Dry, cracked, smelly or fungal feet are caused by exposure to the heat and sun, wearing thongs, sandals, open toed shoes or sling backs, walking barefooted in public areas or wearing enclosed, hot work shoes says podiatrist Brenden Brown of the Australian Podiatry Association (NSW & ACT).
“The right footwear for the occasion, cotton socks and caution if barefooted is imperative,” says Brenden. “Thongs can be particularly bad for feet, not only because they provide no support and can lead to sprains, breaks and twisted ankles they also expose your feet to the elements.”
“If you suffer from dry feet, heat exposure can result in painful cracks if you are not kind to your feet. If you sweat a lot and work in closed shoes or boots this is also a time to watch for smelly and fungal feet,” he said.
To keep your feet happy this summer here are some top foot care tips:
Dry Cracked Feet
- Use a good foot balm daily to keep cracked feet at bay and rotate your footwear – do not wear open shoes all the time when out. Foot balm is particularly important if you spend a great deal of time at the beach or in the surf.
- In summer it is common to see women wearing thongs to work while carrying high heels in their bag. However a good walking shoe or trainer is better than thongs, which do more harm than good by providing no support and exposing feet to injury and the elements.
- If you develop serious skin cracks you must see a podiatrist. They can clear away calloused and dead skin, provide advice on correct skin care and check your walk to ensure there are no biomechanical or structural problems causing dry cracked heels or pads.
- If you cannot reach your feet and no one can help you with foot balm or cleaning, ensure you see a podiatrist, especially if your condition becomes exacerbated and painful. You do not want infection to set in.
- Severe heel fissures can be serious, particularly for people with diabetes, neurovascular disease and neuropathy. Foot health for these people in summertime is particularly important, especially when it’s tempting to discard our shoes. Missing a cut, a nail or any other debris in the foot of a person with diabetes can be the starting point for amputation so regular podiatric checks are therefore very important for limb health.
Smelly and fungal feet
- As your feet have more sweat glands than any other part of the body, keeping them clean by washing them every day with antibacterial soap and drying them properly during hot summer months will help prevent profuse sweating and smells.
- If you are getting a pedicure make sure the operator properly sterilises equipment (autoclave and packaged) – make sure you ask them what their procedure is. This can save you picking up another person’s fungal infection.
- Keeping feet clean and dry will also help prevent athlete’s foot (tinea). If this occurs – symptoms are itching, open blisters and peeling skin. Treatments can be found at a pharmacy or if severe see your podiatrist.
- Smells are caused by bacteria which live on the skin of our feet and produce an acid which is the culprit of stinky feet. Combined with heat and confinement of shoes the result can be overwhelming. So make sure you pamper your feet and have your podiatrist remove any affected skin.
- Where possible wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe – so take your shoes off at home.
- Lightly cover your feet with talcum powder or baking soda before you wear your shoes.
- If you are wearing socks or stockings change them every day but avoid nylons, this aggravates the heat and sweat – wool or cotton is the way to go.
If you are wearing closed in shoes always wear socks.
- Do not wear the same pair of shoes everyday rotate them or if you can wear a different pair each day of the week.
- To stop shoes smelling fill an old clean sock with baking soda or fresh kitty litter, tie a knot at the end then place in your shoes overnight – it really works!
- For really stubborn odours you can put the shoes in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer, this affects the bacteria and helps return your shoes to normal.
- Tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil and anti-odour and antibacterial sprays can also help.
To find your local podiatrist in NSW and the ACT visit www.podiatry.asn.au. A doctor’s referral is not required.