Tips on caring for various foot ailments are presented. These include calluses and corns, dry skin, ingrown toenails and tired feet. Feet should also be soaked in a mixture of warm water and Epsom salts once a week to remove dead skin and improve circulation.

Footcare tips to keep you on your toes

The sensual pleasures of the feet were rated high in ancient cultures. In Egypt, Queen Hatshepsut would prepare for a romantic evening by having slaves burnish her feet with an aphrodisiac oil. And Cleopatra’s exotically scented feet and polished toes apparently helped to seduce Mark Anthony.

Today, we’ve forgotten the seductiveness of our feet, which may be why we so often neglect our lowly extremities. But we complain when they ache, our posture suffers, and we have difficulty walking and standing. Since good foot care is key to overall health and comfort, it really does pay to give your feet some tender loving care. Here’s how to identify problems and make sure your feet stay your most supportive friends.

Calluses and corns

Caused by friction, both consist of hard thickened skin, but calluses usually appear on the bottom of the foot; corns on the top or side of the toe. Both can be caused by ill-fitting shoes, but a callus may also be the result of a bone imbalance that puts extraordinary pressure either on the ball or heel of the foot. It’s essential to wear shoes that fit properly; in some cases, prescription shoe inserts, or orthotics, may be necessary.

Dry cracked skin

A lack of moisture and pressure caused by an uneven gait or excessive weight aggravate the problem. To prevent cracked skin, soak, rub with pumice and moisturize your feet with a collagen-based cream.

Ingrown toenails

When the big toe is rubbed by too-tight shoes or crowded by the other toes, the skin is pushed into the nail, and the nail becomes embedded. The result is not only pain but susceptibility to infection. Cutting the toenails properly will usually ease the problem; if not, seek professional help.

Tired feet

Caused by an uneven gait, badly fitting shoes or overexertion, tired feet usually respond gratefully to a relieving soak and massage at the end of the day. Be sure your shoes fit properly. It’s a good idea to have your feet checked by a podiatrist; corrective orthotics are sometimes called for.

Foot perspiration and odor

Perspiration and bacteria cause foot odor, and hosiery and shoes are prime contributors. Avoid wearing the same shoes every day. Foot powder or special sole inserts also help reduce odor. In extreme cases, special medications that eliminate perspiration may be advised. Consult your pharmacist.

Blisters

Blisters are fluid-filled sacs caused by shoe pressure. To treat, apply antibiotic cream and bandages to stop the friction so that the blisters can heal.

Swollen feet

This occurs when the kidneys retain fluid. People who walk a lot or have gained weight are especially prone. Unless your feet are chronically swollen, which could indicate a heart problem and should be checked by your doctor, you can get relief by lying down with your feet propped up on pillows to elevate them above your heart. Apply an ice pack at 20-minute intervals.

Weekly care

Once a week, immerse your feet in a large bucket filled with warm water and Epsom salts (available at drugstores). This helps shed dead skin and promote circulation. Soak feet for 10 minutes, then pat dry. Take off any nail polish with a nonacetone remover and gently clean under the nails. With a pair of professional toenail clippers, available at drugstores, cut your toenails straight across. Avoid trimming them too short and round, which can cause painful ingrown toenails.

Gently push back the cuticles with an orange stick Never use a razor blade or clippers on the skin. It’s all too easy to cut yourself; and wounds to the foot are prone to infections that are slow to heal, since the feet are the farthest extremities from the heart. Buff the nails with a pink or blue emery finishing-disk pad, available at drugstores, to smooth ridges caused by friction from ill-fitting shoes or exercise.

Soak your feet again and take an abrasive scrub to calluses on the toes, heels and balls of your feet. If you still feel you’ve got the soles of a Tyrannosaurus rex, take a “crocodile” file or a pumice stone and rub back and forth and in circles to eliminate calluses.

Rinse your feet and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes, to prevent bacterial growth. If you are prone to athlete’s foot, a drying powder or an antifungal preparation will help reduce the likelihood of infection.

Moisturize with lotion or, if dry skin is your particular Achilles’ heel, rub on a heavier collagen-based cream, wrap your feet in plastic, cover with socks and wear overnight. After several applications, this treatment is guaranteed to render your feet baby-bottom soft.

For the final touch, separate your toes with tissue, cotton balls or sponge (avoid the rubber separators, which can breed bacteria and fungus) and brush on a base coat, two layers of polish and a top coat, all the while staying clear of the cuticles to prevent hangnails.

Massage

Stroking the feet can relieve tension and relax you for a good night’s sleep. After a footbath, place your right foot, sole up, on your left knee. Grasp your foot by plating the heels of your hands on the ball of your foot and gently massage the length of your foot with your thumbs. Applying steady pressure, inch or “walk” your thumbs from the big toe down to the heel, following the arch of your foot. Repeat on the outside of the foot, starting at the little toe. Make a fist and firmly knead the ball, the arch and the heel. Next, delicately pull and squeeze each toe. Finish by stretching the top of the foot between your hands and massaging your ankles and calves. Apply cream. Repeat with the other foot.

Another way to massage your foot is to use a rolling pin or a big pop bottle, placing your sole firmly on it and rocking your foot back and forth to relieve soreness.

These treatments may help you reach new heights of bliss, much like Queen Hatshepsut.

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