Though it would seem that feet would strive being shielded from the elements during the colder months of the year, being cooped up for long periods of time has its disadvantages. The cold and damp weather outside mixed with the warmth and dryness inside, can lead to unhealthy feet unless proper precautions are taken. Moist and warm shoes are the perfect place for fungus to invade the nails and feet. Conversely, warm and dry heat dehydrates the heels, causing painful cracks. Improper footwear can lead to ingrown nails and add to the susceptibility of contracting foot fungus. Poor footing on slippery surfaces can lead to sprained or broken ankles. With some tender loving care, the correct knowledge, and your podiatrist on call, your feet can survive these cold months and be ready to enjoy freedom when summer arrives.
Concerning Proper Footwear
Make sure your shoes or boots fit properly. If they are too tight they can cause ingrown toenails or blisters. If they are not too tight in your toe region but are still causing blisters, try using pads to create a barrier between your foot and the shoe or boot. If you do get a blister, apply antiseptic cream and bandages. If the blister does not heal in a timely manner, consult your podiatrist right away. If you are investing in a new pair of winter shoes, try to go shopping at night when your feet are already swollen. This will ensure that you have enough room for your feet no matter what time of day it is. Make sure to wear waterproof shoes or boots on those rainy days to prevent a wet, warm environment for fungus to grow. Rotate the shoes you wear often to give them time to fully dry out which helps prevent fungal growth.
It is best to wear thick, roomy, 100% cotton socks. This will help your feet breathe and let the perspiration dry out. Change your socks every day or twice a day if they become heavily soiled. Try to wear slippers or socks around the house to keep debris from injuring your feet.
Concerning Proper Foot Care
Often feet start the winter months off by being dry and having excess dead skin due to wearing sandals and light material shoes all summer. If your feet are forced to get too smooth too fast, injury can occur. Smoothing and exfoliating feet should take one to two weeks. To effectively soften feet, start by gently filing or pumicing feet when they are dry. Never try to remove corns or calluses by yourself. Always let a podiatrist take care of these. Continue by soaking them in warm water, never hot, with bath salts or moisturizing lotion added in. Pat your feet dry instead of rubbing them. Apply an intense moisturizer like Vaseline or coco butter then cover your feet with plastic wrap, this also helps with severely cracked heels. If heels are so cracked they start bleeding, apply antiseptic cream and bandages. If these cracks do not heal fairly quickly consult your podiatrist right away. Finally, put on a pair of socks to keep the plastic wrap and lotion in place. Remember to be gentle with your feet. Do not force them to get smooth over night. You can repeat this procedure every couple of days until your feet are smooth.
It is important to wash, rinse and dry your feet thoroughly everyday. Apply moisturizers one to two times a day depending on how dry your feet are. It is best to use non-greasy, fast absorbing, and preferably anti-fungal lotion. Apply the lotion liberally to your heels and the sides of your feet. Apply the lotion minimally around your toes if necessary at all. You can use foot powder to help absorb the sweat from your feet helping to stop fungus from growing. Make sure to clip your toenails straight across and keep them fairly short to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring. If they do, consult your podiatrist right away so they do not get worse. It is also important to stay hydrated. If the rest of your body is getting the water it needs, your heels with stay moister as well.
Concerning Foot Fungus
If you had foot fungus last winter, make sure to spray any shoes or boots that were worn last winter with anti-fungal spray before wearing them this year. The fungus can maintain life in microscopic skin cells and nail debris in your shoes. These remnants could infect your feet again. If you are susceptible to getting foot fungus, spray your shoes or boots once a week. Be sure to wear sandals in locker rooms.You do not know who is not taking care of their feet and using the same facilities as you are.
If you start to see yellow or brown discoloration in your toenails, dry flaky heels, bumps or bubbles on the sides of your feet, or cracking and blistering between your toes, consult your podiatrist right away. These are symptoms of foot fungus. The sooner you get your feet taken care of, the quicker your recovery rate will be.
It is best to wear boots or shoes that have good traction to keep you planted firmly on the ground. You should try and be aware of where you are walking so you can react in a timely manner if a patch of ice or slippery area is in your path. While walking, keep your hands and arms free. Do your best not to carry anything or have your hands in your pockets, this will help you maintain your balance and use your arms properly if you do fall. If you see a patch of ice or slippery area approaching, take very small steps or shuffle your way across. It's easier to maintain balance when your center of gravity is relatively constant. Make sure to leave your house in plenty of time when you are going out to make sure you have the time to be fully aware of your surroundings.
It is important to keep heavily trafficked areas free from ice by using melting granules. This winter try potassium-based melter granules which are less harmful to concrete, grass, and your house.
Extra Care for Diabetics
When your feet are cold do not soak them in hot water. Hot water dries out and could possibly burn your feet. Instead, use slightly warm water and check the temperature with your elbow before submerging your feet. Make sure to dry your feet off thoroughly when you are done soaking them. Do not use heating pads or warming blankets to warm your feet up because they could get too hot and burn your feet as well. If you are a diabetic you should check your feet every night to see if any blistering, irritation, or injuries have occurred during the day. If they have, set up an appointment to get them check out by your podiatrist right away. It is very easy for a small wound to become a serious problem when neglected.
Love your feet so they can take you to enjoy the beauties that winter has to offer.
Copyright (c) 2009 Dr. Jennifer Feeny