It is important to keep your feet clean and as dry as you can. However, the sole of the foot contains thousands of sweat glands so feet which have been kept hidden away in winter shoes and boots during cold and rainy days are prone to problems because warm, dark moist places encourage such as athlete’s foot, fungal nail infections and verrucas. On top of this, bacteria that cause smelly feet flourish on warm, moist skin.
Make sure your shoes and socks are made from natural fibres and try and let your feet ‘breathe’ as much as possible.
The simplest way to deal with sweaty feet is to use a foot powder or antiperspirant. However, this may be insufficient in some people who have truly sweaty feet and have a condition called hyperhidrosis.
The most important thing is to vary the type of shoe and heel that you wear in order to reduce the repetitive strain on any one particular area of the foot. A low-heeled shoe will help with Achilles tendon problems and also plantar fasciitis.
Heel pain (called plantar fasciitis) can be caused by summery shoes such as flip-flops or ballet pumps. If you suffer from any of these see your Podiatrist.
If you have bunions (an enlargement of tissue around the big toe) or hammer toes (when your second, third or fourth toes are permanently bent) winter shoes can be very unforgiving. If you are having regular problems seek advice from a Podiatrist who will be able to give you different treatment options, and recommend a surgeon if needed.
Thick cracked skin on the heels is very common and the best way to deal with this is to start off with a visit to your Podiatrist who will remove the hard skin, and then advise on a home maintenance regime, which will involve the use of a foot cream (Gehwol foot care products).
Home maintenance will also include regular use of pumice to keep the skin smooth. Make sure the foot is nice and dry and gradually file the skin. If you are diabetic the skin loses its ability to sweat which is very important in naturally moisturising your feet and preventing cracking. If you have also lost skin sensation, these cracks may not be noticed or healed and this can lead on to significant problems. In this situation it is essential that you see a Podiatrist (chiropodist) regularly for your foot care rather than taking it on yourself. This is also true if you have circulatory problems in your feet.
Make sure you cut your toenails properly as painful conditions can occur without care.
Keep your nails trimmed. Undercutting the end of the nail in this way increases the risk of the nail edge growing forward into the nail – a so-called ‘in-growing toe nail’. Cutting them too short also encourages this to occur.
Thickened, yellow, brittle nails are a sign of a fungal nail infection. Treating this infection can be very difficult and it is best to make sure that you get nail clippings sent off to the lab before starting any anti-fungals.
Identification of the exact cause and targeted anti-fungal treatment increases the chance of success but beware as this can take several months. Sweaty feet make this more difficult.
It’s a good idea to have a regular foot care routine to keep you feet healthy.
If you are diabetic, make sure you inspect them regularly, especially if you have lost the feeling in them.
Firstly wash your feet in warm water, preferably with an anti-bacterial soap. Make sure you dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes as the skin here is prone to a fungal infection called athlete’s foot. When dried, moisturise your feet.
Hard skin can be rubbed with a pumice stone when you are washing your feet. Severe hard skin on the sole is usually down to excessive pressure and you really ought to see a Podiatrist (chiropodist) to have this removed or protected with insoles.”
A verruca on the other hand has a dark centre and is more discrete. It is caused by the human papilloma virus.
Scaly, itchy feet can be due to athlete’s foot and it is actually quite common for this to be resistant to treatment with the standard over-the-counter preparations.
If this is the case you should see you GP as oral medications may be required.
Make sure that you treat your socks and shoes with powder as well as these can harbour the fungus and cause re-infection.
Please seek professional advice if you are diabetic, have circulatory problems, or want more information.