Most of the time our feet perform well and we take them for granted. However if we neglect our feet or abuse them by wearing ill-fitting shoes then there are a number of foot problems that can occur.
- When a person has a bunion, their big toe leans towards their other toes causing a bump around the big toe joint that may become red, swollen and painful.
- Some people are more prone to developing bunions than other people; the underlying cause is a fault in the way the big toe joint works which is usually inherited.
- Wearing shoes that cause the toes to be crowded such as narrow-toed shoes or shoes with high heels can increase the risk of bunions.
- The first line of treatment is aimed at reducing the pain rather than correcting the deformity. Wearing appropriate shoes, using pads to cushion the bunion and/or taping a foot may all be helpful. Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove the bump and correct the alignment of the joint.
Corns and Callouses
- Corns and callouses are caused by friction and pressure when parts of the feet rub against shoes. This tends to happen as our feet age and change in shape.
- Corns typically have a central core with distinct edges and occur on the tops of the toes. They are usually shiny, dry and hard.
- Callouses do not have a central core and have indefinite borders. They usually occur on weight-bearing areas such as the sides and soles of the feet.
- There are a range of products such as foam, felt or gel pads, toe props and separators that can be used to ease the discomfort of corns and callouses.
- Medicated pads can be used to help remove corns and callouses.
- There are about 250,000 sweat glands in a pair of feet which can excrete as much as a cup of moisture in a day.
- This significant loss of fluid means the skin on your feet can easily dry out and crack, especially around the heels and sides of the feet. If the cracks are deep the skin can bleed easily and infection develop in the base.
- Cracked heels are more common in summer and can cause pain when walking.
- There is a variety of rough skin treatments including softening lotions, files and special plasters that can be used to soften and/or remove rough skin.
- Tinea between the toes (Athlete’s foot) is caused by the fungus, tinea pedis. Fungi like to live in warm, dark, moist environments as provided by the close proximity of toes to one another, and the cosy environment of shoes and socks.
- Athlete’s foot can appear as dry, red, cracked, scaly or peeling skin. Sometimes there may be blisters, white patches, burning or stinging and an unpleasant smell.
- Tinea should be treated as early as possible with an anti-fungal medication.
See the fungal infections chapter for more information.
- Ingrown toenails occur when a piece of nail grows into the skin at the side of a toenail, most commonly the big toe. The area can become red, swollen and painful. Infection is possible.
- Incorrect nail cutting can contribute to the cause of ingrown toenails. Trim toenails straight across, and not too short. Don’t cut out or dig at corners.
- Poor-fitting shoes or injury to a toenail are other common causes.
- Treatment by a podiatrist or doctor may be needed to remove the ingrowing nail under local anaesthetic – this is known as a wedge resection.
1. Keep your feet clean and dry
- Wash your feet daily. Rinse off all soap and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Change your footwear often.
2. Choose your shoes carefully
- Wear proper-fitting comfortable shoes to protect your feet.
3. Give your feet a rest
- Put your feet up when you are sitting down. This helps to keep blood moving to your feet.
4. Check your feet often for injuries or problems
- If you find it hard to check the soles of your feet, ask a family member to check them for you or use a mirror to look. Place the mirror on the floor and hold your foot above it.
5. If in doubt check it out
- If you think you have a foot problem ask your pharmacist for advice on how to treat it or see a podiatrist.