Sometimes, the answer to your problem feet may be as simple as a change of shoes. Here is some expert advice on the most common, everyday foot problems we tend to ignore.
Unlike other parts of your body, the feet have no oil glands to protect them against loss of moisture. Add friction from walking, and you can see why the heel can become so dry.
Painful: Shoes should have room to wiggle one’s toes.
Start by soaking your feet in warm water and gently rubbing away the dead skin with exfoliators such as foot files and pumice stones. “The body keeps shedding dead cells regularly and to avoid their accumulation, these products must be used regularly,” says Sampath Kumar, footcare specialist, Scholl India. Moisturize immediately after. Several times thicker than facial skin, the skin of your feet requires special products —a regular moisturizer may not do the trick.
Healthy feet can do with a pedicure “at an interval of 15-30 days, depending on the situation of one’s feet,” says Gulshant Panesar, consultant, dermatology, at Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi.
Calluses and corn
Excessive pressure and friction can cause calluses. Kumar says, “Typically, a foot has three pressure points—heel, ball of foot and toe axle. The heel and the ball of the foot take nearly all of the pressure,” which is why these are the most vulnerable to calluses. Additional pressure on calluses can turn these into corns, conical formations that press on the nerve endings painfully.
Corn caps or medicated pads containing salicylic acid (to remove the corn) are often suggested. However, Govind Singh Bisht, consultant, podiatry, Max Healthcare, New Delhi, does not recommend corn caps or callus pads because he feels they aren’t as reliable, or as quick as surgery. A minor surgical intervention is your best bet, he says, but some after-care is needed. “Once you get calluses or corns scraped off, any kind of pressure on the hard skin needs to be avoided, since further erosion can result in oozing of blood and/or formation of an abscess,” Dr Bisht says.
Pushing into the flesh at the sides of your toes, ingrown nails are not just painful, but can cause infection too. To prevent them, says Pratip Mandal, consultant, sports medicine, Moolchand Orthopaedics Hospital, New Delhi: “Nail cutting should be done straight across. Cutting it around the edges can cause ingrown toenails and the nail can bite into the skin or nail bed...causing pus formation.”
Another possible cause is wearing very tight shoes, he adds, advising that there should always be room to wiggle one’s toes.
If you think you might be developing ingrown nails, then while the nail is wet, “after a soak or a shower, put pressure on the nails using the thumb”, says Dr Bisht. “This will allow the nails to flatten a bit.”
Toeing the Line
“Heels up to 2 inches are fine. But anything more, and the torso will start to tilt forward to balance the body,” says Sampath Kumar. The result? Lower back pain and a burning sensation in the heel area.
The simple solution is to avoid heels. Gulshan Panesar says, “High heels should be avoided as it makes (for) unequal distribution of the body weight for (a) prolonged time.” Shoes should also provide support to the arch of the feet, he adds. Thin soles are, therefore, a no-no. He also advises against shoes or sandals with pointed toes.
Purchase new footwear later in the day, as that’s when feet tend to be at their largest. Besides, feet sore after a whole day’s work are primed to feel the comfort (or discomfort) of that new pair more.
Nail files help avoid accumulation of dirt under nails. Long nails let bacteria accumulate in the corners. However, S.K. Bose, senior consultant, dermatology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, emphasizes that it’s best not to be overzealous with sharp instruments pushed under the nail, but stick to gentle cleaning regularly.
Kumar suggests an odour-control foot powder, especially if you sweat a lot. Make sure to apply between the toes, where moisture pools, increasing the odds of a fungal infection.
Also make sure any swimming pools you go into are well chlorinated. Dr Bose suggests an anti-fungal foot wash, followed by an anti-fungal cream, after swimming. Betadine soap is also effective. If you use the showers, sauna or jacuzzi at your gym or health club, take similar precautions.