Best foot forward
Whether it’s in summer with feet in sandals and thongs or in winter tucked into boots and school and work shoes, we need to consider how our foot health can be affected by the shoes we wear, their impact on our general health and how well we look after them. Being out of reach for many, feet are easily forgotten but there are a few simple tips that can keep them footloose and fancy free.
Applying a daily moisturiser to the heels and top of your feet (not between the toes) is an easy way to keep your skin hydrated and less prone to damage. Having your nails kept short and tidy and ensuring that your footwear is the correct fit and size will assist in helping prevent blisters, thickened nails and keep you comfortable all-day long. It’s not normal to have foot pain, yet many Australians endure foot troubles without knowing where to turn.
A podiatrist is especially trained in all foot and lower limb conditions from general skin and nail care to wound care, gait or walking analysis and prevention and rehabilitation of sports injuries. Common complaints I see in our clinic include corns and callus, ingrown toenails, warts, fungal infections and fallen arches. But what can be done about them? Here’s a brief overview.
Common foot problems
Corns and Calluses occur as the result of friction and pressure when we walk around. Wearing ill-fitting, slip on shoes, high heels or thongs can increase the rate of build-up, resulting in painful focal areas (corns) akin to walking on glass in terms of pain. In some cases, there is little one can do to change our foot anatomy and bent toes, arthritic joints and bunions won’t help the cause. Regular visits to a podiatrist will alleviate painful symptoms and sometimes some footwear advice and offloading devices may slow their progression.
Ingrown toenails are another common cause for concern. Easily infected, ingrown toenails may be the result of nail trauma or genetic nail shape where the side of the nail grows into the skin resulting in pain and swelling. Your podiatrist can preventatively manage nails with this tendency and if you’re cutting your own nails at home it's important to use a correct cutting technique – straight across and not too short with clippers designed for this purpose. For difficult cases, minor surgery may be used to remove the side of the nail.
Warts are caused by a virus that invades the skin through cuts and abrasions. Similar to fungal infection, warts may be transferred through contact with a surface that’s been contaminated. It may be dirty ground, in public showering and bathing areas, but they may also develop as a result of low immunity. They can be difficult to treat if ignored, easily spread through the skin and painful to walk on. Warts are best attended by a podiatrist or doctor to remove them while they’re small. Beware the shower at your gym, campsite or public bathing area, try to wear thongs to protect your feet and avoid walking barefoot in public areas, especially if you have a skin break.
Fungal infections can occur in the skin or nails and affect about 20% of the population at some time in life. Generally having an insidious onset, they progress relentlessly and can be difficult to manage and slow to resolve especially if not diagnosed early. More frequently seen in men, fungal nail infections thrive in sweaty, dark environments like enclosed footwear. Fungal infections of the skin (or Athlete's Foot) often begin between the toes or on the instep of the foot. They spread by skin to skin contact, or from surface contamination with public bathing areas a hot-spot for transfer. Described as an itchy rash that can cause moist, raw skin between toes or scaly, stinging or burning skin, they’re treatable with over the counter topical antifungal medications and usually resolve within weeks. Again precautions such as wearing thongs in public bathing areas or hotel showers, wearing clean, breathable socks and airing footwear regularly may help prevent infection Flat feet or fallen arches are a common complaint amongst our population. Generally managed with supportive footwear or orthotic devices, pain-free flat feet are not always a problem. For an assessment of your walking style, or for footwear advice, contact your podiatrist.
1 in 2 Australians experience heel, arch or foot pain every week
Melissa Walker treating a client’s foot issue