Footcare February - Taking care of your feet

While most of us are very particular about taking care of our facial skin, hair, and even hands; feet care is often relegated to the last spot on our list of body care priorities. Come to think of it, we apply moisturizers and cold creams on our facial skin several times a day, but we tend to ignore our feet for days at a stretch. Ignoring the feet can have painful consequences including bacterial or fungal infections, corns, cracked skin, and bad odor, among others. In winters, especially when the skin becomes chapped and dry all over the body, it becomes even more important to pamper your feet once in a while. Healthy feet are important for feeling good and staying active. So if you neglect your feet, that can lead to unnecessary pain and other foot problems. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to keep your feet healthy. Use these tips to keep yourself active and your feet pain-free.

1. Washing
Feet skin is most susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections since it is cloaked in socks and shoes for a major part of the day, or exposed to dust and grime. The skin between the toes is a perfect place for bacterial and fungal infections to flourish if it is not washed and cleaned properly. It is therefore very important to soap and washes your feet once every day to ensure the locked-in dirt and sweat is cleaned off.

2. Keeping Them Dry
The athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the feet which causes itching, burning, peeling of the skin, and in some cases may also cause painful blisters. Dampness is a perfect environment for fungal infections like athlete's foot to thrive. Drying the feet, especially the area between the toes is very essential after every wash, especially if you are wearing socks and shoes immediately afterward.

3. Moisturizing
Don't limit your moisturizing routine to just your face and hands. Lack of moisture can leave your feet' skin dry, scaly, and chapped. The chapped skin can then become extremely dry and hard especially on the heels. This area can then become a magnet for dirt and grime which will start sticking to it. Chapped heals do not just have an unseemly appearance but can also be painful. Make sure you apply a generous dose of moisturizing agent on your feet every day after washing your feet. Cocoa butter or petroleum jelly can be good options.

4. Removing Jagged Skin
Moisturising dead skin will not serve any purpose. It is important to remove the dead layer first by exfoliation once every month. This can be done with pumice stones or loofas, but mildly. It also helps remove the dirt and grime stuck to the hardened dead skin. Follow it with a hydrating moisturizer and leave it overnight.

Scrubbing can also be done with the mixture of sugar and olive oil, with a few drops of mint or tea tree oil added to it for anti-bacterial properties.

5. Cut your toenails 
Cut nails straight across and avoid trimming too close to the skin or drastically rounding the corners of the nails, which can cause painful ingrown toenails. Also, don’t hide “ugly” toenails with polish. A discolored, thick, cracked, or crumbling nail could signal a nail fungus. Applying nail polish to an infected nail could make the problem worse.

6. Occasional Pampering
Leave your feet soaked in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes twice a month. This helps soften the skin. Then rub the feet mildly, dry them thoroughly and apply Vitamin-E-rich cold cream. If your feet are susceptible to infections and inflammations, use an anti-bacterial cream.

You can also use a mashed banana mixed with lemon juice as a hydrating mask. Apply it all over your feet and wash it with warm water after 20 minutes. Apply moisturizing foot cream or petroleum jelly before going out and when you go to sleep. It is also very important to keep yourself hydrated in the winters because cold weather, high winds, and hot central heating combined together can take away the moisture from your skin. So it is important to drink plenty of water for the skin.

7. Wearing Socks
Wearing socks is not only important to protect you from the cold but also to protect your feet against environmental damage. Socks shield the feet against dust and dirt which might stick to the cream applied to the feet. They also protect against UV radiation.

8. Wearing Comfortable Shoes
Always remember to wear shoes that you are comfortable in. Avoid wearing tight shoes as this may lead to skin infections or sores. 

9. Examine your feet for problems
Perform a foot self-exam once a week when you take a bath or shower. As you’re drying off your feet, take a good look at the soles for any scaling and between your toes for peeling areas. That could signal an athlete’s foot. Also look for discoloration of the nails, which could indicate a nail fungus. If you have diabetes, you should inspect your feet every day since diabetes leads to a higher risk of foot sores and infections.

10. Know when to see a doctor
Don’t attempt to self-treat painful foot woes. Any pain, redness, swelling, or discoloration that persists should be checked out by a physician. Usually, the problem can be cleared up with prescription medicine or a minor in-office procedure. Allowing a doctor to look will help prevent minor problems from becoming major ones.

Your feet work hard for you, and taking care of them is essential for overall health. But feet are often the last thing we think about when assessing our health. It’s time we all start paying more attention, and providing some common sense care, to our feet.