Looking after your feet is something best done every day. But it’s something which doesn’t take long – in fact just a few minutes every day can be enough to help prevent serious problems in the future. Here are some of the key things you can do to look after your feet:
Develop your own daily foot care routine. This means washing and moisturising your feet and checking them for injuries or changes to your skin.
Use a mild soap or cleanser to clean your feet. Don’t soak your feet, for example don’t spend too long soaking in the bath. Soaking makes your skin soggy which can make it more easily damaged and may also make your skin drier. Just wash and then dry them straight afterwards.
Dry your feet well, taking care to dry well between your toes. Dry skin will help prevent infections like athletes foot from starting. It’s also important that you make sure your feet are properly dry after you have been swimming.
Use a moisturiser – ask your pharmacist for a moisturiser that you can use for dry skin. Use the moisturiser after you have dried your feet and rub it into the main parts of your foot, both underneath and on top. Don’t use it between your toes as it will make your skin there moist which could make an infection like athlete’s foot more likely.
Check your feet – you’re looking for any changes from yesterday as well as the previous days and weeks. Check for: swelling, redness, any other change in the colour of your skin – for example, pale, bruised or purple skin, injuries like blisters or cuts, discharge from any wound.
If you find it difficult to bend down or lift your feet up to check properly then use a mirror. Put it on the floor so you can see the soles of your feet. Or ask someone else to look for you – your partner or carer for example.
Wear the right shoes and socks. Many foot problems are caused by footwear that doesn’t fit properly. Choose well fitting shoes that protect and support your feet and never go barefoot.
You might want to think your foot care regime as a daily pamper – giving you the chance to sit down and take a few minutes for yourself to relax and unwind.
Choose when and where you’re going to check your feet each day. This could be in your bedroom when you get up or in the bathroom after a shower for example. Try to check your feet at this time and in this place every day.
At first you may find it difficult to remember to check your feet, but if you do your check in the same place and at the same time every day, over time it will become easier. You will soon find yourself doing it automatically, without having to give it any thought.
If you do find it difficult to remember to check your feet, use reminders, for example set a reminder on your mobile phone or stick a note on the bathroom mirror.
Looking after your feet well can prevent many problems from developing. However, there may be times when you do injure yourself or when your skin becomes damaged.
If you develop a small cut or graze you should clean it and cover it. Get a large bowl big enough to put your foot in it comfortably and fill it with warm water. Add a couple of handfuls of table salt and mix it until it dissolves. If you don’t have any salt then you can use liquid antiseptic and add it to the water instead. Put your foot in the water and bathe it for a minute or so. Don’t leave it to soak. If you aren’t able to bathe your feet put some antiseptic cream on the injury instead.
Dry your feet gently but thoroughly and then put a dry sterile dressing over the cut or graze. Hold it on with some tape or a bandage. You can buy sterile dressings and tape from your pharmacist. If you can, take pressure off the area that’s injured and do what you can to prevent it from being injured again or getting worse.
Small cuts and grazes can often be looked after by you. Check the injury regularly and if you see signs that it is infected see your doctor straightaway. The exception is if you have nerve damage or a poor blood supply to your feet. Then you should see your doctor, nurse or podiatrist straightaway when you injure yourself, no matter how small the injury. This will help to prevent any infection and to make sure the wound heals properly.
If you find a blister, don’t pop it as it could get infected. Instead, put a dry, sterile dressing over it and keep an eye on it. If it does burst then clean it as you would a cut and cover it with a dressing. If it starts to weep or smell or if it becomes red and swollen then see your doctor, nurse or podiatrist as soon as you can.
If you have a small burn or scald you should use cold water to cool the area. Either put your foot in a bowl of cold water or soak a clean cloth to gently bathe the burn by squeezing cold water over it. Pat the area dry with a clean towel and cover it with a dressing. Check the burn or scald after a few hours to see whether a blister has formed or whether the skin is broken. If you have nerve damage or a poor blood supply to your feet you should see your doctor straight away for advice once you have bathed and covered the burn.
If any small wound has not started to heal more than two days after an injury then you should see your doctor, nurse or podiatrist straightaway. If you have damage to your nerves or the blood supply to your feet then you shouldn’t wait, but instead see your doctor as soon as you can however small the injury may be.
It’s a great idea to be prepared for any blisters, cuts, burns or grazes. Keep a first aid box at home and at work with all the things you need to deal with minor problems. If you use anything from it, make sure you replace it as soon as you can so that it’s there the next time you need it. Also check the expiry dates on products like antiseptic cream and sterile dressings every few months as they won’t last forever.
If you develop a problem that is more serious you should go to accident and emergency for treatment straight away for example if you step on something sharp like a drawing pin or nail, or have a deep cut or burn.