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.

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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!

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