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Foot Care Tips: How to Get Pretty - and Healthy - Feet

Jul 27, 2011 at 2:01 PM Chime in now

Foot Care Tips

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Treat these common foot problems to your keep feet pretty and pain-free

By ARRICCA ELIN SANSONE
 

Calluses and Corns

Calluses and corns are a buildup of dead skin that forms along pressure points such as the heels,  toes and bony areas of feet. “They’re common if you wear sandals or flip-flops because of the repeated friction of your foot moving around in the shoe,” explains podiatrist Carolyn McAloon, D.P.M., spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association. To eliminate these pesky spots, use a pumice stone or foot file every day after showering and slather on over-the-counter creams that contain lactic acid, like AmLactin, to hydrate and exfoliate skin. Avoid medicated callus and corn remover pads, though, because they can actually burn and further aggravate your skin. For tough cases, your podiatrist can prescribe stronger moisturizing lotions.
 

Hammer Toes

Hammer toes are a deformity of the second, third or fourth toe. The middle joint starts to bend downward so the toe becomes clenched or claw-like. Painful calluses may form on the top of the joint as well. Wearing tight or too-small shoes can also aggravate the condition, says McAloon. Hammer toes can occur at any age but tend to get worse as we get older -- and if a family member had them, you may develop them, too. To get relief, try wearing roomy shoes with a wide toe box. Surgery to correct this problem is also an option in some cases.
 

Ingrown Toenail

This painful condition is common if you’re a dancer, runner or play sports, since it can cause your toes to tightly jam against your shoe. Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the nail grows into the surrounding skin fold -- it’s most common on the big toe. To treat an ingrown toenail: “Soak your foot in an Epsom salt bath (for 15 minutes twice a day) to reduce inflammation and avoid restrictive footwear,” says McAloon. “But see your podiatrist right away if there’s swelling or drainage, or if the pain doesn’t improve in a day or two because you could have an infection.” To help avoid ingrown toenails, cut your toenails straight across -- rounded corners on the edge of the nail are more likely to grow into the skin.
 

Athlete’s Foot

You may notice dry, peeling or cracked and itchy skin, especially between the toes. “It’s a fungal infection contracted from dressing rooms, pools or hotel rooms,” says McAloon. “Untreated, it can spread to your nails.” Use an over-the-counter antifungal spray or cream, such as Lotrimin AF, twice a day for four weeks. Treat your shoes and the rest of the family’s feet -- it can spread in your shower or around your pool. To prevent future infections, wear flip-flops in public spaces, moisture-wicking socks and shoes made of breathable material, such as leather or canvas. If the infection persists, your doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication.
 

Plantar Warts

Plantar warts, usually found on the sole of the foot, look like a little piece of cauliflower with tiny dark spots. “It’s a virus you pick up by walking barefoot at the pool or in the locker room,” says McAloon. Try an over-the-counter wart removing product containing salicylic acid. Or try this home remedy Keep the wart covered with a small piece of duct tape, changing it daily, until the area of infected skin peels off (at least two weeks). The exact reason why duct tape works remains unclear, according to McAloon, but it may be that duct tape diminishes oxygen to the area of skin. Sometimes warts can take months to go away, though, so if there’s no improvement after a few weeks of home care, see your doctor who can remove it by freezing if off (or using other chemicals). Wait until the area is fully healed before going for your next pedicure.
 

Foot Odor

Closed shoes and sweaty feet can lead to some pretty powerful foot odor. If you’re prone to smelly feet, wear sandals when possible for better air flow. Rub cornstarch or antiperspirant directly on the soles of feet, wear moisture-wicking socks and avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row so they can dry out. Best tip: A quick spray of Lysol in your shoes knocks down the bacteria that cause the odor.
 

Plantar Fasciitis

It’s the most common reason for heel pain, often caused by wearing pancake-flat shoes or playing sports on hard surfaces. “It’s an inflammation of the tissue band that connects the heel to the base of the toes,” says McAloon. The pain is usually worse when you take your first steps in the morning. To get relief, ice your heel twice a day, take ibuprofen, try orthotic inserts and do stretches daily, pulling your toes up toward your nose and holding for a count of 10. If the pain persists for more than two weeks, see your podiatrist -- she can make custom orthotics, give an injection for pain or prescribe physical therapy.
 

Neuroma

A neuroma is a burning or tingling pain in the front of your foot, between the toes or in the ball of the foot. It can feel as if you’re walking on pebbles. “It’s often caused by wearing very high or pointy shoes that squeeze the foot and compress the nerve,” says McAloon. To feel better fast, keep off your feet, wear roomy shoes, and pop some ibuprofen. But if it doesn’t improve in a week, see your podiatrist, who may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication. Custom orthotics may also help if a neuroma is caused by an abnormal gait.

Read More:
Are Your Pedicures Putting You at Risk?
The Side Effects of Summer's Casual Footwear
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