My previous article was on grooming your feet. Grooming and beautifying your feet however, is just one aspect of foot care the other being keeping your feet healthy. Urban lifestyles have their own disadvantages and foot problems are one of these. Wearing closed shoes all day long, pollution, high heels, coupled with the neglect we subject our feet to, all take a toll on our feet. Our feet bear immense pressure through the day and those who have suffered from foot problems will agree that they can be extremely painful. Although regular pampering will make your feet beautiful, certain conditions require specific solutions.
Below are some of the most common foot ailments.
Cracked Heels are one of the most common of foot problems. Our feet bear the weight of our entire body and as a result, they are one of the most stressed parts of our body. Unlike the rest of our body, the skin around our feet lacks oil glands thus making it dry and hard. Hence, excessive pressure on the feet due to prolonged standing or hard floors can cause cracked heels. Inadequate moisturizing, poor hygiene, improper diet and ill fitting shoes coupled with the neglect we subject them to, are among the primary causes of cracked heels. This condition may sometimes worsen and lead to bleeding and infections. Cracked Heels however, are easily avoidable.
Remedy: The most effective remedy for cracked heels is hygiene. This is of utmost importance. Dirt collected by the feet tends to get into the cracks aggravating the problem and also causing infections. Wash your feet daily with a mild soap or liquid hand wash. Avoid harsh soaps as this can lead to further dryness. Also avoid walking barefoot as this can cause the heels to crack due to pressure. Wearing comfortable slippers even at home can help take the pressure off your heels and also reduce pain to a large extent. Use a good quality moisturizer every day. Exfoliate your feet whenever possible. Among the various products on shelves claiming to relieve cracked heels, I have tried Scholl and can say it does what it promises to.
Home remedies (tried and tested)
- Wash your feet in warm soapy water for about 15 mins. Wipe them dry and exfoliate either with a foot file or a good foot scrub. Then apply a mixture of one teaspoon Vaseline and the juice of one lemon.
- Melt paraffin wax and mix it well with little mustard oil. Apply on the dry or cracked area of the heels. Rinse it off in the morning. My mom makes this for me and it works wonders.
- Crushed neem leaves mixed with turmeric gives immense relief to bleeding infected heels
- Apply honey mixed with sesame oil and massage for a few minutes
TIRED OR SWOLLEN FEET
Causes for swollen or tired feet: Water retention in the tissues caused by high salt intake is the main cause of swollen feet. Some women also get swollen feet during pregnancy or menstruation. Sitting or standing for long periods also tires the feet causing them to swell.
Remedy for swollen or tired feet::
- Reduce your salt intake. Excess salt causes water retention in the body.
- Soak your feet in hot and cold water alternately several times a day.
- Rolling a tennis ball under your feet for several minutes is an effective way of exercising the feet and treating tiredness.
- A few drops of essential oils like lavender, geranium or Ginger mixed with a carrier oil like jojoba or castor oil make a good massage oil to improve circulation and reduce swelling
- Elevate your feet by placing a few pillows under them. This will help reduce the swelling.
SWEATY AND SMELLY FEET:
Causes for sweaty and smelly feet: Bacteria and Fungus often breed in dark, moist and closed areas like shoes. These combined with the sweat in our feet cause foot odor. Sweaty and stinky feet can be uncomfortable, not to mention embarrassing. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to help.
Remedy for sweaty and smelly feet:
- Use an antibacterial soap to wash your feet and make sure you dry them completely
- Drinking lots of water helps eliminate toxins from the body thus preventing bad odor
- Use an antiperspirant an foot powder.
- Change your shoes everyday.
- Boil some water with tea bags in it. Once it cools, soak your feet in it for 15-20 minutes.
Causes for ingrown toe nails: Ingrown toenails are caused when the corners of a nail grow into the surrounding skin. This condition is usually very painful and can cause the nail to get infected. Swelling, redness, irritation, swelling and pain can all result from an ingrown toenail.
Remedy for ingrown toe nails: To avoid this, always use clippers made to cut toenails. Always cut straight across. Do not cut the corners too deep. Mild conditions can usually be treated with foot soaks and topical ointments. However some cases require a doctor to remove the part of the nail that is cutting into the skin.
Causes for fungal infection: The number one reason for fungal infections is moist feet. Wearing closed shoes most of the day provide an ideal breeding ground for fungus…. warm, dark, and moist. A fungus can cause dry skin, redness, blisters, itching, and peeling. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot can be persistent and difficult to get rid of and may require the attention of a doctor.
Remedy for fungal infection :
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Be sure to dry the area between your toes.
- Change your shoes and socks often to help keep your feet dry. Use Foot powder
- Don’t wear tight shoes.
CORNS AND CALLUSES
Causes for corns and calluses: A corn is essentially extra skin that grows on parts of the foot to counter excessive pressure caused due to friction or uncomfortable footwear. When this extra skin is spread over a larger area on the feet, it is termed as calluses. Both corns and calluses can be very painful especially as more and more skin keeps growing around it.
Remedy for corns and calluses:
- Apply corn caps over the corns. The corns will soften in a few days time and can be peeled off easily. However the acid contained in the corn caps can irritate the surrounding skin. To avoid this, do make sure you protect the skin around the corn with some cotton pads.
- Never try and scrape off the skin with a blade or razor. For stubborn corns or calluses you should consult a skin doctor.
Home remedies for corns and calluses:
- Soak your feet in warm, salted water for ten minutes. Then apply some mild soap and scrub the area with a pumice stone. Scholl Rough Skin Remover is excellent for this purpose Do this every night, and slowly, the dead skin will soften and come out.
- Place pineapple peel, or lime peel directly over the corn, cover it with a cloth or a cotton pad and slip on cotton socks.
- Papaya juice applied overnight is also known to cure corns.
WARTS, BUNIONS AND SPURS:
Warts are skin growths caused by viruses. This condition can be painful at times and may get worse if left untreated.
Home Remedies for warts:
- Apply a mixture of flaxseed oil, flaxseed powder and honey everyday.
- Crush a clove of garlic. Place it on the wart and cover with a bandage.
- Fresh pineapple applied on the warts everyday proves extremely useful.
Spurs are calcium bumps that grow on bones of your feet. They may or may not cause pain. Again, ill fitting shoes, prolonged standing and excess body weight are the primary reasons.
Foot supports, heel pads and heels cups are some of the treatments for spurs
Home remedies for spurs:
- Wrap green fresh cabbage leaves over the area and place a paper wrap over it.
- A massage with coconut oil, is helpful in relieving the heel from pain and discomfort.
- Applying an ice pack on the spurs will help the foot muscles to relax thus reducing pain.
- A diet rich in calcium can also be very helpful.
EXERCISE FOR THE FEET
As all parts of our body require a certain amount of exercise to stay healthy, so do our feet. Simple foot exercises can go a long way in building muscle tone, relieving fatigue, preventing cramping, and foot pain.
Exercise your feet to keep them strong, supple and supportive and help to stop cramps. These simple foot exercises will ease away the stress of the day and keep your feet in good working order. Start doing them seated and then progress to standing while you do the exercises.
- Toe Raises: Start with feet flat on the floor; lift the heels as high as you can and push the backs of the toes against the floor. Hold for 5 seconds and lower. Repeat 5 times each foot.
- Big Toe Action: Put a thick rubber band around both your big toes. Keeping your feet level, pull your feet apart, away from each other sideways. Hold for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat 10 times.
- Sole massage: Put a tennis or golf ball under your foot on the ground. Roll your foot around with moderate pressure on the ball to effectively massage the whole of the sole of your foot. This one is great for relieving tension.
- Pick it up: Lay 10 marbles on the floor. Stand up, if you can, and pick up one marble at a time using your toes, and put it into a small bowl. Repeat with the other foot.
- Pen Drop: Drop a pen or a pencil on the floor. Pick it up with your toes, trying to grasp the pen with all your toes at once.
- Towel Crumple: Have a small towel on the floor. Using one foot, crumple it into a ball by pulling it towards you with your toes.
- Sand Walking: Whenever you can, walk barefoot in the sand.
- Ankle Circles: Lift your leg so your foot is off the floor, knee straight. Make large, slow circles in the air with your big toe, for 10 circles in each direction. Repeat with the other foot.
- Heel Toe Rock: Sit with both feet flat on the floor. Rock your feet to alternatively raise your heels and toes from the floor. Repeat 10 times with each foot. This is a great one to do periodically, if you have to stand for long periods.
- Do these regularly and you will soon feel the difference!
FOOT CARE AT A GLANCE
- Wash your feet daily in warm soapy water. Rinse well and dry thoroughly, especially in between the toes
- Moisturize and exfoliate the feet whenever possible
- Trim nails straight across, and not too short. Don’t cut deep into corners or you will end up with painful ingrown nails.
- Wear well fitting clean socks.
- Wear shoes that fit well. Go shoe shopping late in the afternoon. This is when feet swell to their largest and you will be able to judge the size better.
- If you have sweaty feet wear leather or canvas shoes and use foot powder, or foot sprays to help keep feet dry and odor free.
- High heels (a necessary evil for the style conscious ) should not be worn for a long stretch of time or for too much walking. Not only do they cramp the toes, they also change body posture, making backaches more likely.
- Walking bare foot on green grass is beneficial to feet.
- Do not neglect any sort of pain in the feet, if home remedies do not work, consult your physician immediately
- Last but certainly not the least, exercise your feet regularly.