It’s that time of the year when we could get our feet out, but our feet aren’t quite ready to embrace being on view! After a winter of boots, thick socks and extremes of temperature it’s little wonder our feet might not be ready for their close up.
“When summer comes around, some of us don’t look forward to getting our feet out on show, especially if we suffer from conditions such as dry skin, cracked heels and blisters which can go untreated over the winter months,” says Boots UK Pharmacist Janky Raja. “Don’t worry, as many of these common problems are easily identifiable and there are plenty of products available to help you address them. There’s no need to shy away from your favourite sandals!”
Here are Janky’s top tips on how to help combat the most commonly experienced conditions.
Dry skin can build up on your feet due to a lack of moisture, which can occur if your feet are often in closed shoes, or from the friction caused by running or walking.
“This can be exacerbated during the summer months, when the skin is more at risk of becoming dehydrated,” explains Janky. Dry, cracked skin can usually be treated using over-the-counter methods and products. “Remember to moisturise all over the feet except for between the toes. Look for products containing urea, which is effective at softening skin. To gently remove hard skin, try using a pumice stone or foot file.”
If you’re concerned about dry skin you’re getting on your feet or elsewhere, visit your GP who will be able to help you identify and tackle the cause. If you have diabetes, heart disease or problems with your circulation, speak to your doctor about concerns with very dry, cracked skin on your feet as it could be a sign of complications.
Read on: If you have cracked heels try these tips
Summer means a change in footwear and new shoes, especially ones which might be worn without socks, can often mean blisters. Caused by friction they are usually harmless, blisters can be painful and aren’t the most attractive condition either. To help avoid getting blisters, ensure your shoes are well-fitting and try to break them in gradually. “If you start to notice one developing, cover it with a soft dressing and don’t be tempted to burst it,” advises Janky. “Blisters will normally burst on their own – to prevent scarring, don’t pick at the remaining skin and keep the area covered up to help prevent infection. If your blister is red, sore and filled with yellow/green pus then it may be infected, in which case, see your GP.”
Bunions differ from other foot afflictions because they are a deformity. They occur at the base joint of the big toe, which causes a bump on the side of the toe which can become inflamed, swollen and painful. They can cause discomfort and make it tricky to find shoes that fit well. “To help ease the pain of bunions, you should wear well-fitting shoes with laces or straps that can be adjusted to the width of your foot and avoid wearing high-heels,” says Janky. “You could also try applying padding over the bunion to cushion it and use ice packs to help reduce pain and swelling. If at-home treatments don’t ease the discomfort, you may want to consult your GP for further treatment.” This can include surgery in the most severe cases.
You don’t have to be sports crazy to fall foul of athlete’s foot.It’s actually a common fungal infection which usually occurs on the skin between your toes and can also affect the skin on the soles and sides of your feet. “It’s unlikely to get better on its own, but there are a variety of antifungal treatments available in the form of creams, sprays and powders which you can get from your local pharmacy,” says Janky. You need to find the one which works best for you and give the condition time to clear.
“These can take some weeks to work, so whilst undergoing treatment, make sure to also follow good habits such as drying your feet well after washing them, airing your feet often by not wearing your shoes when possible and wearing clean, cotton socks every day.”
It’s important to remember that athlete’s foot is highly contagious, so make sure not to share towels or clothing whilst you have the infection. If you can’t seem to shift it with over-the-counter treatments then see your GP as there are further medications which might help.
Whilst fungal nail infections can develop on their own, usually, they are caused by the fungi which causes athlete’s foot infecting the toenails. “The fungi live harmlessly on your skin but in some circumstances, they can multiply which can lead to an infection. If you’ve noticed your nails thickening or changing colour, then you could be experiencing a fungal nail infection,” explains Janky. These won’t clear up by themselves, so if the affected nails are causing you discomfort, or you’re bothered by their appearance, then speak to a pharmacist about the treatment options available. “Over-the-counter products are most effective during the early stages of infection and are usually applied to the nail as a polish or solution,” says Janky. “If your problems persist or spread to other nails, visit your GP. If you have diabetes, then ensure you see a GP or foot specialist.”
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If any of your toes are red, swollen and sore, you might be suffering with an ingrown toenail. “These occurring when the toenail grows down into the side of the toe, ingrown toenails are one of the most common foot related problems,” says Janky. “The big toe is usually affected but it can occur on any toe.” They are often hereditary, but can also be caused by improper trimming, incorrectly sized footwear or trauma to the area. You can try to treat them yourself by soaking your foot in warm water 3 to 4 times a day to soften the skin, helping to prevent the nail from growing into your skin. Wear comfortable shoes and abstain from cutting or picking the nail to allow it to grow out. If this doesn’t work then you need to see a doctor to tackle the problem.