It’s a familiar refrain, “You know how long ah wanted to come, but ah shame, mih foot looking so bad!” or, “I was really scared, so I told my friend to try you all first, and give me some feedback.” We can hardly be surprised anymore, since foot health/care is one of our core functions, and we do see and continue to see all kinds of feet!
Athlete’s foot, calluses, corns, discoloured/thickened toenails and other issues linger on for years, in some instances, before we take action. With some simple tips we can prevent or help eliminate the incidence of many issues occurring. Having pretty coloured toenails is usually the focus, even to cover up badly infected nails. However, it’s time to make care the center of attention, and put fear aside.
1) Dryness/Cracked Heels: Sometimes due to lack of maintenance (eg. not moisturising the skin), oil glands not producing sufficient natural oils, not drinking enough water; contribute to the feet drying out and cracking. Another common cause of dryness is diabetes.
Hydrate daily: Restore softness/moisture by applying foot cream immediately after bathing. This regime is critical in ensuring that moisture gets into the skin. Some regular cream/lotions can work, but if you find them ineffective, it’s because you need a cream specifically geared to the feet.
2) Calluses: These thick and hardened areas of skin form as a result of constant pressure and friction (especially from walking barefooted and hard shoes, particularly steel tip boots); genetics (bio-mechanics) also plays a role.
Exfoliate daily: Use a foot file in the shower to buff away dead cells. Water softens skin, making it easier to remove. Don’t use razors and knives, which can cut skin and lead to infection.
3) Athlete’s Foot: Cracked/Blistered/Mold like area between the toes. It is sometimes painful and smelly.
Ensure you dry between the toes properly and practise good hygiene especially at communal facilities. Also, change your socks daily.
4) Toenail Discolouration/Fungus: This discolouration can be due to residual staining from red or darker polishes.
Superficial stains: Lightly buff nails to erase surface marks.
Severe Discolouration: Anti-fungal or other products.
Use a base coat: Applying this clear polish before polishing nails creates a stain-fighting barrier. Alternate shades: If you wear dark hues, don’t keep on for long periods.
5) Thick Toenails: Unlike fingernails, which thin with age, toenails become harder and thicker due to constant pressure from shoes.
Use an anti-fungal product.
Clip and file correctly: To eliminate splits and the risk of ingrown, trim nails into a square shape. Aim to make them even with the tips of your toes, and smooth rough edges by filing lightly in long strokes using a fine-grade emery board. Very thick nails should be cut professionally.
6) Plantar Warts (Fish Eyes): A viral infection that generally occurs due to walking barefooted, bathing in communal bathrooms or wearing infected footwear.
Practise proper hygiene, either use products, or have the wart removed surgically or via laser.
Preventative Foot Care
Another way to prevent foot problems is to keep your blood glucose under control. But there are also specific things you should do EVERY DAY to make sure your feet are healthy.
- Examine your feet DAILY to look for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, etc. If you have anything of that nature, and it doesn’t heal in a few days, notify your doctor/podiatrist. If you have trouble seeing or reaching your feet, ask someone to help, or use a mirror to help you see better.
- Wash your feet DAILY with lukewarm water and mild soap. Dry them carefully and thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- If you have dry skin on your feet, use a moisturising lotion to prevent cracking – but NEVER use a lotion or cream between your toes, as this can lead to infection.
- If you have corns or calluses, DO NOT cut them; check with your doctor or foot care specialist who may advise you to use a foot file to smooth them.
- Don’t go barefoot – not even indoors. Wear socks or stockings with your shoes to help avoid blisters and sores.
Choose the Proper Footwear
Choosing the right footwear is an important part of foot care, since poorly fitted shoes are involved in as many as 50% of serious foot problems. Here are some tips for choosing the best footwear:
- Wear well-cushioned walking or athletic shoes. If you have foot deformities such as hammertoes or bunions, you may need extra-wide shoes.
- Don’t wear shoes with extremely high heels or pointed toes. They can create pressure, which could contribute to bone and joint disorders, as well as diabetic ulcers.
- If you have sensitive skin, don’t wear open-toed shoes or sandals with a strap between the first two toes. They increase the chance that you’ll injure a toe.
- When you get new shoes, break them in gradually so you won’t get blisters.
- Shake your shoes before you put them on. Even a small pebble in your shoe can lead to problems.
- Purchase shoes later in the day.
Foot care is crucial and should be ongoing throughout a person’s life. There are limited risks associated with foot care; but many in ignoring the feet and allowing problems to develop. We tend to fear what the outcome would be and procrastinate. However, with regular care, foot disorders such as infections, skin ulcers, and gangrene can be prevented.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!