If you’re among the thousands of vacationers who will soon be trading snow boots for sandals and heading south for spring break, you’ll want to make sure your feet are in good shape before you step off the plane. Maintaining good foot hygiene can make your feet feel better, look better, and may prevent foot infections. According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) keeping feet healthy by practicing good foot hygiene is vital to long-term comfort and function of the feet.
The AOFAS suggests the following foot care protocol:
• Soak feet in warm soapy water for approximately 10 minutes to soften and clean skin and nails.
• After soaking your feet, gently remove calluses with a pumice stone, Hindu stone or emery board. This will get rid of dead skin cells as well as calluses. Avoid cutting or shaving calluses with a razor. It is not legal or safe for an unlicensed practitioner to cut the skin and definitely not recommended.
• Push back the cuticles with an orange stick or a Hindu stone. A normal part of the nail, cuticles offer protection from bacteria and infection.
• Trim toenails straight across rather than in a curved pattern. This helps prevent ingrown toenails. Toenails should be trimmed just enough so that you can see a few millimeters of skin just beyond the nail margin. Nails should not overhang the edge of the toe.
• Refine the nail edge with an emery board, maintaining the straight edge.
• Massage cream or lotion into the foot. A foot massage can help relieve tension and tired, aching feet. You can get a good massage at home by rolling your feet back and forth over a rolling pin.
Common foot hygiene problems include nail fungus infection, foot rashes, ingrown toenails, and sweaty feet. If a toenail looks brownish, yellowish, has light white patches or is flaky, brittle, ragged and chipped it may be a sign of nail fungus. The toenail may get so thick that wearing shoes can cause pain. Infected nails may also separate from the nail bed. Nail fungus is more commonly found among the older population. Factors that can increase the risk of developing nail fungus include: walking barefoot in a damp environment such as the area around a swimming pool; circulation problems; diabetes; a weakened immune system. Nail fungus is difficult to treat. After proper diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe oral anti-fungal medications.
The AOFAS also stresses the importance of keeping your feet dry. Sweaty feet can cause rashes and eczema. Avoid wearing nylon socks in plastic or tightly fitting shoes which may not allow the feet to dry properly, aggravating the problem. Wearing thick, soft cotton socks helps draw moisture away from the feet.
If a rash occurs it may be Athlete’s foot, a rash often between the toes, caused by a fungus infection. Athlete’s foot typically responds well to treatment with anti-fungal powders and lotions along with good foot hygiene.
Follow these guidelines to enjoy healthy feet that feel and look great. For more information and resources on foot and ankle care go to the AOFAS website www.aofas.org, and click on Patient Education and Resources. The site also features a surgeon referral service that makes it easy for patients to find a local orthopaedic surgeon specializing in foot and ankle care.
About the AOFAS
The AOFAS promotes quality, ethical and cost-effective patient care through education, research and training of orthopaedic surgeons and other health care providers. It creates public awareness for the prevention and treatment of foot and ankle disorders, provides leadership, and serves as a resource for government, industry and the national and international health care community.
About Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons are medical doctors (MD and DO) who specialize in the diagnosis, care, and treatment of patients with disorders of the musculoskeletal system of the foot and ankle. This includes the bones, joints, ligaments, muscles tendons, nerves, and skin. Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons use medical, physical, and rehabilitative methods as well as surgery to treat patients of all ages. They perform reconstructive procedures, treat sports injuries, and manage and treat trauma of the foot and ankle.
Orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeons work with physicians of many other specialties, including internal medicine, pediatrics, vascular surgery, endocrinology, radiology, anesthesiology, and others. Medical school curriculum and post-graduate training provides the solid clinical background necessary to recognize medical problems, admit patients to a hospital when necessary, and contribute significantly to the coordination of care appropriate for each patient.