Our feet are extremely important. They are our main support when we stand and they help us keep our balance and maintain proper posture. When we walk, they move us forward with every step and absorb the shock from contact with the ground.
As such, any issues with our feet can prevent us from enjoying an active life, due to the aches and discomfort they cause. To compensate for their impact, we also tend to adopt poor posture, leading to more pain in the knees, hips or back. Here are ways to ease these common problems.
Foot care basics for healthy feet
- Carefully wash your feet every day and dry them well, especially between the toes.
- Trim your nails straight across (not curved) and never shorter than the end of your toe.
- Buy proper-fitting shoes with a rounded tip, low heel and made with material that lets skin breathe (e.g. leather or canvas).
- Always wear sandals in locker rooms, common showers and public pools.
- If you experience persistent pain or issues with your feet, consult a qualified health professional: doctor, podiatrist, foot care nurse, etc.
Solutions for common foot problems
Dry feet. Cracked skin on the toes and heels is a sign of dry feet. To moisturize them, use a cream formulated with urea or lactic acid, available over the counter. Face and body moisturizers do not work, because they cannot effectively penetrate the skin on the arch and heel.
Calluses. They generally develop on the heel or under the ball of the foot, where they form hard, rough plaques, often yellowish and cracked. You can alleviate this problem by gently exfoliating the affected areas with a pumice stone or exfoliating file, once or twice a week. Over-the-counter products formulated with salicylic acid also help to remove calluses.
Corns. They are round or cone-shaped build-ups of skin on or between toes. Salicylic acid plasters sold over the counter are generally effective at removing them.
If your corn or callus treatment fails, do not attempt to remove them with a sharp instrument. Talk to a health professional instead.
Athlete's foot. It is a fungal infection that affects skin between and underneath the toes, causing redness, peeling, itching and irritation. It can be treated with non-prescription antifungal agents or prescription drugs.
Plantar warts. They are small, rough outgrowths under the foot. To eliminate them, you can use a product formulated with salicylic acid or a cryogenic formula (freeze therapy), both available over the counter. For more stubborn warts, a doctor or podiatrist can also prescribe stronger treatments.
Ingrown toenails. A nail that digs into the surrounding skin is known as an ingrown toenail. When caught early, the problem can be solved by correcting the curvature of the nail. To do this, podiatrists (or other qualified health professionals) use a technique called “orthonyx.” If the nail bed shows signs of infection, seek the advice of a doctor or podiatrist as soon as possible.
Bunions. Known medically as hallux valgus, bunions result from a progressive deformity of the bone that causes the big toe to deviate toward the smaller ones. This, in turn, leads to the formation of a bump at the joint.
Custom-fitted orthotics help to stop and reverse the deviation. Protective cushions available at the pharmacy can also be placed on the bunion to relieve pain.
If you think you have a bunion, see a doctor or podiatrist as soon as possible. Over time, bunions can get worse and require surgery.
Flat feet. This condition involves the collapse of the arch of the foot. The problem is generally hereditary and can hinder the foot’s proper functioning when standing or walking. It also causes pain in the knees and back. Custom-fitted orthotics are used to remedy it.
Over-the-counter foot care and treatment products are safe and effective when used as directed. They may not be suitable for everyone, however, especially if you have diabetes.
Before trying such products, talk to your family parmacist for information about indications for use, precautions and contraindications.