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Summer Feet

Summer’s coming – time to let your feet shine

After months of being snuggled inside furry boots and cosseted in thick socks, it’s time to take a peek at your feet and give them a makeover for summer.

The College of Podiatry’s annual Feet for Life Month in June is the perfect time to give your tootsies some care for this season’s outing. Here’s our A-Z of looking after your feet:

Arch pain – flip-flops and flimsy sandals provide no/little arch support and constant wear can cause pain. Alternate your footwear so that this style of footwear isn't worn permanently.

Blisters – strike more often in hot weather. They’re caused by rubbing, especially between the toes if you’re wearing flip-flops with ‘thongs’. Prevent blisters by stretching out sandals. Wear them with socks and walk around indoors to loosen them up. Or use foot balm to protect your skin from chaffing.   If you do get a blister, don’t pop it. Cover it in a plaster and if it bursts, apply some antiseptic.

Bunions - a condition where the big toe is angled excessively towards the second toe and a bony prominence develops on the side of the big toe.  The condition is genetic and is not helped by wearing narrow shoes with pointed toes. Some treatments can ease the pain of bunions such as padding in the shoes, but only surgery can correct the defect. If you experience frequent pain, see a podiatrist.

Corns and calluses – occur as a result of pressure on the foot. Corns appear over a bony prominence such as a joint and a callus usually occurs on the sole of the foot. Do not cut corns yourself; especially if you are elderly or diabetic and do not use corn plasters or paints which can easily burn the healthy tissue around the corns.  Commercially available cures should only be used following professional advice. Calluses can usually be kept at bay by using a pumice stone or non-metal foot file gently in the bath.

Diabetics - need to be especially careful in the summer. If a diabetic suffers from a condition called peripheral neuropathy, (numbness or tingling in their feet), cuts or injury to the skin are less likely to be felt e.g. by stepping on a thorn, piece of glass, splinter or other foreign body or from the shoes rubbing. Therefore, those living with diabetes must take extra care and do a daily foot check to make sure skin is intact and not broken. Try and avoid walking around barefoot. If you have a wound clean it and put a dressing on it and if it doesn’t appear to heal after 3-4 days get it checked.

Elegant – the average shoe size for women in the UK has increased from a size 4 to a size 6 since the 1970’s  so if you have large feet, do not be tempted to buy a smaller size. Instead, choose an elegant style in a neutral colour

Fungal infection - such as athletes foot can lead to intense itching, cracked, blistered or peeling areas of the skin. If left untreated it can spread to the toenails causing thickening and yellowing of the nail. Fungal infections are highly contagious so avoid handling and do not use the same towel for your feet as the rest of your body. You can buy over the counter remedies but nail infections do not often respond to topical treatments so you may need oral medication. See a podiatrist if your infection persists.

Gout – a form of arthritis that can result in waking up in the middle of the night with an acute throbbing pain in the big toe, which is swollen. Usually only one of the big toes is affected. The pain lasts for around three or four hours and will then subside and usually not return for a few months. It can be controlled by drugs, which your GP will be able to prescribe. The application of ice or cooling lotions will help during an acute phase.

Heels - cracked heels are painful and occur where the skin has become dry or has experienced excessive pressure.  They can be caused by wearing open-backed shoes such as sandals and flip flops which rub around the edge of the heel. To prevent them, moisturise regularly and use a pumice stone or non-metal file in the bath or shower. If the problem worsens see a podiatrist as some severe cases can require strapping of the cracks in order to allow the feet to heal.

Ingrown toenails - these pierce the flesh of the toe and can be extremely painful and lead to further infection. They most commonly affect the big toenail but can affect other toes too. To reduce risk use nail cutters and cut nails straight across and don’t cut too low at the edge or down the side.  If you have an ingrowing toenail, see a podiatrist who can remove the offending spike of nail and cover with an antiseptic dressing. If you have bleeding or discharge, you may require antibiotics.

June – is Feet for Life month and you can find more information on foot health, with free leaflets and tips at The College of Podiatry’s website www.feetforlife.org.

Knock-on effect – don’t wait for signs of pain before seeking foot help as foot problems can have a knock-on effect on your mobility and general wellbeing.

Loving care – to fresh tired, aching feet, massage gently with a foot roller, or better still, ask you partner to massage your feet.

Minor cuts - or abrasions should be covered with a clean dry dressing.

Nail polish – nails need a break to breathe from time to time, so give your nails a break from nail polish about once a month for a few days to a week. This can help prevent discoloration—particularly if you like to use dark-colored nail polishes.

Odour – prevent excessive foot sweating and odour in the summer by wearing open sandals when you can, or change tights or socks at least once a day.  Choose socks containing at least 70 per cent cotton or wool, although some man-made fibre socks are specifically designed to keep feet dry. Wash feet at least once a day and dry carefully between the toes.  Wear alternate shoes daily to allow them to dry out. If odour persists try an antibacterial soap.

Paddling in the sea – then wear flip-flops or other lightweight shoes to avoid injury from sharp shells, sea creatures and broken glass.

Questions and queries - 90 per cent of women experience foot pain, but only 30 per cent have every sought professional help .   Use the find a podiatrist search function at The College of Podiatry’s website www.feetforlife.org.

Rough, hard skin – do not cut this (it’s likely to grown back even harder).  Use a pumice stone or file.

Sun cream – don’t stop at the ankle. Put sun cream on tops and soles of the feet. Lots of people neglect to apply a good SPF to their feet, but don't make this big mistake. Not only does the skin on your tootsies need protection, but nails are made of protein and are therefore as vulnerable as your skin.

Toe nails – a good time to give your toe nails a trim is after a bath when the toe nails are softer. Trim your toe nails regularly, using proper nail clippers. Cut straight across, not too short, and not down at the corners as this can lead to in-growing nails. File them, if that is easier.

UV light – the tops of bare feet (like the top of our heads and our shoulders) are at risk of the damaging effects of harmful UV sun rays, so remember to put lots of sun cream on the tops and soles of feet.

Verrucae – is a type of wart that looks like a small, dark puncture mark in the early stages but later turns grey or brown. It’s contagious through direct contact. You can buy over-the-counter remedies from your pharmacy; ask for products with salicylic acid. If at any stage your verruca becomes painful and the surrounding skin goes red, stop treating immediately and see a podiatrist.

Warts – you are more likely to contract if you already suffer from germ-festering conditions like athlete's foot or hyperhidrosis, can be passed on through direct or indirect contact.  A wart that develops on the foot is called a verrucae.

X – take Xtra care when wearing high heels because the unstable position can result in ankle sprains and prolonged wear may cause the calf muscle to become shortened over time. The body compensates for this tightness in the calf-muscle by lowering the arch of the foot, or affecting the knee, hip or back.  So keep high heels for special occasions. Save backless high-heeled shoes for evening glamour. Backless shoes force your toes to claw as you walk, straining the muscles if worn over a long period.

Yellowing nails - the most common causes are fungal nail infections, nail psoriasis (see a podiatrist) or the frequent application of nail varnish.

Zzzz – if you are pregnant, your feet will be taking extra weight and strain so rest them by raising your feet and legs up whenever you can and do daily leg and calf stretches

Notes to Editors

The College of Podiatry is the academic authority for chiropody and podiatry in the UK, and an independent charity dedicated to feet health research, education and public awareness. It works closely with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists – the professional body for the UK’s registered chiropodists and podiatrists. In short, they’re the UK’s experts for everything and anything to do with feet.  Podiatry is the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other disorders of the feet.

For further information about The College of Podiatry and Feet for Life Month please contact:
Annette Neto, Ceres
Tel: 01189 475956
Mob: 07795 547 795

E-mail: annette.neto@ceres-pr.co.uk