NOW is the time to get your tootsies in tip-top condition. With wellies, winter boots and woolly socks the order of the day, utilise this time for regeneration before the great unveil in Spring.
Here are my Top Tips for
Tip Top Tootsies this Winter 1. Nail Polish. Nail polish prevents the natural oils from your skin from moisturising the nail plate. The result? White powdery debris on your nail – this is keratin degranulation and it’s a sure sign your nail is suffering and a hop, skip and a jump away from a fungal infection.
Give your toenails a BREAK!
Over the winter, I really would suggest you don’t wear polish at all – but, if you must, wear a polish for 3 weeks out of every 4, removing the polish so that your nails are bare for 1 week to allow them to regenerate.
2. Clear the crudge. The free edge of your nail (the white bit) can collect remnants of soap and dead skin, which can contribute to whiffy feet and can cause some discomfort if it builds up. Use an old soft toothbrush to gently clear the debris, and spritz with an antimicrobial such as surgical spirit or Clinisept+ to cleanse the area.
3. Restore damaged nails. In your polish-free week, or anytime if you are not a nail polish-wearer, apply a drop of oil to each nail daily in order to restore their natural sheen and vitality. Vitamin E oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil… any natural oil you like will do.
Do not apply a neat essential oil (such as lavender, lemon myrtle or tea tree) to the nail. They are too strong and should only be used in a carrier oil (such as those mentioned above). I have seen nails dyed yellow from direct application of lemon myrtle oil, and dermatitis around the nail plate caused by irritation from tea tree oil. Just don’t do it!
4. Fashion-forward. Luckily, trainers are “in”. Be kind to your feet now to avoid problems in future. I see so many ladies whose foot shape is changed forever second to the footwear they wore when they were young. If you look at a baby’s foot, it is splayed – that is how your foot should look. Your toes need room to MOVE. This is critical for balance and good posture, and to avoid corns, calluses and musculoskeletal problems in future. My big beef? Ballet pumps. These are SO BAD for your feet. Ballet pumps offer no support, no shock absorbency, your toes will be curling up trying to steady your foot in the shoe, your toes are squashed into a small space where there is neither enough width or depth… I could go on. I hate them.
If you’re getting pain in your feet, ankles, calves, knees, hips, lower spine… look at your footwear first.
5. Cold feet. I rarely see chilblains these days, but so many folks complain of cold feet. Your tootsies are quite a way a way from your heart, so it is actually quite normal for them to feel cool to the touch. It does not mean that you have ‘bad circulation’. If you have cold feet and they are bothering you, there are some simple steps you can take. The first is to wear a thin pair of cotton or bamboo socks beneath another pair of socks. The double layer insulates your foot. You can wear wool insoles. These are thick enough to offer insulation, (it’s a natural fibre so your feet can ‘breathe’, which is good from a hygiene perspective also), but not so thick as to take up too much space in your footwear.
6. Dry skin. Lots of things cause dry skin. It may be your genetics, medications you are taking and/or treatments you are applying. It could be a fungal infection, masquerading as dry skin (it does that). Root-cause aside, applying an emollient daily to your skin will restore moisture. There is no ‘one size fits all’ with foot creams – find something you like and use it. The benefit is cumulative; the more regularly you apply it, the better your skin quality will be.
If you have really rough, dry skin, with or without superficial cracks (fissures), an urea-containing emollient is your best bet. Urea is a humectant, which means it holds moisture in the skin, and at higher doses (20%+) it is keratolytic and will break down proteins in the epidermis (top layer of the skin) encouraging shedding of dead skin cells. The result is a reduction of the tough skin leaving it feeling softer and more hydrated. Urea has also been shown to induce production of antimicrobial peptides, thus contributing to the skin’s natural immune defence.
7. Athlete’s Foot. We all know, you don’t need to spend hours on a treadmill or darting around a pitch to pick up this problem. Athlete’s Foot is a fungal infection of the skin. You may be a little hygienically misaligned (I’m looking at you, teenage boys…), or it may just be pure bad luck – fungal spores, like bacteria, are everywhere, just waiting for an opportunity to infect you.
Here, white vinegar is your friend. It alters the pH of your skin so that the fungus can’t thrive. Pop a cupful in a basin of tepid water and soak your feet for 10 mins and allow your feet to air dry once or twice a day for a week or so.
If the infection is restricted to in between your toes, swipe a little surgical spirit between them after washing and drying daily. This dries out the skin between the toes, as it is warm, dark, moist environments that fungus relishes. You’ll also need to address your footwear and hosiery (hot wash or application of an anti-fungal spray prior to wear), as the spores can survive quite happily here and continue to reinfect you.
If you try the above treatments for a week with no change, do please se
e a Podiatrist or your GP to discuss topical treatments, or other diagnoses.
8. Smelly feet. Again, look at your footwear. Synthetic materials will cause your feet to sweat. Wear socks, tights, footsies or stockings made of natural materials such as bamboo.
Cleanse your feet after showering and drying daily with an astringent, such as surgical spirit, or an antimicrobial such as Clinisept+ to help combat the bacterial or fungal overload which may be contributing to the bad smell. This list and the information within it is not exhaustive! There are gazillions of hints, tips and general or more specific advice an HCPC-qualified podiatrist can offer you. Please see the College of Podiatry (www.cop.org.uk) or Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (www.iocp.org.uk) websites to locate a colleague in your area. Or you can get in touch
with me! Disclaimer: If you are diabetic and/or a chronic smoker please have your feet assessed by a medical professional (such as a podiatrist, your GP or Practice Nurse) prior to undertaking any home treatments.