We take them for granted but our feet are so important. They may not be a “sexy” topic, but taking care of them is so important as Becca Horner explains.
Keep them healthy this winter
Over winter they carry us on endless miles of Christmas shopping and on our Boxing Day walk as we strive to work off the turkey, but winter is often a time in which we neglect our feet.
During winter our feet remain hidden by thermal socks and warm slippers, and we overlook developing problems. Here are some common winter foot problems, how to spot them, and importantly, how to treat them.
First on the list, cracked heels. During the winter season, cold weather, winds and hot central heating systems suck out moisture from the skin. Our skin becomes drier, resulting in sore hands, chapped lips and cracked heels. You might notice the skin around your heels becoming thick and rough, and starting to flake. As the condition worsens, painful cracks will appear. If caught early it can be treated with Urea-based cream and exfoliation. Deeper cracks may be better treated by a footcare professional.
Many people think athlete’s foot is a problem only in the summer, when moisture sets the stage for this fungal infection. But the condition also can occur in the winter, especially when you layer up with a couple of pairs of allcotton or all-wool socks in your shoes. This causes sweaty feet that can’t breathe, which can lead to athlete’s foot plus a bacterial infection on top of it. You can prevent this problem by wearing socks made of acrylic blends or acrylic-wool blends, which wick moisture away from the feet and toes. This is particularly important for those wintery walks in wellies or waterproof hiking boots.
Chillblains are very common in winter in people with poor circulation and limited mobility. They are small itchy, red swellings on the skin, which can become increasingly painful and dry out leaving cracks in the skin which are at risk of infection. They occur mainly on the toes but can also appear on areas of the feet exposed to pressure, for instance, on a bunion or by compression of thicker socks within a shoe. Chilblains develop when the tiny blood vessels under the skin constrict under cold conditions reducing the flow of blood until the area warms up again and causes some leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissue.
The best way to prevent chilblains is to keep your legs, feet and body warm. If you have developed chilblains do not scratch them, instead use soothing lotions such as witch hazel and calamine on them to take away most of the discomfort. If the chilblain has ulcerated, apply an antiseptic dressing and if you have diabetes or are undergoing medical treatment, do have the ulcer assessed by your podiatrist.
Top tips for happy winter feet:
Check your feet daily for any breaks in the skin, blisters or new problems.
Make sure shoes fit correctly, especially if you also use thick winter socks too.
Wear clean moisture wicking socks/hosiery daily to prevent excessive sweating and fungal infections.
Keep your feet and whole body warm.
Visit a podiatrist if you have any concerns for assessment and treatment.
Rather than struggle on your own, visit a podiatrist/chiropodist who can assess and treat your foot ailments. They are trained in all foot problems and can help with general care such as nails, corns and callus. They can also prescribe insoles when required for a wide range of foot pain including plantar fasciitis (heel pain) and arthritis.
Becca Horner is a registered podiatrist at the Norwich Osteopathic Clinic who can be contacted on 01603 504508.
It is important to take care of your feet.
We love to put our feet up!