Spring is finally here, and summer is fast approaching. I know its traditionally time to spring clean your house, but what about your feet. Now winter is over, we can ditch the thick socks and enclosed shoes but are your feet ready?
Dry skin & Callus build-up
If you’ve noticed your skin is dry in winter one of the reasons is the change in humidity levels, cold air holds less moisture than warm air, and this causes the water in our skin to evaporate faster leading to dry and flaky skin. Another reason is we tend to have long hot baths or showers in winter which removes a lot of our skins’ natural oils.
As winter is spent in enclosed shoes, bony prominences on your feet may have been irritated by constant rubbing or pressure leading to callus formation. Callus is a thickening of the outer layer of skin and common causes include ill-fitting shoes (narrow toe-box or high heels), abnormal foot structure (bunions), abnormal gait patterns (the way you walk) or high activity levels.
In preparation for summer replenish your skin with the daily application of a moisturising cream specifically formulated for feet. We recommend a urea-containing foot cream as this is the ingredient which allows the moisturising properties to penetrate the callus and tough dry skin. Excessive callus can become painful when weight-bearing or with pressure from shoes – if this is the case or you’re adverse to unsightly callus in sandals attend a podiatry appointment for removal and specific advice on foot care.
In summer many people suffer from cracked heels this if often due to walking barefoot, wearing thongs or open-backed sandals which allow the fat pad under your heel to expand sideways – if your skin has less elasticity (dry skin) this extra sideways pressure will cause the skin to split. As above, we recommend the daily use of a urea-containing foot cream and a pumicestone twice a week to reduce callus build-up. If your cracked heels have become too hard to manage it is a great idea to see a podiatrist as cracked heels can become a worry as they allow an entry point for possible infection.
Corns are smaller than callus and have a hard centre or core, the surrounding skin can become inflamed which is painful. Corns are also caused by abnormal pressure but concentrated to a small area. The abnormal pressure may not be obviously uncomfortable as it could be light friction over several weeks. For example, if two of your toes sit too close together and touch you may not notice the excess pressure until a painful corn appears in between them. A podiatrist will remove the corn and discus ways you can reduce the abnormal pressure at the site.
Thickened & discoloured toenails
Over time you may notice that your toenails thicken, you might not like the look of this, but it can also be a problem if it rubs against the top of your shoe or pushes against the surrounding skin. There are a few causes of thickened toenails including an obvious injury (dropping something on your toe can cause permanent damage to the toenail base or bed), repetitive pressure from tight or ill-fitting shoes, older age, certain disease (reduced blood flow to the feet or skin conditions such as psoriasis) or you might have a fungal nail infection!
Constantly wearing enclosed shoes in winter can create a dark and moist environment ideal for a fungal infection of the skin (Tinea) or toenails (onychomycosis) to develop. A fungal toenail infection will often cause thickening, a yellow or brown discolouration and the toenail to be brittle or white and crumble. Whilst fungal nail infections aren’t normally painful, they aren’t pretty and can spread! It is best to get professional advice on treatment options.
Lastly, people often ask about correct toenail cutting technique. All you need is good eyesight, flexibility to reach your toes and a good quality pair of clean nail clippers. It is best to cut straight across your toenail according to its natural shape (not down the sides of your toenail), leaving a free edge of approximately 2mm and then use a file to round the corners slightly. If you’re toenails have become difficult to trim because they’re thickened or hardened podiatrists have multiple tools to combat this.
With less than a month left until summer and ‘sandal weather’ book a podiatry appointment today to Spring Clean Your Feet!