After months cocooned in socks and boots, it’s glorious to slip into sandals again. But unless you’ve treated your feet to regular pedicures, they may not be fit to be seen. Sarah Purcell walks us through the main problems – and solutions
Even when you’ve got your feet into tip-top condition, it’s important to give them extra attention throughout the summer. The truth is, feet don’t enjoy summer. Squashed into new sandals, they swell up as the temperature rises and blisters, corns, calluses and dry skin can appear. The hot weather causes sweaty feet and foot odour, while visits to the pool can leave you with verrucas. So be ready for that steady stream of footsore customers by reading our guide to fabulous summer feet.
The Problem: Hard Skin, Corns and Calluses
Neglect through the winter months. In summer, wearing sandals with no socks or tights means skin rubs on shoes, causing a build-up of rough skin, which can lead to corns and calluses.
Soak feet in warm water, using either a foot soak (Mavala Concentrated Foot Bath, Scholl Relaxing Fizzy Marbles) or a few drops of an essential oil such as peppermint or lavender in a bowl of warm water.
* Gently rub away patches of hard skin with a foot file or pumice (Elegant Touch, Ever Ready, Alida and Scholl are some manufacturers to look out for).
* Use a foot exfoliant cream for extra smooth feet. Try Scholl Rough Skin Remover or Mavala Smoothing Scrub Cream.
* Pat feet dry, then massage in an intensive foot moisturising cream. Manufacturers to look for include Neutrogena, Compeed, Sally Hansen, Felxitol, Ahava Dermud or Australian Bodycare. Tackle corns with a special corn treatment, many of which contain salicylic acid, though this is unsuitable for diabetics.
Pumice or file feet weekly throughout the summer to stop patches of hard skin forming. Concentrate on heels, balls of feet and around the tips of the toes.
“Moisturise your feet every day to stop rough skin turning into hard skin and callouses,” says chiropodist Kimby Osborne, advisor to Carnation. “It’s important to choose sandals carefully. Make sure your heel isn’t hanging over the back of the shoe or sliding forward as you walk.”
The Problem: Sweaty Feet
There are 250,000 sweat glands in our feet (more per square inch than anywhere else), so it’s hardly surprising most of us get sweaty feet in hot weather. Wearing trainers without socks, or shoes that don’t let feet breathe are common causes in summer. It’s not sweat itself that causes smelly feet, the odour develops when sweat is broken down by bacteria on the skin.
* Choose shoes made of leather which allow feet to breathe. In summer, wear open toed sandals that allow air to circulate.
* Always wear cotton socks with trainers. Wearing trainers without socks will cause a build-up of bacteria in your shoes – and a horrible pong when you take them off!
* Wash feet daily, then apply a foot antiperspirant spray such as Scholl Fresh Step Antiperspirant Foot Spray. Then dust with foot powder to absorb sweat (Mavala Cooling Talc Powder).
* “Don’t forget to change socks/tights daily as they harbour bacteria,” says Kimby Osborne.
[Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day – alternate between a few pairs so they always have the chance to dry out properly. Washable insoles are a good idea and you can buy deodorising insoles which are good for trainers.
The Problem: Blisters
Shoes rubbing on the feet causes friction and this leads to blisters as a build-up of fluid occurs to protect skin from further damage.
* Don’t burst the blister, this could lead to infection.
* Apply a blister plaster that will help it to heal. Try Compeed or Carnation products.
* Wear new shoes for short periods of time at first.
* If you’re walking long distances, apply blister plasters to vulnerable areas before you set out to prevent problems.
The Problem: Fungal Nail Infection
It’s due to a similar fungal infection that causes athlete’s foot, but gets underneath the toenails.
* “Lots of people ignore this because it doesn’t hurt, thinking it’ll go away by itself. It won’t,” says Kimby Osborne. “If left untreated it can become severe and hard to get rid of.”
* When cutting nails, cutting into the fungus can spread the problem.
* In summer it’s quite safe to disguise toenails discoloured by infection with nail varnish, but use a base coat first,” says Kimby Osborne.
See page 36 in Over The Counter for more information on fungal problems.
The Problem: Verruca
A virus enters the body via broken skin. Usually found on the soles of the feet, a verruca looks like a wart and may have a black dot in the centre.
* If it’s not causing pain it will eventually disappear, but you should cover it with a plaster when swimming to avoid passing the infection on.
* If it is painful you can use a verruca treatment such as Bazuka Gel or Carnation Verruca Treatment.
* Wear flip-flops around swimming pools and changing rooms.
The Problem: Summer Shoes
Wearing shoes without socks causes friction, leading to a host of foot problems. Slide-on shoes don’t support well and `beach shoes’ for walking won’t give enough cushioning to feet.
* “If you choose a slip-on backless shoe, make sure your foot fits snugly inside and your heel doesn’t fall over the edge,” says Kimby Osborne.
* “If you have one foot smaller than the other, use a heel grip inside the shoe for your smaller foot for a better fit.”
* If you’re wearing strappy, high-heeled sandals you’ll need some extra cushioning. Make sure there’s enough room in your shoe for a gel cushion, or you could be squashing your foot and causing more problems (Carnation and Scholl offer discreet cushioning which won’t show in barely-there sandals).