We’ve been waiting months for this big moment: that glorious time of the year when we all get to ditch the boots, fuzzy socks and slippers for glorious sandals, bare feet and sexy summer toes. Except…what if your toes aren’t exactly looking their sexiest right now?
Feet are a complicated thing. With 42 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, at least 50 ligaments and more than 250,000 sweat glands (*shudder*), feet have a lot of components that need maintenance. So how do you keep them healthy?
Shoes are obviously the most important thing when it comes to foot health. Wearing the wrong size or shape for your feet can cause them to morph, blister, callous and burn. But keeping feet clean, dry and primped is a surefire way to ensure yours are as pretty (and healthy!) as possible.
Need a little more than a pedicure? Here are some common foot ailments, and how to healthily treat ’em.
We’ve all had them. Whether on the tops of our toes, bottoms of our feet or on our heels, blisters are one of the most common (and unsightly) foot mishaps. They occur from walking long distances or wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, and are a painful reminder for days to come that sometimes sensible shoes are, in fact, the sensible choice. Sorry, pretty pumps.
If you have one (or two), don’t pick at it. Instead, clean the area as best as possible and then sterilize a sewing needle in an antibacterial solution. Prick the most bottom part of the blister to drain it, then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a bandaid for minimal scarring.
Not to be confused with that delightful snack Funyuns, bunions occur when the big toe begins to turn inwards, creating a painful angle on your foot. Unfortunately, these things are hereditary and depend on foot shape and size, but wearing high heels or constrictive footwear does aggravate the problem.
Got one? Get yourself a gel-filled pad to help cushion your shoe, and be sure not to make the problem any worse with tight footwear. If the pain becomes too much, definitely see a podiatrist or your family doctor.
CORNS AND CALLUSES
These unsightly feet problems occur when a bony area of the foot (corns) or the underside (calluses) are continuously rubbed. If you want to make yours better, all you need is a little TLC. Soak feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes to soften them up, then gently exfoliate with a pumice stone to smooth them out. Slather on some peppermint foot cream and thick socks, and let it all soak in overnight. Moleskin or a gel padding can also help.
What you don’t want to do is scrape or cut the skin off yourself. Even though such tools are commonly sold at drugstores, do you really want to use something that looks like a cheese grater on your own skin? One bad nick or too much skin down can easily lead to infection.
Painful and unsightly, ingrown toenails can be a small problem or might even require surgery depending on the severity. To prevent one, be sure to clip your toenails straight across, and to use an actual toenail clipper (as opposed to the smaller fingernail clippers you can get). Also try not to cut your nails too short when you’re trimming them down. Otherwise, the corners or sides will dig into the skin, and suddenly you’re in a world of ugly pain.
If you do get one, soak your feet in warm salt water three or four times a week for 20 minutes at a time. Afterwards, place some cotton or dental floss underneath the nail to prevent it from digging into the skin. Follow up with some ointment to help prevent bacteria build-up. If you have any circulation problems, skip this step and head straight to the doc’s. Since feet don’t get great circulation to begin with, people with these types of problems are more prone to infections.
Yellow or white patches of fungus on your toenails are definitely not a great way to start your summer. It’s no wonder the ancient Egyptians used crocodile poop to help treat these things. The good news is that often this fungus can be filed off, and treated with a topical, over-the-counter antifungal cream.
Unfortunately most ointments can’t penetrate the nail itself so the fungus can return. But eating a well-balanced diet and keeping feet clean and dry should help. You can also try treating infected areas with tea tree oil, or by soaking feet in a warm vinegar water bath several times a week. Whatever you do, don’t apply nail polish — even though it might help to hide unsightly toes, it actually traps in the moisture and makes the problem worse.
ATHLETES FOOT/FOOT FUNGUS
Ah, the old foot fungus. You might not even know you have it until one day you wake up and the cracks between your toes are actually cracked, sore and bleeding. Athlete’s foot sneaks up on you. It’s caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, dark and moist environments — such as inside the sweaty sock of an athlete, perhaps? You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer from it though. That itching, burning, peeling feeling — coupled with a slight odour — can affect anyone. To avoid it, change your socks and shoes regularly, and be sure to dry your feet off really well after the shower. That includes drying off that area between the toes.
If you’ve got athlete’s foot, try soaking your feet in warm water with freshly minced garlic (which contains natural fungus-fighting properties). Then, apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream or Polysporin to the infected area. And if it gets any worse, be sure to see your doctor or a podiatrist.