Alongside the colds and sniffles that come with the winter flu season, there is another health crisis that comes around annually we regularly overlook: the health of our feet.
‘A lot of people tend to look after their feet really well during summer, when their feet are on display,’ says Craig Burton ofNewcastle Foot Clinic. ‘When they come into winter footwear, they
forget about their feet – and that’s when the problems can start.’
The problems are numerous – and if left untreated, painful, too. The transition from summer to winter can cause corns and ingrown toenails as people try and fit their feet into shoes that are in some way
incompatible with their foot. Those party heels with the pointed toe can cause painful bunions, and if nails aren’t well-trimmed squeezing them into tight shoes can cause nail bruising and splitting.
‘It comes from people getting used to having their feet in sandals, and the feet take some time getting used to being back in shoes,’ says Craig. Any maladies can be best treated by a podiatrist, but there are also
rehydration creams and specialist corn plasters available to counteract painful pressure points and be warned, prevention is better than cure! Wellington boots may be useful for dog walkers plodging through
deep snow, but they can cause foot problems. ‘In wellies, the foot receives a lot of friction, and when it’s cold the skin dries out. The heels crack, and you get nasty fissures,’ says Craig.
Making sure you keep feet moisturised – preferably with a cream containing urea, which the body naturally secretes – is vital over winter. ‘Keep the feet nice and dry after a shower and moisturise to avoid painful cracks in the heels,’ advises Craig. Ensuring that the feet are well-dried with a clean towel (which will also slough off dead skin, exfoliating the feet) is crucial, too.
Using towels to exfoliate skin is preferable to foot files, which can exacerbate any skin breakages, leaving them prone to infection. Craig’s advice is not to be too hard-handed with any type of foot buffer or foot file. If you have a real problem seek expert help.
Not drying your feet properly, particularly between the toes where moisture can catch, builds up problems for the future. Placing damp feet in thick socks may seem like heaven after facing the winter chill, but if your feet become too hot and damp, fungal infections can develop, which can spread around the foot, including to the nails.
Athlete’s foot can be treated effectively using a regular over-thecounter medicine, but should be avoided at all costs – and can spread by wearing party shoes without tights and neglecting to wipe the shoes out afterwards. Don’t share shoes or towels.