Looking after your feet is an absolute NECESSITY! Although some foot problems are caused by long-term conditions such as diabetes and inflammatory arthritis, so many issues can be avoided through proper care and attention.
Your guide to self care
Your feet should be washed, preferably every day, in warm soapy water
Long handled sponges are available for folks who need a little help getting down there https://www.cosyfeet.com/foot-comfort/bathing/toe-cleaner#.Xb4B1C-cbBU
You must dry feet carefully, particularly between the toes - cotton buds (I suggest you use environment-friendly https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/simply-gentle/simply-gentle-organic-cotton-buds/) or a dry face cloth may be easier to use than a towel. Fungus love a moist, warm environment, so if you’re prone to athlete’s foot, finish off by spritzing some surgical spirit between your toes, or apply it with some cotton wool (https://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/simply-gentle/simply-gentle-organic-cotton-wool-balls/)
* If you hate the smell of surgical spirit, pop a drop or two of lemon myrtle oil into the bottle. Lemon myrtle smells divine and is said to be more antibacterial and a better antifungal than tea tree oil; dual purpose!
For dry skin, use a moisturising cream daily. E45 is a good all-rounder. Steer clear of aqueous cream; once a GP favourite, it has been shown to thin the skin over time. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2011.10390.x
Avoid applying talc between the toes - it absorbs moisture, which can devitalise the skin and encourage an ideal environment for bacteria and fungus.
For thick, callused skin, with or without ‘cracks’ (fissures’), a moisturising cream containing
Nails grow at different rates from person to person, and even toe to toe! Your big toenails take approximately a year to grow from ‘root’ to tip.
If you find it difficult to cut your nails, file them weekly instead, to keep on top of the growth.
Keep your nails short - but not too short - cut your nails level with the top of your toe. Toenails that are allowed to overgrow will be damaged by repeated friction from footwear and can cause ingrown toenails and long-lasting damage to the nail.
Follow the shape of your toenail, but do not cut down the sides as this can lead to ingrown toenails (onychocryptosis).
10%+ urea is advised. Urea is a humectant, which means it draws moisture into the skin. Flexitol platinum is a great first port-of-call, but please treat any open fissures (saltwater baths) before commencing a creaming regime to avoid infection.
A barrier cream, such as Vaseline can also work well for dry, hard skin to the heels as this occludes the skin - retaining moisture in the epidermis.
For pure luxury, apply your desired cream to your feet at night and apply cotton socks. This allows the moisturiser to act on your skin overnight - you’ll wake up with beautifully smooth tootsies, and no remnants on your bedsheets!
You are more likely to develop Athlete’s foot if -
You have sweaty feet
You do not dry properly between your toes
You wear trainers, wellies or workboots all day that make your feet sweat
Wear nylon or polyester socks
Your skin may be itchy, it might be white and soggy between your toes - this can split and possibly bleed or lead to secondary bacterial infection, there may be red dots or a rash around the border of your feet.
Good hygiene. Wash your feet daily and dry properly between your toes
Wear clean socks every day; cotton is good, bamboo is better - and now very widely available.
Use surgical spirit between your toes
Do not share towels or footwear
Available without prescription, popular brands include Canesten®
and Daktarin® as creams, sprays or powders. Always follow the advice on the leaflet.
White vinegar is also a great anti-fungal; it alters the pH of the skin so the fungal spores cannot thrive.
If your fungal infection persists, speak to your GP or Podiatrist
It is common to experience ‘cold feet’; they are a long way away from your heart! This does not necessarily mean that you have poor circulation to your feet.
Exercising daily pumps your blood around your body and helps you to keep warm.
If you are prone to chilblains, you must endeavour to keep your feet warm and do not expose your feet to extremes of temperature; e.g. walking on a cold bathroom floor, or wearing flip flops in the snow (!!)
Gently massaging your feet helps to encourage blood flow.
Never place your feet directly in front of a fire, onto a radiator, hot water bottle or in very hot water. This is particularly important if you are diabetic and/or have any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.
Chilblain prevention is better than cure. Akileine winter cream forms a barrier over the skin to prevent chilblains. It has a cumulative effect so should be used in advance of chilblain season! Chilblain cream or Fryer’s balsam can be purchased from the chemist to treat unbroken chilblains and a steroid cream (1% hydrocortisone) may help with any itch. Broken chilblains should be treated as per any open wound. Consult a podiatrist if you have any concerns.
In some cases of poor peripheral circulation (blood flow in the smaller blood vessels) to the feet, your GP may prescribe Nifedipine. This medicine dilates the blood vessels, thereby improving blood flow.
If you have genuinely poor circulation secondary to vascular compromise (e.g. long term smoking, furring of the arteries), it is imperative you avoid injury to your feet as any cuts or abrasions will take a lot longer to heal, and could lead to ulceration, infection - and even amputation!
Choosing APPROPRIATE FOOTWEAR, treating INFECTIONS, footcare in DIABETES, OLD WIVES TALES and looking after your feet with INFLAMMATORY ARTHRITIS will be covered in the next FELICITY’S FOOTCARE 101 (part 2).
If you’ve any comments, queries or concerns, please get in touch!
Please check the label on any product mentioned here to ensure you are not allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients. For further advice, consult your pharmacist.