YOUR FEET MUST LAST A LIFETIME. Most Americans log an amazing 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach age 50. Regular foot care can make sure your feet are up to the task.
Just as you would not go a day without brushing your teeth, you should not go a day without taking care of your feet. Check your feet daily for cuts, sores, swelling and infected toenails. Clean them with warm water and soap when you bathe and dry them well. Fungal organisms that cause infections love moisture; depriving them of wetness makes it more difficult for fungal infections to thrive. Be sure to dry well between the toes; any excess moisture here creates a great environment for a fungal infection. Avoid soaking your feet unless ordered to do so by your podiatrist. As you dry your feet, take a good look at the soles for scaling and between your toes for peeling areas. This could signal athlete’s foot. Look for discoloration of the nails, which could indicate a nail fungus. People with diabetes should inspect their feet daily since they have a higher risk of foot sores and infections.
Moisturize your feet every day with lotion, cream or petroleum jelly, but don’t put moisturizer between your toes. Trim your toenails straight across with a nail clipper and avoid trimming too close to the skin. Trimming them straight across prevents toenails from growing into your skin (ingrown toenail). Use an emery board or nail file to gently smooth the corners.
Protect your feet in public areas. Wear shower shoes at the gym, in locker rooms and at public pools, which tend to be breeding grounds for fungi that can cause infections. Avoid sharing footgear. You can get fungal infections by wearing other people’s shoes or socks. This includes rentals.
Your feet have sweat glands galore, about 250,000 in each foot. Perspiration creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Choose breathable footwear to keep feet dry; socks made of synthetic fibers wick away moisture faster than cotton or wool. Avoid wearing excessively tight pantyhose, which trap moisture. To keep your feet dry and healthy, wear shoes made of leather to allow air to circulate. If you’re prone to excessively sweaty feet, look for shoes made of mesh fabrics for maximum breathability.
Your shoes should fit properly and should not hurt your feet. Shoes that are too tight can cause long-term foot problems. Especially wear comfortable shoes when traveling. Shop for shoes at the end of the day to compensate for foot swelling that occurs later in the day, and wear the same type of socks or hosiery you’ll wear with the shoes. Choose a broad, rounded shoe with plenty of room for your toes and a wide, stable heel. Avoid pointy shoes, which can cramp your toes and cause ingrown toenails and calluses. Break in your shoes for two weeks before traveling. Skip the flip-flops and flats since they do not provide enough arch support. Rotate your shoes so you do not wear the same pair every day.
Pedicures are fine provided the operators are licensed and the establishment is clean, with no board of health violations. If you have diabetes or poor circulation in your feet, consult a podiatrist who can recommend a customized pedicure you and your salon can follow for optimal foot health. Schedule your pedicure first thing in the morning; salon foot baths are typically cleanest earlier in the day. Make sure the salon filters and cleans the foot bath between clients. Bring your own pedicure utensils. Bacteria and fungi can move easily from one person to the next if the salon doesn’t properly sterilize tools. Resist the urge to shave your legs before receiving a pedicure. Freshly shaven legs or small cuts on your legs may allow bacteria to enter. If you are receiving a pedicure and manicure, don’t use the same tools for both services, as bacteria and fungi can transfer between fingers and toes.
Emery boards are extremely porous and can trap germs that spread. Since they can’t be sterilized, don’t share nail files with friends, and bring your own unless you are sure the salon replaces them for each customer. Because cuticles serve as a protective barrier against bacteria, don’t ever cut them, which increases the risk of infection. If you suffer from thick and discolored toenails, don’t apply nail polish to cover up the problem. If the problem persists, visit your podiatrist. It could be a sign of a fungal infection.
See a podiatrist whenever your feet hurt. Do not attempt to self-treat painful foot woes; you may make the problem worse. A podiatric physician should check any persistant pain, redness, swelling or discoloration. Find a podiatrist who is board-certified and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association. There are at least eight types of board certifications in podiatry. Make an appointment and be prepared to tell your podiatrist about the foot problems you are experiencing. Usually the problem can be cleared up with prescription medicine or a minor in-office procedure. A podiatrist can help prevent minor problems from becoming major ones.
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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