Healthy and Attractive Feet for Life!
Many of us only think about the appearance of our feet, but don’t think about the twenty-six bones and thirty-three joints that make each of our feet such a complex part of our musculoskeletal system.
However, practicing good foot health and hygiene doesn’t just keep our feet beautiful: it keeps our feet free of pain and mechanically sound.
There is much more to good foot hygiene than washing your feet during a shower or a bath. Daily foot care is a three-part process:
Daily Foot Care - Part One
The first step in caring for your feet is keeping a daily regimen that is just for them. The following are suggested steps for taking care of your feet on a daily basis.
- Wash and dry your feet each day using a mild soap. Be sure to wash between the toes. This not only helps keep debris from accumulating between the toes but also is an effective way to get you into the habit of checking your feet daily.
- Dry your feet carefully, especially between the toes. Wear clean socks and change them daily — perhaps even more often if your feet perspire heavily. The Institute for Preventative Foot Health suggests we wear padded socks because they are great for wicking moisture away from the foot. Also, having socks that wick moisture lessens the likelihood of contracting blisters or ailments such as athlete’s foot.
- Your shoes should be clean on both the inside and the outside. And, if you enjoy jogging, you shouldn’t run in the same pair of shoes two days in a row. This way the moisture that accumulates during the day can dry out.
- Try not to go barefoot, especially in public areas. If you do decide to walk around without footwear, make sure you wash your feet thoroughly afterwards. Pebbles, sand, and dirt can all irritate your feet if not washed off after walking barefoot.
Remember, many foot problems start small, such as a callous or a blister, but left untreated can lead to much bigger problems — such as a foot infection.
Toenail Care - Part Two
Toenail care is the second necessity in practicing healthy foot care. In order to take care of your toenails, you should:
- Trim your toenails at least every two weeks. Cut them straight across and not diagonally. Then file the sharp edges off with an emery board. This protects your toes from sharp and jagged toenails.
- Before using toenail clippers or scissors, place them in alcohol so they are free of bacteria. Always start your toenail care with clean cutting utensils.
- People who cannot reach their toenails, who cannot see them clearly, or who suffer from neuropathy, should have a professional foot care specialist cut their toenails.
- If your toenails are discolored, seek medical attention. Discolored toenails may be a sign of a more serious health problem, such as a fungal infection. Healthy toenails have a pale pink look where they are directly attached to the skin. They are clear in the area where they grow out from the toe and are not attached directly to the skin. Also, never use lacquer or nail polish on discolored nails.
Daily Foot Inspection - Part Three
Daily foot inspections may sound a bit extreme to some, but feet can honestly develop problems overnight. Getting into the habit of inspecting your feet every day can deter minor problems from becoming serious problems.
- Check every part of your foot – tops, bottoms, toes, toenails, and area between toes. You are checking for bumps, blisters, calluses, bruises, sores, cuts, and cracked skin. Left uncared for, even the most minuscule of cracks can lead to infection.
- Feel around the feet for changes in skin temperature. If you notice one part of your foot is warm and another part is cool, you might have weak circulation. Another sign of poor circulation is the loss of hair on the leg or foot. Definitely see a foot care professional if you experience either of these effects.
- Nerve problems have telltale signs that include numbness, tingling, pain, and lack of sensation. If you experience any of these effects, seek medical attention.
- Ingrown toenails that are accompanied by red, puffy skin and that are tender or painful to the touch are also signs to seek medical attention.
When any foot condition doesn’t heal itself within a few days, you should see a podiatrist. While having unhealthy feet is a problem in itself, it can also cause serious ancillary problems to the body. When our feet are not fit and in good condition, knee, hip, pelvic and back problems can easily arise. Basically, you need to take care of your feet before they cause undue problems because proper foot care is essential to your overall health.
Tools You Can Use for Daily Foot Care
Taking care of your feet requires you to have a few tools handy. These include:
- A mirror for seeing the bottoms of your feet.
- A hygienic pair of scissors or toenail clipper that is in good working condition.
- An electric foot callus remover to remove calluses. This is especially important for people with diabetes because a callus can transform itself into a foot ulcer. But all of us need to pay attention to calluses because allowing them to grow too large can cause needless pain (not to mention how ugly they can get — forget open toe shoes)!
Many of the chronic problems that can impair circulation and mobility, such as diabetes and arthritis, don’t arise until we are older. But taking diligent care of our feet while we are young can prevent or mitigate foot problems that arise at a later age. This is a little bit of wisdom that many people just don’t follow, but, if they did, so many problems that occur later in life could be avoided.