The summer heat can do a number on your feet. The fashionable - and unsupportive - footwear of summer can spark painful and unsightly cracked heels, blisters and corns. Save your soles from the ugly side of summer
with these quick foot fixes courtesy of J. Craig Hunt, a chiropodist based in London, Ont.
1. Cracked heels
Ouch! Those tiny cracks creeping across your heels can really hurt. "Heel cracks are usually associated with wearing sandals, flip-flops or open-backed footwear," says Hunt. "The heel is not supported or it's falling off the back of the shoe. That [strain] puts an increased amount of pressure and force into the tissues and can cause [skin] cracking."
Standing for extended periods of time or walking on concrete can also exacerbate this common problem.
"Wash your feet in tepid, soapy water for 10 to 15 minutes to rehydrate the skin
," says Hunt. "Then use a pumice stone to smooth down the cracks and apply a moisturizing cream or ointment."
If the cracking is severe, wear a sock on the afflicted foot at night to keep the cream in place while you sleep. The next day, leave the ill-fitting flip-flops or sandals in your closet, advises Hunt. Instead, choose supportive shoes that protect your heels.
Hunt suggests taking precautionary measures to improve the health and appearance of your heels. Start by avoiding wearing summer shoes that don't offer heel support. You should also insert cushioned heel cups into your footwear and practise daily foot hygiene
. In summer shoes, your feet are more likely to be exposed to germs, dirt and foreign objects. Washing your feet daily with soap and water can help eliminate the unattractive and embarrassing situation of filthy looking heels.
Page 1 of 3 -- Find out how you can treat and prevent blisters and calluses on page 2
Summer often brings about blisters - small pockets of clear fluid trapped underneath the top layers of the skin. The culprit? Tight or ill-fitting footwear
that rubs your skin raw.
Blisters may pinch and sting, but they actually serve a beneficial purpose, says Hunt. "Blisters are Mother Nature's way of protecting the skin
," he explains. The inflamed bubble keeps the tender, aggravated skin underneath safe from infection and further damage.
Treatment: "As a general rule, try to keep the blister clean and intact as much as possible," says Hunt. "Soak it in cool water and protect it with moleskin or a bandage." If you pop the blister it can lead to a skin infection, which may require a doctor's attention.
Prevention: Ensure that your footwear fits properly, regardless of the activity you'll be doing, says Hunt. A comfortable, supportive shoe is key to a blister-free day. You can also use gel pads, bandages or moleskin to eliminate pressure or rubbing in potentially problematic areas.
That ugly thick skin that builds up on your soles and under the heels or balls of your feet is known as a callus. Calluses can develop under the pressure points of the feet when your shoes don't fit properly or if you have a predisposed foot condition
, such as a slight bone protrusion.
Treatment: Never use a razor to cut off callused skin. Hunt recommends briefly soaking your feet in warm water and then using a pumice stone or foot file to gently smooth down the callused areas.
"If that doesn't work [over time], then you need professional guidance to see if there's something else going on," he says.
Prevention: "Sometimes you'll need an orthotic to redistribute the weight and eliminate the increased pressure areas that are resulting in calluses," says Hunt. "If you can't do that with [well-fitting] shoes or over-the-counter insoles, the next step is a prescriptive orthotic to help with those issues."
Page 2 of 3 -- Find out how you can treat corns on page 34. Corns
Smaller than calluses, corns are hard-centred sores surrounded by inflamed skin. They're most commonly found in between or on top of the toes, or under the balls of the feet.
"Corns aren't big, but they go deep into the skin and can create pain if they're irritating a nerve or blood vessel," says Hunt. Squeezing your feet into the wrong-size shoes can produce corns, as can extensive pressure or perspiration
Treatment: Pharmacies sell over-the-counter corn removal preparations, just be careful using them as the acid in these remedies can harm adjacent healthy tissue. You can try these products for a short period of time, says Hunt, but if the problem persists you should see your doctor. "Corns often require professional care and need to be cut out," he says.
Prevention: Hunt recommends steering clear of shoes that add pressure to the balls of your feet or cause your toes to be crammed tightly together. It's also smart to alternate your footwear to give your feet a rest and to allow your shoes to release trapped perspiration.
Many foot problems are caused by neglect. By paying attention to your feet on a daily basis you can easily maintain pretty, sandal-worthy feet
. Start a healthy foot regimen
this summer and you'll quickly step away from painful, ugly blemishes.Page 3 of 3