Step-Up Your Foot Care Routine

Advice for stepping up your foot-care routine

WRITTEN BY Lauren Johnson

We spend a significant amount of time on our feet, but how much do we dedicate to actually caring for these essential appendages? “We tend to stick them in shoes and forget about them,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare affiliated podiatrist Dr. Brian Ralph. He stresses that the number one thing we can do for the health of our feet is to pay attention to them. 

Start with a daily visual inspection of your feet for signs of injury or infection. This step is especially important for people with diabetes who have lost feeling in their feet, a condition called neuropathy. “Look for color changes, open sores or new developments,” says Dr. Ralph. If you notice any of these, head to the doctor as soon as possible.

A good hygiene routine should also involve thoroughly washing your feet every day. Be sure to use soap and friction rather than just letting the shower water run over your tootsies. When you’re finished bathing, dry your feet really well. “I tell people to floss between their toes with a dry washcloth,” says Dr. Ralph. “Fungus and yeast love a moist, warm, dark environment. Sticking damp feet inside shoes creates a petri dish for some nasty stuff.” If the skin on your feet is cracking, you can rub lotion on the tops and bottoms, concentrating on thick heel skin, but take care not to get moisturizer between your toes.

The podiatrist also advises cleaning footwear weekly by spraying the insides with a disinfectant such as Lysol. “We wash our feet and our socks, but we don’t wash our shoes,” he explains. “Over time, yeast, fungus and bacteria can set up shop.” Such colonies commonly kick up infections and odor, since stinky feet result from bacteria that live on the skin and feed on sweat. “If your feet are excessively sweaty, you can apply an antiperspirant to the bottoms of your feet just as you would on your armpits,” suggests Dr. Ralph.

Up to 70 percent of people will develop a tinea pedis infection (the fungus commonly known as athlete’s foot) at some point in their lives, according to the American College of Podiatric Medicine. By elevating the care we give to our bottommost extremities, we can stamp out this and other preventable conditions.

On Your Feet

“Good foot support is important with mileage,” says Dr. Ralph. “Like anything else in the body, with age, the bone structures in our feet weaken, so the soft tissue has to work harder.” Here, the podiatrist offers tips on shoes and socks to keep your feet happy.

Opt for cotton-blend socks to help wick moisture away, and change them daily. “Avoid 100% cotton socks, which hold moisture against the feet.”

Choose breathable mesh athletic shoes. “Leather shoes are suitable for a dress environment, but not when you plan to break a sweat.”

Wear supportive shoes even at home. “Going barefoot doesn’t provide the feet with enough support and may cause tendonitis or tendinopathy.”

Reserve sandals and flip flops for the beach and pool. “Wearing these types of shoes all day, every day, can lead to plantar fasciitis and other problems.”

Skip the gel inserts. “They feel good in the moment but don’t do much for support.”

Replace shoes every 425 miles (that’s about four to six months, if you wear the same pair every day). “We tend to keep shoes too long, until they’re literally falling apart.”

Photographs by (shower feet) Quinn Martin; (tennis shoes)