Just because your feet are usually hidden from view, that's no excuse for not taking good care of them. Especially as you grow older, your feet become vulnerable to a variety of problems that are easily treated if caught early, but become troublesome - even dangerous - if neglected. And if you are diabetic, your feet need extra special attention.
Here are some tips to keep your feet healthy:
- Keep your feet clean and dry: Wash your feet every day in warm water. Foot spas can be used to soak and wash your feet but don't soak them for more than 10 minutes to avoid dry skin. Pat your feet dry and be sure to dry between and under the toes. For feet that perspire, dust lightly with talcum powder, for really sweaty feet, use an over-the-counter antiperspirant.
- Moisturize dry, cracked skin: Use lubricating moisterizer on your feet but don't put any between the toes; remove any that gets between your toes to avoid skin breakdown.
- Check your feet daily: Take a good look at your feet and toenails to see whether they are healthy looking. If you have a problem, consult the trouble-shooting chart below or see your doctor/podiatrist.
- Wear only well-fitted shoes: Make sure that your shoes allow for sufficient space (1.5 cm) between your big toe and the tip (don't wear shoes with pointy toes) and that they provide your feet with good support. Throw away worn-out exercise shoes. Never borrow other people's shoes. And when you're at home, take off your shoes, let them dry inside, and expose your feet to the air as much as possible.
- Wear only comfortable socks: Wear cotton socks (synthetic fibres tend to make feet sweat), avoid tight socks or knee-highs, as they can restrict blood circulation. Change your socks daily and whenever they are damp from sweat or if your feet get wet.
- Care for your toenails: Cut or file toenails straight across and never shorter than the end of your toe. File down thicker areas and don't cut out or dig toenails.
- Don't walk in barefeet in public areas: Instead, wear "flip-flops," sandals, or water shoes.
See your doctor/podiatrist immediately if:
- an injury doesn't heal or becomes infected
- any part of your foot or leg turns blue or black
- your feet feel painful when walking and then relieved by rest
- your feet become less sensitive to pain or extreme temperatures
- you feel any unusual coldness, cramping, numbness, tingling, or discomfort in your feet.
If you have trouble with your feet, the chances are the problems are caused by one or more of the following:
Troubleshooting Common Foot Problems:
|Thickened skin in spots||Calluses|
|Debris has collected beneath toenails; nail colour has changed (to yellow or brown); nail has thickened, turned clawlike (down-curved), or fissured||Fungal infection (e.g., onychomycosis)|
|Pain between toes||Corns|
|Foot pain, stiffness, swelling, and a grinding sensation, particularly after prolonged activity||Osteoarthritis|
|Joint of the big toe is red, swollen, and painful||Gout|
|Skin on feet, especially between toes, has turned white, is cracked, peeling, itchy||Athlete's foot|
|Smelly feet||Hormones, fungi, bacteria|
|Sore feet, especially the soles||Plantar keratoses|
|Sweaty feet||Some people's feet sweat more than others|
|Warts on the soles of feet||Plantar warts|
|Flat feet, hammertoes, foot injury, etc.||Biomechanical problems|
Note: If you have an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, your feet are more vulnerable to infections of all kinds: Consult your doctor about a specialized foot care plan.