9 Common Feet Problems and Podiatrists’ Simple Solutions
Foot problems can plague you any time of year, but summer can be especially challenging. We asked podiatrists to share their best tips for keeping feet healthy.
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Foot pain? Create better support
Shoes that notoriously lack support around the arch, ankle, and heel (like flip-flops or some sandals) can cause many feet problems, and most foot docs recommend you limit your time wearing them. If you must, make them more comfortable and safer with arch support insoles. New York City podiatrist Johanna Youner, DPM, recommends Superfeet insoles. “They’re discreet and will fit pretty much into any shoe,” she notes. Inserts can also help prevent or alleviate knee, back, or ankle pain, all of which can develop when your body compensates for poor arch support. Another trick: Stretch your feet, ankles, calves at the end of every day to help with any discomfort. Find out if your foot problems could signal something more serious by learning about these subtle signs of disease your feet can reveal.
Blisters? Cover them properly
If, despite your best efforts, a blister erupts, podiatrists say to please avoid popping it. A popped blister is much more vulnerable to infection. What to do: Apply antibiotic cream and cover the area with a bandage; it should heal in a few days. If it's especially bad—large, or blood-filled—see a podiatrist immediately, because it could be infected.
Shoes rubbing? Buy the right bandage
In a love-hate relationship with your new shoes? Special blister bandages may help keep the peace and keep feet problems at bay. Dr. Youner recommends drugstore brands like Pedifix or Spenco, which are a little more expensive than regular bandages ($6 to $8 a box compared with $3 to $4). The squishy liquid-filled bandages condition the skin and create a barrier to minimize blister-causing friction. Place them on problem spots, like where sandal straps rub, to prevent sores—or cover and protect an existing blister. "They're discreet enough to wear even with flip-flops," says Dr. Youner. Find out some more health secrets your feet wish they could tell you.
Sweaty feet? Spritz on antiperspirant
It’s not just the stench; sweaty feet can also cause cracked heels, lizard-like skin, and even fungal infections. Each of your toes has about 250,000 sweat glands, which can churn out half a pint of sweat every day. To minimize the amount of perspiration that reaches the surface, mist your feet with an antiperspirant/deodorant spray every morning and night, says Wenjay Sung, a podiatrist and foot-and-ankle surgeon in California; the metals in antiperspirant will block your sweat ducts.
Itchy feet? Try a vinegar bath
Once an infection develops, Dr. Sung swears by a foot bath of malt or white vinegar. It won't cure the infection, but will soothe the irritating itch, he says. Try these other homemade foot scrub remedies to pamper your feet.
Fear of cancer? Sunblock your feet
Many people don't think of applying sunblock to the top of their feet, but you should make this part of your daily routine in the summer, says Dr. Youner, who has seen an increase in skin cancer on patients over the last five years or so. Slather a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on the top and bottom of your feet and between your toes.
Athlete's foot? Kill it with baby powder
Dr. Youner sprinkles foot powder, baby powder, or cornstarch daily in all her closed shoes to kill any fungus trying to grow. "It keeps my feet from getting infected and also freshens the shoe," she says. Many patients ignore foot problems like itchy feet and toes, but if your feet look scaly and you can't stop scratching, there's a good chance it could be athlete's foot or another infection. In general, don't go barefoot near public pools and in locker rooms; these warm, moist surfaces are breeding grounds for warts and bacterial infections, suggests Ami Sheth, DPM, a podiatrist in Los Gatos, CA, who also warns parents to watch for their kids. Wear flip-flops. Here are some more simple home remedies for common foot fungus.
Stinky feet? Air out your shoes
Smelly feet aren't one of the riskiest feet problems, but they sure are annoying. Always be sure to air out shoes after you wear them, which helps ward off bacteria growth. If you can swing it, never wear the same shoes two days in a row. Here are some more home remedies for foot problems that cause foot odor.
Kids' foot pain? Insist on running shoes
Kids love running around barefoot, which is why Dr. Sung sees more kid patients in summer than at any other time of year. A common complaint is heel pain, which can occur when the growth plate in the heels gets irritated from overuse. The key to preventing these foot problems? Good footwear. He recommends running shoes over tennis shoes or cross trainers, because they have extra support. A quality shoe must pass his bend test: "The more it bends in your hands, the less supportive it is,” he says. If sneakers are a battle, compromise with a sport sandal, says Dr. Sheth. These usually have a toe cap or straps that provide a little support, making them less likely to fall off during play. If you love these insights from foot doctors, read on to learn 27 things your podiatrist won't tell you.