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The feet are one of the most overworked and overburdened parts of the body and go through a lot of wear and tear on a daily basis.
What’s worse is that people often neglect their foot health and do not follow a proper foot care routine. This could pave the way for various foot ailments that can make walking difficult and restrict your overall mobility.
Also, your feet remain under constant stress for the most part of the day. They bear the load of your body and rub against the hard ground, which leaves them severely worn out. It is for these reasons that it is very important to look after your feet.
Here are efficient tips you can follow to keep your feet in the best of condition:
1. Wash Your Feet Regularly
Your feet are so close to the ground that they are inadvertently more exposed to dust and dirt than other parts of the body. Plus, they accumulate a lot of sweat as they remain covered in socks and footwear several hours a day.
Thus, make sure to wash them thoroughly at least twice a day, using lukewarm water and a mild or antiseptic soap. The gentle heat of the water will help loosen the dead skin accumulated on the feet, while the soap will help remove all traces of sweat, grime, and germs.
After washing, let your feet dry in the air or dab them with a clean towel to get rid of any moisture, especially between the toes. Damp skin tends to breed bacteria and fungi, which can lead to infections such as athlete’s foot. (1)
Note: Hot water can strip the natural moisture from your feet, making them excessively dry, so it’s best not to use it.
2. Exfoliate at least Twice a Week
Your feet carry the load of the body and rub against the floor and footwear as you move about. This makes the skin of your feet quite rough and damaged.
Such excessive trauma causes a gradual thickening or hardening of the skin in the weight-bearing or high-friction areas, resulting in the formation of small round bumps known as corns or irregular raised patches known as calluses. (2)
Hence, exfoliating your feet is necessary to keep them soft and smooth. Exfoliation helps remove dead and dry skin from the surface of your feet, preventing the formation of corns and calluses.
How to make a DIY foot scrub:
- ½ cup of sugar
- 1 tbsp of almond oil
- ½ tbsp of honey
- 2–3 drops of tea tree oil
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl to form a paste.
- Dip your feet in lukewarm water for 8–10 minutes to soften the skin.
- Apply this thick paste to your feet and massage for at least 5 minutes.
- Rinse the paste off with cool water and dry your feet with a soft towel.
3. Moisturize Your Feet
Your feet can become very dry and rough due to the constant wear and tear they undergo, more so during the arid winter months. Dry skin is less elastic, which makes it more prone to tearing.
Since the soles of the feet remain pressed against the ground, they are more prone to this kind of skin damage, which often takes the form of cracked heels. Thus, it is very important to moisturize your feet properly multiple times a day to keep them soft and hydrated.
Treat your feet with a moisturizer and a foot cream at bedtime so that these products can repair your skin overnight. You can even wear socks after applying these products to make sure they don’t get wiped off by your bed linen while you sleep.
How to make a DIY foot moisturizer:
- ¼ cup of cocoa butter
- ½ tbsp of coconut oil
- ½ tbsp of almond oil
- 2–3 drops of glycerin
- 2–3 drops of tea tree oil
- Add cocoa butter, almond oil, coconut oil, and glycerin to a saucepan and heat it till all the ingredients melt.
- Mix all the ingredients well and add a few drops of tea tree oil.
- Pour the mixture into a bottle for storage.
- Massage a little of this homemade moisturizer onto your feet for 8–10 minutes every night before bed.
4. Wear Well-Fitted Shoes
Given that you spend most of your waking hours on your feet, wearing comfortable footwear is very important. The comfort of your feet, therefore, depends on the size, fit, design, and material of your footwear.
Well-fitted, comfortable shoes allow ease of movement. Conversely, poorly fitted shoes can make walking painful (3) and even injure your feet in the process.
Here are a few points to remember when shopping for shoes:
- The fabric of your shoes should be malleable so that it bends easily around your foot structure for a comfortable fit.
- Avoid shoes that are too tight or too narrow as they squeeze your toes and strain your feet, which can make it difficult to walk. (4) If your shoes are loose, their border will rub against your feet when you move about, causing blisters or injuries. Make sure your shoes are comfortably snug around your feet without leaving any extra space or crushing your skin.
- Always wear running shoes when you go for a jog as they are built to support and ground your feet through the sprint to prevent injuries. Plus, they are sturdy enough not to wear off from vigorous movement.
5. Trim Your Toenails Properly
Overgrown toenails not only collect dirt but are also prone to breakage. So, it is very important to trim your toenails regularly with a nail clipper rather than a pair of scissors.
Scissors can only cut straight lines and do not have the right shape to cut along the curve of your nails. After cutting, use a nail file or emery board to smoothen the rough edges of the nails.
Don’t cut your nails too short as it can injure the nail bed, which can hurt a lot, especially while walking. Also, don’t cut them straight across but along their curve at an angle to prevent ingrown nails. If you do get an ingrown nail, get it treated by a doctor rather than at home.
Lastly, don’t try to cut or pluck out your cuticles as this can lead to a lot of pain and can expose your nail bed to infections. (5) If your cuticle is sticking out, gently push it back in with a stick or pen that is designed for this purpose.
6. Take Good Care of Your Sweaty Feet
Sweat in itself is usually odorless but it can support the growth of foul-smelling microorganisms on your skin. (6) This is why sweaty feet can be quite stinky.
Plus, negligent foot hygiene along with excess sweat creates the perfect environment for microbial overgrowth that can trigger foot infections.
Here’s how you can avoid foul-smelling feet and foot infections:
- Wear a fresh pair of clean socks every day to prevent smelly feet. (7)
- If your shoes or socks get damp, change them as soon as possible.
- Apply some baby powder or talcum powder on your feet before putting on socks or shoes as it can help absorb perspiration and prevent odors. (7)
- You can also sprinkle some antiperspirant powder inside your shoes to soak in the excess sweat from your feet. (8)
7. Soak Your Feet Frequently
Soaking your feet in a relaxing bath can be a great way to unwind after a stressful day. (9)
It helps remove the dirt, germs, and dead skin from your feet while also reducing foot odor. Plus, it brings down any swelling in your feet and has a calming effect on the entire body.
How to make a DIY foot soak:
- A foot tub or shallow basin
- Warm water
- ½ cup of oatmeal powder
- 2–3 drops of lavender oil
- 1 tbsp of honey
- Fill the tub with warm water and add in all the other ingredients.
- Dip your feet into this tub and let them soak for at least half an hour.
- Dry your feet using a soft towel and apply moisturizer.
8. Use De-Tanning Foot Packs
Unlike the face and hands, the feet are often overlooked when applying sunscreen. However, the skin on your feet is also sensitive to sun damage and prone to tanning. The longer you wait to address this issue, the deeper will be the tanning.
So, it is recommended that you use the following foot pack to lighten the hyperpigmentation as soon as it occurs so that it doesn’t worsen to a point where it will be hard to remove. Also, you must use this pack consistently for several days to get the desired results.
How to make a DIY foot pack:
- ½ cup of dried orange peel (powdered)
- 2 tsp of sandalwood powder
- 4–5 tbsp of cucumber water
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until a paste is formed.
- Apply this pack to your feet and let it dry.
- Use wet hands to scrub off the pack.
- Rinse your feet with lukewarm water to remove any residue.
9. Massage Your Feet Daily
Massaging your feet for at least 5–10 minutes every day improves blood circulation, which may relieve any pain or inflammation. Plus, this topical stimulation helps relax the tense muscles of your feet. (10)
Doing this just before your bedtime can have a deeply calming effect on your body to induce good, uninterrupted sleep.
10. Try Paraffin Wax Therapy
You can also relax your tired feet by dipping them in a warm mixture of paraffin (petroleum-based wax) and mineral oil. The wax and oil lubricate the dry skin of your feet, while the gentle heat stimulates blood flow to relieve any inflammation, pain, and muscle stiffness. (11)
How to make a DIY paraffin wax foot dip:
- ½ block of paraffin wax
- 2–3 tbsp of jojoba oil
- 10 drops of peppermint oil
- 5–6 drops of coconut oil
- A dish or small tub
- Heat the paraffin wax block in a double boiler until it melts.
- Add the peppermint oil and jojoba oil to the molten wax and give it a stir.
- Pour this mixture into an oiled dish, and let it cool until it forms a thin skin-like layer on top.
- Wash your feet and let them dry completely.
- Massage a few drops of coconut oil all over your feet.
- Apply a tiny amount of wax on your hand or wrist to make sure it’s not too hot.
- When the mixture is comfortably warm, dip your feet in it several times to form multiple layers of wax over them.
- Cover your feet with plastic wrap and leave them be for half an hour.
- Unwrap your feet and peel off the wax layers.
Caution: Unlike regular foot soaks, paraffin wax retains more heat and may not be well tolerated by children, the elderly, or anyone with sensitive or damaged skin.
11. Go for Chemical Peels
Chemical peeling treatments, as the name suggests, literally help peel off the outermost layer of dead skin to reveal healthy new skin underneath. (12) This exfoliation process gradually improves the texture, color, and overall appearance of your feet.
The peeling solution generally contains a concoction of alpha hydroxy acids (such glycolic or lactic acid) and beta hydroxy acids (such as salicylic acid) that dissolve and loosen the dead cells settled on top of your feet so that they shed easily. The removal of dead skin allows new skin to rise to the surface.
A chemical peel is a cosmetic procedure that is performed in a clinical setting over multiple sessions. (12)
Your doctor will evaluate the condition of your feet and then recommend the best form of chemical peel for you. Some commonly used options are yellow peel, TCA peel (contains the active ingredient trichloroacetic acid), and glycolic-mandelic acid peel.
12. Perform Self-Examination of Your Feet
Check your feet and toenails from time to time or when you shower for any bruises, scaling, bumps, swelling, irritation, signs of infection, or any abnormal growth.
Self-examination of the feet is particularly important for people who suffer from diabetes as they are more prone to foot infections and other foot problems. (13)
Plus, chronic patients often develop peripheral neuropathy that makes their feet partially or completely numb. So, they often fail to notice any foot injury, and the wound runs the risk of getting infected in the absence of proper care and treatment. (14)
Thus, it is very crucial to examine your feet regularly and seek medical help (15) as soon as you detect anything unusual rather than trying to treat it at home. Visit your podiatrist at least once a year to make sure your feet are fine.
Keeping your feet healthy is very important for ease of movement, but thankfully they are very low maintenance. All you need to do is keep them clean, moisturized, and well-rested to keep them looking and functioning at their best.
Choosing the correct footwear and diligently following a proper foot care routine can go a long way in preventing a range of foot problems.
To be on the safer side, it is recommended that you get your feet checked out by a podiatrist at least once a year. Also, visit your doctor right away if you notice any persistent swelling, skin irritation, or peeling on your feet, which could be a sign of an allergic reaction.
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