Caring For Your Feet 👣
While we are coming into sandal season it is also important to remember that feet are used for providing stability and balance. The grip and strength they provide allow you to walk and run and also provide a degree of shock absorption for the body. Approximately 25% of the body’s bones are found in the feet along with 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles. Therefore, we need to make sure that our feet are healthy. Cracked heels, bunions, corns, verrucas and fungal infections can all cause discomfort. If left untreated quite a bit of pain can be experienced which can develop into knee, hip and back problems. Anyone with problems on their feet should treat the issue as soon as possible to minimise the impact on the body. Many foot problems can take several weeks to resolve.
Cracked heels can occur for a number of reasons, including lacking moisture, ageing skin, open backed footwear and poorly fitting shoes. When walking, pressure is put on the heel, the skin stretches and spreads out. If the skin is inflexible the skin will crack. The skin of the heels will be dry, scaly and there will be vertical cracks or splits in the heels. Severely cracked heels may be bleeding or red and swollen or may be infected. To treat cracked heels the dry skin should first be removed using a foot file, pumice stone or exfoliating product. Following removal of the dry skin a rehydrating foot cream should be applied liberally.
Corns and calluses
Corns are caused by rubbing or pressure from ill-fitting shoes. Hard corns are layers of dead skin that build up on the tops of toes and the outside of the little toes. The base of the corn is on the skin’s surface with the tip pointing inwards, pressing on nerve endings and causing pain. Soft corns are white, rubbery lumps found between the toes. Calluses are caused by friction and pressure when the skin rubs against shoes or the ground. These have no centre and are less sharply defined than corns. They commonly appear on the ball of the foot, outside of the big toe and the sides of the heel. They produce a burning sensation, are yellowish in colour and are hard and rough. To treat corns and calluses the pressure or cause of friction should be removed, e.g. wearing comfortable flat shoes instead of high heeled shoes. You can apply corn or callus relief pads / plaster to prevent further friction on the area. A pumice stone or a corn and callus file can be used to rub down the skin that is getting thick. There are also pens now available to treat corns and calluses. The pens contain a gel which will treat the area and you should see a result within 5 days.
A bunion is a bone deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The toe will point inwards and force the bone to stick out. The cause is unknown but is thought to be linked to family history and wearing ill-fitting shoes can worsen the condition. Anyone can develop bunions, but they tend to be more common in women than men, most likely due to the type of footwear. Shoe insoles, bunion pads, toe spacers and correctly fitting shoes can help minimise the pain. In severe cases doctors may recommend surgery to fix the bunion.
Heel pain is one of the most common conditions to affect the foot. The most common cause of heel pain is plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the plantar fascia, which is a tough band of tissue that supports the arch of the foot and also acts as a shock absorber. It is often described as a stabbing or aching pain about 4cm forward from the heel, although it can occur anywhere on the underside of the heel. It may be tender to touch and is often worse when walking first thing in the morning or after long periods of rest. Plantar fasciitis usually goes away with time, but steps can be taken to ease any discomfort. Rest, short term use of pain killers and regular exercises designed to stretch the muscles in the lower leg and foot can help. There are some insoles designed to help people suffering from heel pain. If symptoms do not improve or the pain gets worse, you should speak to your doctor.
A verruca (plantar wart) is caused by the human papilloma virus, which gets into the skin through a minor cut or abrasion. They appear as flattened, discrete lesions, usually on the ball of the foot, the underside of the big toe or the heel, either alone or in clusters. Multiple small black spots may be visible on the verruca, which are caused by bleeding in small blood vessels. Verrucas can be tender when squeezed and may cause discomfort when walking. Verrucas can be treated with medication, speak to your Cara Pharmacist for further information.
A contagious condition caused by a fungus called Tinea pedis, athlete’s foot flourishes in the warm, moist environment between the toes. It is often picked up from damp changing rooms and swimming pool floors. Symptoms usually start between the fourth and fifth toes and the skin appears red and itchy, later becoming white, inflamed and weepy. It may also crack and peel. Although not a serious condition, if left untreated athlete’s foot can spread to other areas of the foot and toenails. If infection spreads to the nail, it may look thickened or discoloured at first. If the infection gets worse, white or yellow patches can appear where the nail has come away from the nail bed. The nail may also become soft and crumble and the skin next to it may be inflamed or scaly. Left untreated, the infection can destroy the nail and nail bed and become painful. There are treatments for these types of infection over the counter. Speak to your Cara Pharmacist for further information.
Feet self-care advice
Prevention is better than cure and some or all of these points may be relevant for you to maintain good foot health:
- Dry your feet thoroughly after washing, making sure to dry in between the toes, where infections can develop.
- Moisturise your feet.
- If there is hard skin present on the feet gently file it away using a foot file or pumice stone.
- Trim your toenails regularly using a proper nail clippers. Cut the toenails straight across, never at an angle or down the edges.
- Shop for shoes in the afternoon. Feet swell during the day, making them largest in the afternoon, shopping for shoes at this time means the shoes will always be comfortable.
- Minimise the time spent wearing high heels. If high heels are worn make sure they are comfortable, not too high (ideally <5cm). If worn at work change into them when you get to the office, wear comfortable shoes for the journey to the office.
- Alternate between different pairs of shoes each day.
- Change socks daily and make sure that the socks fit properly.
- Wear flip flops or pool shoes in communal areas such as the gym shower or swimming pools, this will reduce the risk of picking up athlete’s foot and verrucas.
- Check your feet regularly and look out for any cuts or blisters.