As the cool winter days roll on, it is easy for us to bundle up our feet into a warm pair of socks and shoes and otherwise forget about or neglect them. It is always important to keep a regular check over our feet year round for any possible changes and it is also vital to be aware of some of the particular challenges our feet can face in the cooler months.
We will explore the most important areas to focus your attention on, in order to maintain your foot health throughout the winter, but first, here are the top 5 most important factors to focus on:
1. Regularly moisturise your feet with a quality emollient.
2. Ensure footwear fits adequately and matches the shape of your foot.
3. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes.
4. Wear clean, moisture wicking socks and hosiery.
5. Try to maintain your feet at a constant temperature, avoiding fluctuations between extreme hot and cold.
Regular application of moisturiser:
Whilst many of us are familiar with the phenomenon of dry, cracked feet or heels in the summer time, many people do not realise that this can be just as much of a problem in the winter months. As we tend to spend more time in heated indoor spaces in the winter, this can significantly dehydrate the air around us and in turn dry out the skin. Many of us will find ourselves applying lip balm to dry chapped lips, or hand cream to our dry hands, but the poor old feet tucked up in socks and shoes are often left out. Ideally we should be applying moisturiser to our feet daily and whilst everyone’s skin hydration needs will be slightly different, ensuring you are using a foot specific cream is important to ensure they are adequately hydrated, particularly in more severe cases.
Correctly fitted footwear:
It goes without saying that correctly fitted and activity appropriate footwear is important at any time of the year, but given we tend to spend almost all of our time in closed footwear in the winter, it is especially important to ensure our shoes fit appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to have a look at your foot shape and see if that matches the shape of your footwear, especially at the toe-box of the
shoe. Footwear that is too tight at the toe-box can lead to a number of painful conditions such as
the formation of corns on the tops of toes or in between the toes, and can also lead to ingrown
toenails. If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of developing a painful corn or ingrown
toenail, a visit to the podiatrist can easily address this problem and further advice in regards to
prevention and correct footwear can also be discussed.
This might seem like very simple advice, but one of the best things you can do for your feet is to ensure you adequately wash and dry them on a daily basis. A lot of people neglect to specifically focus on washing their feet and just rely on the soapy water washing over them on its way down the drain. Washing each foot thoroughly for 20 seconds and then carefully drying them, can do wonders for your overall foot health. It is particularly important to dry between our toes in the winter, as fungal conditions such as tinea love nothing more than a warm, damp location to proliferate and with our feet often in socks and shoes for long periods of time, this is the optimal environment if we do not control the moisture. Drying our feet also helps to reduce the likelihood of broken skin between the toes, which in turns reduces the risk of other unwanted infections. Despite best efforts, some people are prone to excessively sweaty feet, which is when applying a powder or methylated spirits between the toes following your shower may be beneficial.
Moisture wicking socks
Wearing natural fibre socks with moisture wicking properties is integral in the winter, as synthetic socks and hosiery do not allow the skin to breathe and can contribute to excessive sweating and moisture accumulation between the toes. Some good examples of natural fibres are cotton, wool or bamboo socks, all of which help to draw the moisture away from the feet, thus leaving them dry and at a reduced risk of developing unwanted fungal or bacterial conditions and also helping to reduce foot odour. Socks should be changed daily, but in some cases twice daily is recommended for those who experience excessive sweating throughout the day.
Maintain your foot temperature:
As mentioned in a recent blog post in regards to preventing chilblains, it is important to maintain our feet at a constant temperature and avoid the extremes of hot and cold. Chilblains are painful lesions believed to be caused by the peripheral blood vessels of the toes constricting in response to the cold and then as they are rewarmed, often too quickly, blood leaks into the tissue and causes localised swelling. The best way to prevent this painful problem, is to try to maintain your feet at a constant temperature by wearing warm socks and shoes, not putting your feet too close to a heat source such as a heater or hot water bottle, gradually warming your feet if they have become damp whilst out walking or exercising and ensuring your home or workplace is free from cold drafts where possible.
Our feet are a precious commodity and we often don’t think about them until they start to cause us discomfort or pain. By following these simple tips, we can all aim for happier and healthier winter feet, but as always, if you have any particular concerns with your feet or would like further advice, a trip to the podiatrist is likely in order.