You’ve seen the internet memes posing as public service announcements: “It’s sandal season – time to get your pedicure!” Shaming about unsightly feet is alive and well on the internet. Unfortunately, with sports, running, high heels and age come foot issues.
While transforming feet into works of art may not be an option, there is much you can do right from home for sandal season.
- Begin with a visual assessment of overall condition. Check out the heels and sides – especially near the large toe. Are they calloused, red or peeling? Are there painful or swollen areas?
- Remove old nail polish from your toes and have a good look. Are the nail beds clear, beige and clean or yellowed and cracked? Are there ingrown nails or tender areas at the edges of the toes?
- Avoid using razors on calluses, as cutting too close may invite infection. Instead, use a pumice and homemade salt or sugar scrub over problem areas on heels, soles and sides of feet. Note that the best time to smooth dry, chapped feet is after a warm bath or shower. A long soaking with a little coconut oil goes a long way.
- Moisturize daily, or even better, apply lotion or coconut oil to feet before bed. Cover with socks to seal in the moisturizer while you sleep. Cracked and peeling heels develop when pressure or weight is applied to the pad, causing the skin to split.
- When trimming nails, resist temptation to clip at a curve along the toe since this can promote painful ingrown nails. Instead, use a nail clipper to trim in a straight line and file edges to soften points.
If you have identified problem areas or soreness in your feet, Dr. Daniel Surowiec, a podiatrist at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill., says you may be experiencing one of these common conditions.
- Ingrown toenails. These happen to all ages and can be inherited or are the result of poorly fitting shoes. Signs of infection include redness, swelling and discharge. Once a toenail begins to bite into the side of the toe, it generally worsens with time. This often affects the big toe more than any other.
“If the nail is infected, it can be surgically addressed in the office with a simple resection of the border and destruction of that portion of the nail,” says Dr. Surowiec. The procedure takes less than 15 minutes using local anesthesia with return to work or school the next day.
- Yellowing or discolored toenails are common with aging and do not always indicate fungus. The American Podiatric Medical Association describes toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, as an infection beneath the nail surface. Nails may discolor or thicken over time, making them difficult to trim.
A simple nail clipping can be used to test for fungus, and treatment includes antifungal oral and topical medications. Dr. Surowiec asserts that over-the-counter medications are generally not effective. “It should be kept in mind that non-treatment is also an option. Toenail fungus is contagious; however, it is not uncommon for someone to have one or two affected nails for years without spreading to other toes or family members.”
- A bunion or hallux valgus is a painful bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. Bunions are caused by foot type and the way we walk and are made worse by wearing poorly fitting, or high-heeled and narrow-toed shoes. Treatment options for mild or moderate bunions include wearing wider shoes, shorter heels, foot padding and anti-inflammatories for pain reduction.
Dr. Surowiec feels that bunion surgery should only be considered for a foot that is chronically painful and has begun to limit physical activities. Most bunion cases are considered moderate and do not require casts after surgery. Many people are back into a regular shoe at 4-6 weeks. For severe bunions, cast immobilization may be required, and recovery time is slightly longer. In all cases, this outpatient surgery can be done at a hospital or surgery center.