Tips for Maintaining Healthy Feet

Your feet, just like your heart, require proper care and attention. They tirelessly support your body, enduring around 5,000 steps per day, which is equivalent to 2.5 miles. Given the weight and pressure we subject them to by wearing shoes and standing for extended periods, it's important to prioritize their well-being. Here's what you need to know.

Basic Care

What kind of basic care do my feet need?

Just as you wouldn’t go a day without brushing your teeth, you shouldn’t go a day without taking care of your feet.

  • Check them daily for cuts, sores, swelling, and infected toenails.
  • Give them a good cleaning in warm water, but avoid soaking them because that may dry them out.
  • Moisturize them every day with lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly. Don’t put moisturizer between your toes. You want to keep the skin there dry to prevent infection.
  • Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes. Your shoes shouldn’t hurt your feet.
  • Skip the flip-flops and flats. They don’t provide enough arch support.
  • Rotate your shoes so you’re not wearing the same pair every day.
  • Trim your toenails straight across with a nail clipper. Then use an emery board or nail file to smooth the corners, which will prevent the nail from growing into your skin.

Corns and Calluses

What are corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses are thick, hard patches of skin on your feet. If you have them, you may notice pain when you walk or wear shoes.

They’re usually caused by too much rubbing, such as from wearing very tight shoes, or too much pressure against your foot, such as from standing for a long time or from a sport like running.

The only difference between the two is where they are on your feet. Corns usually form on the top of the foot, sometimes on a toe, while calluses appear on the bottom.

How do I treat corns and calluses?

Mild corns and calluses don’t usually need treatment and will go away on their own. But there are some things you can do to help them go away more quickly:

  • Wear thick socks to protect your skin.
  • Rub your callus with a pumice stone while you’re in the bath or shower.
  • Use corn pads to relieve pressure.
  • Apply salicylic acid to help dissolve corns and calluses. Be sure to follow directions carefully so you don’t damage healthy skin. Never use acid treatments on your feet if you have diabetes.
  • Wear prescription foot orthotics.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have diabetes, don’t try to treat your corns or calluses on your own. Always see your doctor.

If you’re feeling any pain, you should also see your doctor. They may recommend changing shoes or adding padding to shoes. Your doctor might even shave off the callus or corn. If you have a lot of pain, cortisone injections, or in some cases, surgery, could be in the treatment plan.

How do I prevent corns and calluses?

Because irritation is the main cause of corns and calluses, a few simple strategies can help you avoid them:

  • Wear shoes that fit your feet properly.
  • Avoid wearing high heels every day.
  • Use gel pad inserts to further cut down on rubbing and pressure on your foot.

Sweaty Feet

Why do my feet sweat so much?

Nobody knows exactly what causes some people to have really sweaty feet, also called hyperhidrosis. It’s likely inherited. Most people sweat when it’s hot out, but people with hyperhidrosis sweat all the time. Hyperhidrosis is more common in men than women and in younger adults.

Stress, medications, and hormonal changes can also trigger your body to sweat more.

What problems can sweaty feet cause?

Besides the discomfort of having wet feet, which could make you slip in your shoes, you could find that you have smelly feet and are prone to infections since that wetness can break down your skin.

How can I get my sweaty feet under control?

Start with good foot hygiene:

  • Wash your feet with antibacterial soap. Make sure to clean between your toes.
  • Dry your feet, and sprinkle them with cornstarch, foot powder, or antifungal powder.
  • Wear moisture-wicking socks.
  • Change socks frequently throughout the day.

Still can’t control it? See a doctor. Treatment options include prescription roll-on antiperspirants, Botox injections, iontophoresis (a treatment that temporarily plugs sweat glands), and surgery. There is a topical called qbrexa(Glypyrronium)  that can be used to block the ability to sweat locally.

Foot Odor

What causes foot odor?

The two main culprits are sweating of the feet and your shoes. When your sweat mingles with the bacteria in your shoes and socks, it creates an odor.

How can I control foot odor?

Follow these tips:

  • Wash your feet daily in warm water with mild soap. Dry them thoroughly.
  • Dust your feet with baby powder or nonmedicated foot powder. You might also try applying an antibacterial ointment.
  • Change your socks and shoes at least once a day.
  • Wear shoes that let your feet breathe: leather, canvas, and mesh are good options, not nylon or plastic.
  • Avoid wearing the same shoes 2 days in a row. For athletic shoes, rotate pairs so each has time to dry, allowing at least 24 hours to air out.
  • Soak your feet in strong black tea (two tea bags per pint of water, boiled for 15 minutes and mixed with 2 quarts of cool water) 30 minutes a day for a week. Or use a solution of one part vinegar and two parts water.

Athlete’s Foot

What is an athlete’s foot?

You don’t have to be an athlete to catch this condition. It’s caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, dark, humid environments (think dressing rooms, showers, and swimming pool locker rooms). Your bare feet come in contact with the fungus, which then takes up residence on your foot. Symptoms include dry skin, itching and burning, scaling, inflammation, blisters, and skin cracking.

The worst part? It spreads easily, especially to the soles of your feet and toenails. You can also spread the infection to other areas of your body just by scratching it and then touching yourself. You can even pick up an athlete’s foot from bed sheets or clothes that have come in contact with the fungus.

How do I treat athletes’ feet?

Athletes’ feet can be hard to treat. See your doctor make sure it is a fungus and not another condition.

Soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salt may provide some relief.

Your doctor may suggest an over-the-counter antifungal powder, cream, or spray or prescribe some medication you apply directly to your skin. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe antifungal pills. Be sure to keep using your medication as directed, even if your symptoms have gone away. This will help prevent it from returning.

How can I prevent an athlete’s foot?

  • Wash your feet daily with soap and water.
  • Take extra care to dry between the toes.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public places.
  • Keep your feet dry. If your feet sweat, use talcum powder and wear breathable shoes, like ones made from leather.
  • Wear socks that wick moisture, and if you’re a heavy foot sweater, change socks often.