Be they Greek, Egyptian or square, feet support the human body. Aesthetically inconspicuous, they often go uncared for. However, hygiene and daily care of the skin of the feet (washing, moisturizing, etc) are essential for their wellbeing.
Ever wondered how much attention you pay to your feet? Even though they are hidden away for much of the year, the feet are fundamental for our body as they support our weight and help us retain our balance and move. Thus, foot care is essential to avoid possible injuries, infections and other problems that could harm our skin.
Highly stressed skin
The skin on our feet is under constant pressures (temperature changes, poor aeration, physical activity, etc) that can lead to infections and problems affecting our health. The most common complaints are as follows:
Athlete’s foot: This fungal infection often arises between the toes. It is itchy and irritating and produces brittle and flaky skin. It is picked up from wet surfaces at pools or public showers or from using the shoes or socks of affected people. It is typically treated with antifungal creams.
Corns and calluses: These appear on the sides of the toes (corns) or the soles of the feet (calluses) as a consequence of continuous rubbing or friction. As a defence mechanism, the skin produces keratin and the excessive accumulation of this protective protein in the outer layers of the epidermis thickens the skin (hyperkeratosis) and so produces the hard skin.
Cracked heels: Dry, cracked skin is the result of dehydration. Deeper fissures, moreover, can cause severe pain and bleeding. This problem is caused by sandals, open shoes and prolonged periods of standing.
Ingrown toenails: Overly tight shoes or badly cut nails are the most common causes of the edge of the nail penetrating the skin, causing infection, redness or swelling.
Blisters: These tend to form from the pressure of the shoe on a certain point of the foot, especially when the shoe does not fit properly or when no socks are worn. Such blisters easily become infected.
Footwear: chic or comfortable?
Health is usually not taken into account in the dictates of fashion. High heels are one of the best examples. Chiropodists warn that wearing high heels regularly can cause pain, swelling, abrasions and bunions, as well as irreparable damage – such as changes to the foot’s muscle structure or osteoarthritis. Footwear type is also crucial when it comes to preventing foot odour, caused by the bacteria that feed on sweat.
Experts recommend the use of comfortable anti-slip shoes (so the foot cannot move and become irritated). Shoes should also be made of a breathable material, should preferably have thick rubber soles, should respect the shape of the foot and should not squeeze the toes. Although experts are not against high heels, they do recommend that they should be used sparingly.
Foot care, healthy skin
The feet are a reflection of our health. To ensure their proper care, you need to apply a number of guidelines that will keep them clean, dry and cool:
Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap (pH 4.7 to 5.5) and apply a moisturizer while the skin is still damp.
Check feet for injuries, cracking, blistering or other problems and consult a specialist if in doubt.
Change shoes and socks daily and wear comfortable shoes.
Avoid walking barefoot in public areas.
Older people, whose skin is thinner, less elastic and drier, should pay particular attention to these tips.
By Elisabet Salmerón, science journalist
Sources:Institute for Preventive Foot Health