Although our feet are one of the most used parts of our bodies, they're often one of the most neglected. They can come under enormous strain simply by carrying our body weight whenever we walk, stand, jump or run. To keep yours healthy, it's important to establish a regular footcare routine.
The anatomy of your feet
Feet are flexible structures, made up of bones, joints, muscles and tendons. These control movement and allow you to stand, walk, jump, and go up on your toes.
Looking after your feet is really important as not only can foot problems cause you a lot of discomfort, but they can also affect your mobility and trigger all sorts of other issues such as knee, hip and back pain.
Common foot problems
Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that generally occurs between the toes, causing dry, flaking red and irritated skin
Blisters are a painful pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, usually caused by forceful rubbing or friction on the foot
Bunions are a deformity of the base joint of the big toe. This causes a bump on the side at the base of the big toe, which can become inflamed, swollen and painful
Calluses and corns
Calluses and corns are a build-up of hard skin, normally on the balls of the feet or on the heel, which occurs where there is frequent pressure or friction
Foot odour is an unpleasant smell caused when sweat on the foot mixes with bacteria from the skin. If you wear socks and shoes that don't allow your feet to breathe, moisture can get trapped and bacteria starts growing
A fungal infection is the growth of a fungus between the toe and the nail, causing the nail to discolour, thicken and crumble
An ingrown toenail occurs when one or both sides of the nail grows into the skin
A verruca is a viral infection of the foot that creates a painful area of hardened skin. Verrucas are highly contagious and are spread through skin contact with contaminated surfaces, like communal showers or changing room floors
Follow a footcare routine
Many of these problems can be avoided if you follow a healthy footcare routine. For example, always:
• Clean and dry your feet properly. Wash your feet in warm, soapy water daily. Make sure you dry them thoroughly afterwards, especially between the toes, which is where fungal infections can develop
• Remove hard skin. Avoid the build-up of thick and painful hard skin over time by using a foot file or pumice stone to gently get rid of any dead skin cells, especially on the heels
• Moisturise. Apply a specially formulated foot cream each evening and wear a cotton pair of socks overnight to trap in moisture
• Cut your toenails regularly. Trim your toenails regularly using proper nail clippers. Cut straight across, never at an angle or down the edges
• Wear shoes that fit well. Shoes that are too small or too big can both cause friction and pressure and create problems for your feet
• Change your socks often. After exercise, always wash your feet and change your socks. Walking around in sweaty socks encourages the growth of bacteria and fungal infections
Don’t put up with foot pain – if your routine footcare doesn’t solve the problem then always seek expert advice from a podiatrist, your doctor or pharmacist.