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How to Take Care of Your Feet

How to Take Care of Your Feet

Published: 3rd April, 2020 in: Health Advice

Your feet are arguably one of your most important body parts. They allow you to walk, run, play sports, balance and more. Over the course of an average person’s life, your feet will carry you over 100,000 miles. When it comes to caring for your feet however, they are often an overlooked body part. If you do not take care of your feet correctly, you can run into a number of issues which can cause major discomfort and affect your ability to do certain things. This guide will show you how to take care of your feet properly to avoid developing foot issues and offer advice on treatments for those currently suffering from them.

Common Foot Problems

Athlete’s Foot - Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin, also known as Tinea Pedis. It is contagious and can therefore be spread to other people or other areas of the body including the toenails and the hands.  The main cause of Athlete’s Foot is due to contact with an infected person or from moisture. The Tinea Pedis fungus is ideally suited to warm, moist environments such as showers. If the feet remain moist for a prolonged period of time, this allows the fungus time to grow. This is one of the reasons it is known as Athlete's Foot. It is common amongst athletes as they are often required to wear trainers for long periods of time which trap moisture from sweat and heat whilst exercising.  It can also be caught by using communal spaces such as gym/leisure centre showers or changing rooms whilst barefoot.

The main symptoms of Athlete’s Foot include itchy feet, the formation of blisters and cracking or peeling skin. This is usually found between the toes and on the soles of your feet. If the fungus spreads to the toenails, nails can become discoloured, thick and crumbly. They may also start to pull away from the nail bed slightly.

Athlete’s Foot Treatments: There are a range of treatments available on the market used to treat Athlete’s Foot. Scholl offers an Athlete’s Foot Powder which contains Tolnaftate, one of the most effective treatments for Athlete's Foot available without a prescription. Used to relieve itching and soreness, it can also be used after treatment in shoes and socks to help prevent re-infection. For ease of use, you may prefer to use a spray treatment such as the Daktarin Activ Spray Powder. It is an antifungal and antibacterial treatment perfect for getting between the toes. It can also be used in shoes and socks to kill any remaining bacteria.

Calluses and Corns: Calluses and corns are thick areas of skin that have become hardened. These develop in areas where the body is trying to protect itself from friction and pressure therefore, they are commonly found on the feet. Whilst they do not cause any harm to the person, they can make people self-conscious and can cause mild discomfort. They can also cause the skin to become dry and flaky. One of the most common causes of calluses and corns is wearing ill-fitting shoes. If shoes do not fit correctly, feet may be able to move around and rub against the fabric. Alternatively, shoes which are too tight can compress the feet causing similar calluses and corns. 

Treatments for Calluses and Corns: Simply removing the cause of the calluses and corns is usually enough to cure them. Ensuring shoes fit correctly means that there is no unnecessary pressure or friction on the feet, allowing them time to heal and reducing likelihood of calluses and corns reforming. There are some over the counter products which can be purchased to aid healing however. One of the most simple methods of  treating corns is with a corn plaster, such as the Scholl’s Corn Foam Cushions. Utilising a dual layer foam, they provide cushioning and pressure relief. They are ideal for corns which have formed on and between the toes. 

They also offer a 2 in 1 Corn Express Pen. This is a unique treatment, specifically designed to treat corns quickly and effectively. The pen includes a scraper which allows the user to scrape away the layers of hard skin which form on top of the corn. This also allows the advanced liquid treatment to penetrate into the skin more easily. This softens the corn helping to remove it altogether.

Whilst corns are commonly found on the toes, calluses are more likely to form on the soles of the feet, the heels and on the sides of the feet. Compeed offers Callous Plasters which help to remove calluses by relieving pain and pressure to help the skin retain it’s natural moisture thus removing the callous. The plasters are able to repel water, dirt and bacteria and the same plaster can be used continuously for up to 3 days.

Bunions: Bunions are large bony lumps which form on the side of the feet. They form when some of the bones in your foot move and force the big toe joint to move outwards. The skin over the bunion can then become red, swollen and hard. Bunions can be caused by a number of factors including wearing shoes that are too tight. They can also develop due to the shape of your foot, deformities or conditions such as arthritis. 

Treatments for Bunions: Bunions can only be removed surgically however there are a few treatments which can help to relieve associated bunion pain. If you have a bunion you should try to wear low, wide fitting shoes with a soft sole. You may also want to ice your bunions from time to time in order to reduce pain and swelling. You can also buy bunion pads such as the Epitact Bunion Protector or the Carnation Bunion Pads. They are designed to protect the bunion from further friction and pressure.

Toenail Fungus: Onychomycosis,  commonly known as nail fungus, is a condition which affects the nails. It usually begins with yellow or white patches under the nail and can then spread to several nails. As the fungus continues to grow, nails will discolour, darken, become thick and even begin to crumble around the edges. This can cause discomfort, pain and can also give off a foul smell. Nail fungus can be difficult to get rid of using home treatment methods and can often reoccur . You may therefore need to see a GP to fully address the issues and provide you with the best treatment plan. 

Treatments for Toenail Fungus: As previously mentioned, toenail fungus can be notoriously difficult to treat at home alone, often coming back however, there are a few home treatments which have been proven to be effective. The Nailner Fungal Nail Infection Brush treats fungus by saturating the keratin layer of the nail and lowering the pH. This makes it harder for the fungus to survive and grow thus removing the infection. The nail brush also makes it super easy to apply. The Excilor Pen for Fungal Infections also treats nails in this way. For adults over the age of 18, the Curanail 5% Anti-Fungal Nail Treatment can be used. This contains amorolfine which penetrates the nail, kills the fungus and prevents further infection spreading.

Ingrown Toenails: Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the toenail begins to grow into the surrounding skin. They are more common in people with sweaty feet and those with thick toenails. Older people tend  to be more at risk as toenails thicken with age. They can also be caused by numerous other factors, such as cutting toenails incorrectly. Pressure on toenails from tight fitting shoes is another possible  cause as the nails can  grow into the skin due to this pressure. The same can occur due to foot injuries, such as stubbing your toe or dropping something heavy onto it. However, some people are predisposed to ingrown toenails, perhaps due to irregular curvature of nails or from their lifestyle choices. Ballet dancers and footballers for example are prone to ingrown toenails as they put large amounts of pressure on their nails and feet frequently.

Treatments for Ingrown Toenails: There are a number of ways of treating ingrown toenails at home. You can try soaking your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes 3 to 4 times per day. You should ensure that your feet remain dry at all other times throughout the day. You may also push the skin away from the edge of the toenail with an olive oil soaked cotton ball. If the pain worsens or becomes infected you may need to see a doctor. Some ingrown toenails will require surgery to rectify. Scholl offer an Ingrowing Toenail Kit. It includes a cooling aerosol to help relieve pain as well as a Toenail Straightening Clip which allows the nail to grow out straight to prevent further discomfort and pain.

Tips for Looking After Your Feet

Most of the common foot problems mentioned above are caused by improper hygiene and foot care. We have put together a list of foot care tips and tricks to ensure your feet look and feel their best!

Wash Feet Regularly: Many foot problems stem from the growth of bacteria resulting in fungal infections of the feet. By ensuring that you wash your feet regularly, with soap, you can make sure that bacteria is unable to grow.

Dry Feet Well: You should ensure that your feet do not remain moist for any prolonged periods of time. Moisture environments are perfect for bacterial growth. You should therefore ensure feet are properly dried after washing. If you play sports, your feet may be enclosed in moist trainers for periods of time. You may wish to use Athlete’s Foot powder inside trainers to prevent developing an infection, you should also wash and dry your feet at your earliest convenience.

Moisturise and Exfoliate: In order to prevent the build-up of hard or callused skin, you should regularly moisturise and exfoliate feet. A pumice stone or a foot file can remove the dead skin on the feet however, you should be careful not to damage fresh skin underneath. By moisturising you can help the skin to retain moisture and prevent the further build up of hard skin. The Flexitol range of products includes moisturisers for use all over the feet and also moisturisers designed specifically to repair dry and cracked heels, such as Flexitol Heel Balm.

Cut Your Nails: To prevent ingrown toenails, you should cut your toenails on a regular basis. They should always be cut straight across, never angled at the edges, as this can promote ingrown toenails.

Ensure Shoes are Well-fitting: Many of the foot care problems named above are caused by unnecessary friction and pressure being placed on the feet. This can occur when feet are able to move around in shoes too much or when shoes are too tight, thus pushing down on the feet. When selecting shoes you should ensure that they fit properly. In order to do this, it is a good idea to shoe shop only in the afternoon. Feet swell throughout the day therefore shopping when they are at their largest ensures shoes will fit well no matter what time of day.

Protect Your Feet in Communal Areas: You should never walk around barefoot in communal areas. This is especially important in places such as gym showers and changing rooms. These areas are usually warm and moist therefore, are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Many foot infections are also contagious so walking around barefoot may make you susceptible to catching a foot infection from another person. In these areas you should wear flip flops or pool sliders in order to protect yourself.

Explore our full range of foot care products to stock up on everything you need to look after your feet! Not sure on the best method of treatment for an existing foot problem? Pop into one of our branches or contact us.