How to look after your feet

A pair of feet in slippers, propped up on the arm of a sofa or armchair.

Even if you don’t have a condition such as diabetes that makes you particularly susceptible to problems with your feet, proper foot care is very important. Looking after your feet helps to avoid a wide range of issues that can affect your mobility and your balance. If these deteriorate, it can make you more likely to have a fall or otherwise injure yourself.

So, what are the basics of looking after your feet to keep yourself safe and healthy?

How to look after your feet and toenails

There are plenty of things you can do to look after your feet and reduce the risk of falls. The following tips apply to absolutely everyone, but if you have a high risk of falling, or if you have a condition that means you’re at a greater risk of foot problems, your doctor will be able to advise you on further precautions and habits you can use to keep yourself safe. Either way, these basic tips are an excellent starting point if you’re looking to improve how you take care of your feet.

Clean and dry is best

As you can imagine, keeping your feet clean is a great first step to keeping them healthy. This doesn’t mean you have to take time out of your week to have regular foot baths – although these can be very relaxing and enjoyable. If you don’t have time for that, though, you can simply wash your feet as part of your normal shower or bath routine, making sure to clean between your toes and on the soles of your feet.

Once you’re out of the bath or shower, it’s important to dry your feet properly. Excess moisture can lead to a number of foot-related health problems including athlete’s foot, so making sure your feet are completely dry is vital. Don’t forget to dry between your toes too. This is a spot that often gets missed if you only dry your feet by wiping them on a bath mat, so use a towel to dry those hard to reach areas.

Of course, baths and showers aren’t the only time your feet can get wet, and it’s important to make the effort to dry them off properly no matter what you’re doing. So, whether you’ve paddled in a stream, gone swimming or just been caught in a torrential downpour, don’t forget to dry off your feet as well as everything else. Where possible, try not to spend too much time in wet socks or shoes.

If you’re prone to dry skin, it can be helpful to apply a moisturiser to your feet to resolve the issue. This is a good idea, but always make sure to wipe away any excess cream once you’re done, as it can pose similar problems to excessive moisture.

Know what's normal for you

Everybody is different and there is a degree of natural variation that is quite normal for your feet to go through. For example, your feet will naturally swell during the day to be larger in the evening than they are in the morning. However, if they swell too much this could be a sign that something isn’t quite right. Different people’s feet can swell differently – and you’re the best placed person to judge whether the swelling is normal for you or out of the ordinary.

Of course, this doesn’t only apply to foot swelling. Other things can be indicative of problems with your feet, including:

  • Discolouration – bruising, yellow-tinged skin, redness or paleness
  • Injuries – cuts, blisters, bruises or even broken bones
  • Shape – if your toes are pointing in a different direction to usual, this could be a sign of a fracture or other injury
  • Texture – areas of hard, flaky or rough skin

Often, foot problems are easily resolved once they’re identified, so be sure to bring any issues you notice to your doctor’s attention to find out how to treat the problem.

Wear appropriate footwear for the activity

One of the most common causes for foot-related problems is wearing inappropriate footwear. Sometimes that means wearing the wrong size of footwear, which is why it is so important to measure your feet properly. If you often get blisters on the sides of your feet, this might simply be down to needing wide-fitting shoes, for example.

It’s also important to think about what you’re going to be doing with your feet when you choose what shoes to wear. Common sense should be all you need for this – obviously, stiletto heels aren’t the best choice for a cross country hike, but neither are trainers or sandals. Choosing a sturdy pair of walking shoes is a far better idea, and your feet will thank you for it. This also applies to walking around indoors – always wear slippers and not just socks or tights, as these can be slippy on some floors.

Finally, know when it’s time to let go. Even the best-fitting shoes will wear out and will no longer be the right choice for your feet. You might be tempted to hold onto old pairs of shoes to save money or because they’re your favourite, but wearing worn out shoes can have a big impact on your mobility and foot health.

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