  2. A sudden increase in activity level without your body getting used to the stress,
  3. An inappropriate choice of footwear and
  4. Inadequate recovery.

If all these four factors are well taken care of, any form of exercise can be safe for all.

Q: What is the best way to protect our lower limbs from common injuries?

There are three ways that we can protect our lower limbs from common injuries:

  1. Pick the right shoe. Specific shoes are designed for specific sport and foot type, and we should always seek help in getting the right pair of shoes to prevent an injury.
  2. Warm-ups and post-activity stretching; these help to prevent our muscles and tendon from getting overly stressed and fatigued,
  3. Consider getting your biomechanics assessed by a trusted podiatrist, and if needed, get a pair of customised insoles to reduce tissue stress and prevent injury.

Q: When are physical therapies for our feet usually recommended?

Physical therapy is almost always needed following an injury. An injury to our muscles, tendons or ligament requires sufficient rest to recover, and that weakens our muscle strength and our coordination. Physical therapy helps to strengthen our muscles and retrain our brain to learn how to coordinate our muscular contractions better to prevent a recurrence of injury. Physical therapy can also help to strengthen our injured tendons by progressively loading controlled levels of stress on them.

However, when patients have an injury, the most important thing first is to figure out the diagnosis, and why it has happened. Immediate treatment should be provided to heal the injured tissues, either through the use of shockwave therapy or surgery, before commencing physical therapy.

Q: How should the elderly protect their feet from injury with extended walking when travelling overseas?

Always wear the right shoes! Shoes protected our feet from any direct injury (e.g. cuts) and help to support our foot joints to prevent injury. This is especially important because our steps count increases dramatically during an overseas trip, and such a sudden increase in activity may risk developing an injury! Also, for the elderly, fall risks are something that we should take note of. When selecting footwear for the elderly, especially for a trip, one should look for lightweight footwear with proper anti-slip properties. The shoe should also not be too flexible at the sole and should only bend at the ball joints of the foot. The heel counter should be stiff and not press down easily. The above-mentioned features are very important to ensure that the elderly get the necessary support when they go for long walks.


We’d like to thank the doctors for their insight and here’s to better feet health to everyone!

Images: Envato

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