Our feet work hard, helping to keep us balanced to walk from A to B and run around doing chores – all while taking the weight of our whole body, so it’s important to give them some TLC to help avoid future problems. As we age, our skin naturally thins and loses its elasticity, which means it takes longer to heal. In turn, any foot problems can quickly lead to discomfort and affect the way we walk, causing knee, hip and back pain, making it difficult to stay mobile.
With this is mind, here’s some handy tips on taking care of your feet, whatever your age, and how to deal with common foot problems. How to take care of your feet every day
- Clean both feet thoroughly with warm water and mild soap, aqueous cream, or whatever is appropriate for your skin type.
- Dry both feet thoroughly, especially the spaces between the toes, checking for cracks, swelling and tenderness, redness or blisters.
- Moisturise dry or rough skin, avoiding excess lotion in-between toes.
- Cut toe nails straight across to avoid ingrown toenails, keeping them at a comfortable length, and use a nail file for sharp corners.
- Keep feet dry, mobile, comfortable and warm (as we age, our feet become more vulnerable to the cold)
- Always wear appropriate footwear when walking to avoid slipping or a foot injury. Wear natural fibre socks that aren’t too tight and proper fitting, supportive shoes. Bed socks at night are useful, especially in winter.
See your GP if there’s any unusual sensation, tingling, numbness or pain in your feet.
It’s best not to apply treatment or medication onto feet without appropriate advice from your pharmacist or GP first.
Choose your footwear appropriately, making sure your shoes or boots provide good support and they’re the right size, shape and fitting to avoid blisters (if they’re too tight) or calluses (if they’re too loose). Foot wear should be strong enough to support the ankle and wide enough to carry body weight.
Natural materials, such as leather are more flexible. Wool and cotton allow your feet to breathe.
In-soles and cushions can help to evenly distribute the body weight.
(If there is a specific medical problem your GP or podiatrist/chiropodist may recommend orthotic treatment which involves custom made insoles.)
Common Foot Problems
- dry or cracked skin
- corns and calluses
- heel pain, arch pain
- friction blisters
- ingrown toenails
- fungal infection (athlete’s foot)
These foot problems are usually caused by inappropriate foot care and can be treated so that you don’t have to put up with the pain and discomfort sometimes, however, foot problems can signal underlying causes, such as diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Your GP will be able to advise you.
Corns and calluses - are caused by hard thickening of the skin exposed to excess pressure or friction.
Corns usually develop due to badly fitting shoes or standing for long periods. They can also develop on a bunion.
Calluses are larger than corns with thickened skin and reduced sensitivity, most frequently on the heels or ball of the foot.
You should seek appropriate advice, diagnosis and treatment initially from a healthcare professional. Over the counter corn plasters will relieve the pressure but does not treat the cause. A chiropodist or podiatrist may remove thickened skin from these areas with a sharp blade to help reduce pain.
Bunion - a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The medical terminology for this condition is hallux valgus. This can cause swelling, pain and tenderness. Bunions can be linked to family history as they are more likely to occur with inherited flexible joints or related to other pre-existing health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Wearing badly fitting shoes can worsen the condition. Non-surgical treatments are painkillers, orthotics or bunion pads. These help to reduce the symptoms but do not improve the appearance of the foot. Surgery is an option depending on the degree of the deformity, severity of symptoms, age and other medical conditions.
Read our article for tips on how to stop bunions in their tracks.
Heel pain - Most cases of heel pain are caused when a band of tissue in the sole of the foot (known as the plantar fascia) becomes damage and thickened. The medical terminology for this condition is ‘plantar fasciitis’.
Treatments to help relieve heel pain are rest, stretching the calf muscle, ice pack and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Correct fitting shoes and possibly orthotic support devices. Read more about heel pain from one of experts.
Dry or cracked skin - regular use of moisturising emollients to soothe, smoothen and hydrate the skin using over the counter non-proprietary preparations, for example soft paraffin-based remedies. Many well known proprietary brands are available.
Ingrown toenails - causes: incorrectly cut nails, tight fitting shoes, injury, nail infection or natural shape of toenail. Self-management includes good foot hygiene, correct nail cutting, comfortable shoes gently pushing skin away from the nail with a cotton bud for example. A podiatrist or chiropodist will be able to advise and help. Surgery may be recommended - either a partial section or total nail removal, depending on how severe the case is.
Fungal nail infection - this is more common in men and the older generation. Treatment is not always required. The nail can become thicker, discoloured and white, black, yellow or green. Generally there is no pain. However, without treatment there’s a possibility in some cases, of further foot problems such as cellulitis.
Risk factors include hot sweaty feet, regular damage to the nail or skin or an underlying health condition.
Mild cases may be treated with an over the counter remedy under the guidance of a pharmacist.
Nail clippings may be taken by your GP to confirm diagnosis, and then treatment such as either nail paint or antifungal tablets may be offered. It can take several months until you see any improvement in the condition.
10 tips on foot care – NHS
Fitter Feet – Age UK
Tips, tricks and treatment for blisters – AXA PPP. Watch our animation for easy to follow guidance on the causes and treatment of blisters, along with tips on how you can prevent blisters.