Just because your feet are usually hidden from view, that’s no excuse for not taking good care of them. Especially as you grow older, your feet become vulnerable to a variety of problems that are easily treated if caught early, but become troublesome – even dangerous – if neglected. And if you are diabetic, your feet need extra special attention.
Here are some tips to keep your feet healthy:
- Keep your feet clean and dry: Wash your feet every day in warm water. Foot spas can be used to soak and wash your feet but don’t soak them for more than 10 minutes to avoid dry skin. Pat your feet dry and be sure to dry between and under the toes. For feet that perspire, dust lightly with talcum powder, for really sweaty feet, use an over-the-counter antiperspirant.
- Moisturize dry, cracked skin: Use lubricating moisterizer on your feet but don’t put any between the toes; remove any that gets between your toes to avoid skin breakdown.
- Check your feet daily: Take a good look at your feet and toenails to see whether they are healthy looking. If you have a problem, consult the trouble-shooting chart below or see your doctor/podiatrist.
- Wear only well-fitted shoes: Make sure that your shoes allow for sufficient space (1.5 cm) between your big toe and the tip (don’t wear shoes with pointy toes) and that they provide your feet with good support. Throw away worn-out exercise shoes. Never borrow other people’s shoes. And when you’re at home, take off your shoes, let them dry inside, and expose your feet to the air as much as possible.
- Wear only comfortable socks: Wear cotton socks (synthetic fibres tend to make feet sweat), avoid tight socks or knee-highs, as they can restrict blood circulation. Change your socks daily and whenever they are damp from sweat or if your feet get wet.
- Care for your toenails: Cut or file toenails straight across and never shorter than the end of your toe. File down thicker areas and don’t cut out or dig toenails.
- Don’t walk in barefeet in public areas: Instead, wear “flip-flops,” sandals, or water shoes.
See your doctor/podiatrist immediately if:
- an injury doesn’t heal or becomes infected
- any part of your foot or leg turns blue or black
- your feet feel painful when walking and then relieved by rest
- your feet become less sensitive to pain or extreme temperatures
- you feel any unusual coldness, cramping, numbness, tingling, or discomfort in your feet.
If you have trouble with your feet, the chances are the problems are caused by one or more of the following:
Troubleshooting Common Foot Problems:
|Thickened skin in spots
- After bathing, rub away calluses with a pumice stone, emery board, or washcloth. If you remove tough skin regularly, the skin won’t get a chance to become callused. Do not practice “bathtub surgery”; cutting or shaving calluses yourself can lead to infection.
- Well-fitting footwear keep calluses from forming, and help keep them from coming back.
|Debris has collected beneath toenails; nail colour has changed (to yellow or brown); nail has thickened, turned clawlike (down-curved), or fissured
||Fungal infection (e.g., onychomycosis)
- See your doctor /podiatrist; you will probably need a prescription for medication such as terbinafine (Lamisil®) or itraconazole (Sporonax®).
|Pain between toes
- After bathing, rub away corns with a pumice stone or washcloth. Do not practice “bathtub surgery”; cutting or paring away corns yourself can lead to infection.
- Wear toe sleeves or toe spacers to relieve pain from corns.
- Well-fitting footwear keep corns from forming, and help prevent them from coming back.
|Foot pain, stiffness, swelling, and a grinding sensation, particularly after prolonged activity
- See your doctor; treatment plan may include medication, padding, specially molded inserts, or surgery.
- Wear comfortable, well-fitting footwear, lose weight if necessary, and stay off your feet as much as possible.
|Joint of the big toe is red, swollen, and painful
- See your doctor.
- Ask your pharmacist about an over-the-counter analgesic, such as Motrin® or Advil®, to relieve pain and inflammation.
|Skin on feet, especially between toes, has turned white, is cracked, peeling, itchy
- Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter antifungal medication (e.g., topical clotrimazole).
- If the condition persists, consult your doctor/podiatrist.
- Keep your feet clean and dry, wear roomy cotton socks, change them daily, and alternate shoes every other day.
||Hormones, fungi, bacteria
- Wash your feet more often.
- Ask your pharmacist about an over-the-counter antifungal foot powder and antiperspirant.
- If odour doesn’t clear up, consult a podiatrist.
|Sore feet, especially the soles
- Ask your pharmacist about metatarsal pads to relieve pressure.
||Some people’s feet sweat more than others
- Wear shoes that breathe (i.e., are made of leather or canvas – not synthetics). Sandals are good. Switch shoes from day to day to let them dry. Change socks and hosiery daily. Use a foot powder (talcum) or antiperspirant.
- If condition persists see your doctor/podiatrist.
|Warts on the soles of feet
- Ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter treatments such as paint-on wart removers (e.g., Duofilm®, Wart-Off®, Compound W®). No “bathtub surgery”.
- If wart resists treatment after 6 or 12 weeks, see your doctor/podiatrist. Treatment plan may include special dressing and medication or surgery (i.e., cryotherapy).
|Flat feet, hammertoes, foot injury, etc.
If you have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, your feet are more vulnerable to infections of all kinds: Consult your doctor about a specialized foot care plan.