This neglect and abuse can add up to a lot of problems, says Dr. Suzanne M. Levine, podiatrist with New York Weill Cornell Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Levine offers the following advice for dealing with the most common foot problems:
- Corns and calluses.
Soak your feet in warm water and slough off some of the hard, thickened areas of skin with a pumice stone. Avoid those over-the-counter treatments that contain acid, Levine cautions, because the ingredients can burn skin or cause ulcers.
- Cracked heels.
Not only are they ugly, they can become infected. The doctor recommends using exfoliating products with an alpha-hydroxy acid (Lac-Hydrin 5 and Ureacin-10) for treatment.
- Ingrown toenails.
If one develops, first soak your feet in warm water laced with Epsom salts or vinegar. After soaking, gently push the skin away from the nail with a clean orange stick. Then file the ingrown nail with a clean new emery board, apply antibiotic ointment, and bandage. If the problem persists, or if the toenail to too painful to treat yourself, see a podiatrist.
- Foot odor.
Eating spicy foods often causes stinky feet. Avoid very spicy foods and drink lots of water. Dusting your feet at least twice a day with a deodorizing powder may offer some relief. One treatment Levine recommends is soaking your feet in a tannic acid solution, which can be made by brewing two teabags in a quart of warm water.
- Athlete's foot. The first rule is to never go barefoot in public areas. Swimming pools, locker rooms and saunas are germ-laden territories. Wear rubber sandals in wet places and dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, after you shower. Levine says products like Desenex, Tinactin and Lotrimin AF are very effective in treating athlete's foot.
She recommends a regular routine including soaking feet in a warm Epsom salts solution, followed by a session with the pumice stone. At night, apply a moisturizing lotion or cream -- menthol or mint-infused creams are good. Before bedtime, massage your feet by kneading the sole of each foot -- including the instep and toes -- with your thumbs.
And, she adds, when you dress your feet again at the start of the day, make sure you choose shoes that are well-cushioned, substantially soled and comfortable.