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Why good footwork makes summer a walk in the park

By Abi Jackson

Published 11/06/2015

Well heeled: it’s good to give your feet regular care
Well heeled: it’s good to give your feet regular care

After a winter in hibernation, summer is when feet have, well, their moment in the sun, so naturally it's a time we start thinking (or panicking) about making them look a little more presentable.

Buffing, filing and polishing them to flip-flop perfection is all good and well, but footcare is something we should really be thinking about all year round, and not just for aesthetic reasons.

They're a part of the body that really get put through their paces - literally - so treat your trotters to some regular TLC.

FOOTCARE BASICS

Don't like your feet? Getting into the habit of keeping them in good condition - through regular cleaning, exfoliating and moisturising - could make a big difference to both how your feet look and how you feel about them, but the benefits don't stop there.

Regular footcare can help keep this vital part of the body healthy in the long-term, potentially preventing complications like painful calluses and even ulcers, a particular concern for people with diabetes, especially where nerves are affected and there's loss of sensation in the area, and skin is very slow-healing.

"Hard skin can build up on parts of your feet where there's a lot of pressure, such as where shoes or socks rub," says Joanne Carey, Lloyds Pharmacy pharmacist and skin health specialist.

"If an area of hard skin builds up, the skin underneath is put under more pressure, causing damage to the tissues. Eventually this pressure can cause a wound to form under the hard skin, which is why it's important to prevent hard skin forming in the first place."

If you are one of the 3.2 million-plus people in the UK living with diabetes, footcare is extra important.

"Examine your feet for cuts, blisters, swelling or redness on a regular basis. Cut toenails straight across every six to eight weeks, and use a pumice stone to remove areas of hard skin," advises Carey. "Also, test your toes regularly for loss of sensation by lightly touching them."

BUNIONS

Far more than just a callous or hard, swollen skin, bunions are a bony deformity of the big toe joint. As well as a bony lump on the outside edge of the foot, the big toe points sideways towards the other toes, rather than straight forwards. They're not just unsightly but can be very painful and affect walking.

"Bunions are very common. It's thought they could affect up to half of UK adults," says Dr Pippa Bennett, a Bupa sports and exercise physician.

"While bunions can be genetic, they are very often also caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes that put a strain on the bones and muscles in your feet."

Certain conditions can also increase the likelihood of bunions, including rheumatoid arthritis and neuromuscular conditions like cerebral palsy.

Mild bunions might not require any treatment, but ensuring footwear is appropriate could help. Bunion pads and orthotics can provide relief and, in more severe cases, surgery may be required.

FUNGAL NAIL INFECTION

Characterised by thick, discoloured nails, fungal nail infections rarely cause serious problems, but they can be very unsightly and uncomfortable - sometimes painful, too.

"Fungal nail infections usually develop after some sort of injury to the nail or skin around the nail, or following a bout of athlete's foot. You're also more likely to develop nail infections if your job requires you to frequently get your nails wet," explains Joanne Carey.

Antifungal nail paints are available and, in severe cases, your GP may prescribe antifungal tablets. Carey also advises keeping feet clean, avoiding footwear that sweat feet sweaty, and try to keep nails short.

PAINFUL AND ACHY FEET

"One of the most common types of foot pain is a condition called plantar fasciitis, which is inflammation of tissue under your heel. This can be caused by being on your feet for long periods, wearing shoes with poor support, or if you are overweight and therefore putting extra strain on your heel," explains Dr Pippa Bennett.

If foot pain becomes an ongoing problem, Dr Bennett notes physiotherapy might be useful. Speak to your doctor if you're concerned, or if the discomfort is affecting everyday activities or keeping you awake at night.

Three of the best footcare treatments

Scholl GelActiv Everyday Insoles, £14.99 (various stockists)

Scholl's new GelActiv insoles range (right) includes "Sport", "Work" and "Everyday" designs, depending on the level of support needed. Simply pop inside your shoes, trim to fit and enjoy greater comfort, support and protection against pain, thanks to the ultra-soft shock-absorbing gel sections and firm cushioning pads.

Carnation Footcare Soothing Foot Gel and PediRoller, £19.99 (various stockists)

This handy roller helps exercise the feet, whether you're suffering with conditions like plantar fasciitis or you're just stiff and achy. Using your foot to roll the PediRoller beneath arches and heels instantly helps sooth and relieve.

Carnation Fleecy Web Roll, £3.99 (various stockists)

If your feet are often sore, inflamed and prone to blisters and calluses from pressure and rubbing, this handy foam roll creates a protective barrier to prevent friction. The roll design makes it speedy and easy to use.

Belfast Telegraph

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