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In summer we like to show off our feet, but in winter they're hidden inside our shoes and boots. Unfortunately this may exacerbate some foot problems. Here are tips on how to deal with these problems at home, as well as a recipe for a foot lotion.
Our feet consist of 52 bones which are 25% of the body's total number of bones. Together with 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles of each foot, our feet absorb about five times our body weight in pressure every day. No wonder that we need to take special care of our feet to keep them in good working order for the rest of our lives!
Calluses and corns
Calluses and corns form when the skin of the feet is exposed to friction and pressure, leading to areas of hard, thickened skin. Calluses usually form on the soles of the feet and on the heels, whereas corns usually from on the toes where shoes press and rub against bone.
Treat these problems by avoiding shoes that pinch or cramp your toes and use insoles and moleskin pads for protection. Soak calluses and corns in warm water and rub them with a towel or pumice stone daily until the thickened skin has been removed. Use a foot lotion to keep skin soft.
Bunions and hammer toes
A bunion is a swelling caused by a misshapen joint at the base of the big toe. A hammer toe is one that bends up permanently at the middle joint of the toe.
Home treatment usually cannot get rid of bunions and hammer toes but may help keep them from getting worse. To get relief, wear low healed, roomy shoes with a wide toe box and good arch support. Cushion the area with pads to prevent rubbing and irritation. Around the house, wear soft shoes that have been cut out at the areas pressing against the bunion or hammertoe. Sometimes surgery to correct this problem is an option.
Ingrown toenails are caused when the edge of the nail grows into the skin at the edge of the toe. It is usually the big toenail that is affected.
To prevent this, wear shoes with a wide shoe box and keep feet clean and dry. Cut toenails straight across and leave the nails a little longer at the sides so that the sharps ends do not cut into the flesh. For pain relief, soak the feet in an Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes twice a day.
Athlete's foot is a common fungal skin infection with symptoms of cracked, blistered and peeling skin between the toes, itching and redness and scaling on the soles of the feet.
To prevent athlete's foot, keep the feet clean, cool and dry, especially between the toes. Wear shower sandals in public pools and showers. Wear shoes or sandals that allow feet to "breathe" and cotton socks. Use an over-the-counter antifungal spray or cream for two weeks after the infection has cleared to prevent reinfection.
Plantar warts are caused by a virus infection. They appear on the soles of the feet looking like a little piece of cauliflower with tiny dark spots.
Apply an over-the-counter wart removing product containing salicylic acid. For some people, it helps to keep the wart covered with a small piece of duct tape, changing it daily, until the area of infected skin peels off (at least two weeks). It is thought that the duct tape diminishes oxygen to that area of the skin. Sometimes warts appear and disappear spontaneously, but it can take months or even years to get rid of them. They can also be surgically removed by a doctor.
Foot odour can be an embarrassment. It is made worse by closed shoes or boots and sweaty feet. Rubbing cornstarch or antiperspirant directly on the soles of feet, wearing moisture-wicking socks, and avoiding wearing the same shoes two days in a row, may help. An antibacterial product sprayed directly into the shoes may kill the bacteria that cause the odour.
When the thick, fibrous tissue that covers the bottom of the foot and connects the heel to the base of the toes becomes inflamed, it is known as plantar fasciitis. Athletes, middle-aged people and those who are overweight tend to suffer from this condition.
For relief, reduce the activity to a level that does not cause pain. Do low-impact exercises until healed. Do not run, walk or jog on hard surfaces. Do daily stretches. Apply ice to the heel twice a day. Take painkillers if necessary.
A neuroma is a swelling of a nerve, commonly one that connects the third and fourth toes. The burning or tingling pain is felt in the front of the foot between the toes or in the ball of the foot.
To feel better, keep off your feet, wear roomy shoes, and take a painkiller or anti-inflammatory medication.
General foot care
Please note: If you suffer from diabetes, you need to take extra care of your feet. Because you may have reduced feeling in your feet, you should inspect them regularly for small cuts, bruises, sores and ingrown toenails that may become infected. Work gently when you care for your feet.