Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Secret to Pretty Feet

Many foot conditions not only cause pain and hinder your ability to walk, but many of them can render your feet rather unattractive. Conditions like toenail fungus, which causes yellowing and cracking or the toenails, often requires treatment over a period of several weeks and even months, depending on the case. But for someone who does not have any preexisting conditions, keeping your feet looking good is not hard. A small amount of time invested in your feet not only keeps them looking good, but can keep them healthy as well. Here are some tips for maintaining your pretty feet.

1. Remove any toenail polish. Once you do this you can closely inspect your toenails for signs of trauma and fungal infection. It is also a good idea to not always have toenail polish on your toes, as having them constantly polished can cause them to become discolored. Wear it for special occasions, and when it starts coming off, just remove it and allow your feet some time without polish. Non-acetone polish removers are best.

2. Enjoy a foot soak. Not only will you find this 15-20 minutes relaxing, but it helps moisturize your feet and soften skin and nails, making it easier to trim nails and calluses. Keep in mind that water which is too hot can actually dry your feet out, so don't use the hottest temperature you can stand, but rather a comfortable temperature. Aromatherapy soaks and bath salts can be added to your foot soak, but keep in mind that these may be bad for or painful on any open wounds. Consult your podiatrist about foot soaking if you have an ulcer or open wound. At then end of your soak, scrub your toenails with a toenail brush. This will help remove any excess dirt or flaking nail particles.

3. Trim your calluses and corns. The soak will have softened these hard areas of skin, making them easier to remove with a pumice stone, emery board, and/or callus file. This is important because large, hard calluses can crack, leaving a vulnerable point in your skin for bacteria, viruses, and fungi to enter and cause infection. It may take a couple of trimmings before you can remove all the hard skin. Be careful not to trim calluses down to fresh skin. Do not cause yourself pain when trimming calluses. If you think you are getting close to your skin, you can stop trimming. Calluses can be controlled without being removed.

4. Trim your toenails. They will also be softer and easier to trim after the soak. Always trim nails straight across, as cutting near the edges of your nails increases your risk of the toenail becoming ingrown as it grows back. You can round the edges slightly with an emery board. You may push your cuticles back if you choose, but do not cut them. The cuticle area can easily become infected.

5. Parafin wax treatment. Although this treatment is optional, it does have benefits for your feet. The warmth of the wax is not only relaxing, but it helps increase circulation (which increases the amount of blood traveling through your feet and thus the rate at which your body heals itself) and opens pores, which allows your feet to absorb more moisture. As the wax is cooling down, you can wrap your feet in a towel to make the warmth last a little longer.

6. Apply lotion. Since the pores are open in your feet after the wax treatment and soak, this is the best time to apply lotion so that your skin absorbs the moisturizer. Moisturizing feet is important, especially for those with dry skin which cracks. If you have dry feet you should moisturize daily. We recommend Gormel cream, which is available in our office. Just be sure never to moisturize between your toes, these areas are already pretty moist and very susceptible to fungal infections which cause athlete's foot. Put on socks after you moisturize to help keep the lotion on longer and allow your skin to absorb it. Putting on lotion is a great time to also apply foot massage. Massage benefits your feet by adding relaxation, stretching your muscles, and increasing circulation.

Some other tips for healthy and good looking feet:

1. Treat any athlete's foot. If you have athlete's foot, you should treat it. Begin treatment as soon as you notice the problem. This will reduce the amount of time it takes to clear up the problem and prevent it from getting worse. Over the counter athlete's foot products should be your first step. You should also change your socks frequently and apply foot powder to keep your feet dry. Rotating shoes gives them a chance to dry out before you wear them again and helps prevent excess moisture around your feet. If your athlete's foot problem continues, you should see your podiatrist. We have medicated powders available and the doctor can suggest treatments and prescriptions to help with your problem.

2. Treat toenail fungus. If you have yellow, discolored nails which flake or crack you most likely have a fungal infection of the toenails. See your podiatrist, as we have many treatments available for getting rid of this infection for you and returning your nails to their normal state.

3. Prevent sweating. Moisture, warmth, and darkness in your shoes makes them a prime place for bacteria and especially for fungus to grow. It also is the main contributor to foot odor. Change your shoes daily as this gives them time to dry out. Make sure you change your socks every day and wash them before you wear them again. Foot powder is also good for keeping your shoes and your feet dry. If you sweat excessively you may want to consider changing your socks and reapplying foot powder in the middle of the day. Your podiatrist can also prescribe prescription strength medications for your excessive foot sweating. You can also get antiperspirants for your feet or shoe insoles which contain charcoal.

4. Wear the right shoes. Many foot problems are actually the result of improperly fitting shoes. Shoes that are too tight, especially in the toes, do not offer enough support, or have high heels often contribute to foot deformities and foot function problems. Tight fitting shoes around your toes can also contribute to toenail fungus, ingrown toenails, the development of corns and calluses, and can irritate bunions and hammertoes. Make sure that you buy shoes that fit your properly. The best time to try on shoes in in the afternoon, when you have been on your feet for some time and the blood flow has caused them to swell.

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