How to Heal 4 Foot Problems for More Attractive Summer Feet
We women have a gift: we can live in denial for long periods of time.
At least we can when it comes to our feet. All winter long, they stay hidden away inside our socks and we don’t think much about them. When the warm weather arrives, however, we eye those strappy sandals and can’t wait to get our toes into the sun again.
Then we actually try one of those sandals on, and…what’s that?
Podiatrists say that they see more people in the spring and summer not because there are more problems during these months, but because we tend to notice the problems then. Our feet are out where everyone can see them, and what we were able to deny before we can no longer pretend not to notice.
If you were greeted with an unpleasant surprise on your foot this summer, here are some tips for how you can address it, heal it, and spend the rest of the summer feeling healthy and feminine.
1. Nail Infection
This can be one of the most unpleasant and frustrating problems to discover, but it does require your immediate attention. It’s caused by a fungus that got into your foot somehow, through a cut in the skin, or a crack or break in the nail. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to allow the fungi in. It could be that you had a cut so small you didn’t even notice it, but it still allowed the infection in.
Fungi that cause nail infections live in warm, moist places, which means you could have caught it at the pool, in the gym, or while in other public area where you were walking around without protective shoes. People who work in humid or moist environments are also more at risk, as are women who get pedicures at places that aren’t strict about disinfecting.
The toenails are particularly vulnerable to fungal infections because they get less blood flow than other areas of the body, like your fingers, so the immune system has a harder time fighting off the bugs. You’ll notice things like white or yellow streaks or spots in the nail, flaking white areas on the nail’s surface, a strange odor, and brittle or thickened nails. You may even experience nail loss without treatment.
Fungal nail infections are known to be stubborn, so try to be patient. Treatment is important as long-term infections can cause permanent damage to the nails, or may lead to other more dangerous infections. If you have diabetes, don’t ignore this problem!
You can try over-the-counter products, but you may not have success with them. If you’re not noticing improvement, check with your podiatrist to confirm a diagnosis. Medical treatments include oral antifungal drugs, and medicated nail polishes and creams. After several months of careful care, you should be successful. If not, talk to your doctor about laser therapy. It has proved successful in about 90 percent of cases. Only in the most severe cases is surgery necessary to remove the nail.
These can sneak up on you. For years you don’t notice anything strange, and then one day you look at your foot and think, “Man, that seems to be sticking out a long way.”
A bunion looks a little like a growth on the inside of the big toe, but it’s actually just a joint deformity. Women are particularly at risk for them, possibly because they tend to wear tight, narrow shoes more often than men, though there is debate about that. Many scientists now think that while shoes can exacerbate the problem—and high heels are the worst offenders—it’s our genes that actually cause it.
You may notice a bump or bulge at the base of your big toe, and you may have some swelling or redness there. Some women don’t have any symptoms, but many experience pain, soreness after walking, or restricted movement in that joint.
What happens is the big toe leans inward toward the other toes, and over a long period of time, the base of that toe pushes outward against the metatarsal bone. This creates that lump or bump that you see. If your big toe leans in toward your other toes and the base juts out, you probably have a bunion.
Most women can manage just fine without having to see the doctor. If you have pain in certain shoes, try to find those that are wider in the toe box to accommodate the bump. Avoid high heels as much as you can as they only put increased pressure on that big toe joint. Bunion cushions and pads that you actually stick over the bump can also help.
If your bunion starts causing you a lot of pain, though, be sure to see your podiatrist, as you don’t want it to stop you from exercising. A bunion can also damage the other toes if it continues to develop, or may cause you to experience other problems in the tendons of your foot as you shift your weight to get off the toe joint.
Your podiatrist can help you find shoes that properly balance your weight to ease the pressure on that area. Shoe inserts can also be helpful, as can night splints that hold the toe straight. Surgery is reserved for only the most severe cases, as it requires a long recovery period (6-12 weeks at least).
3. Corns and Calluses
These are two different problems, but they’re very similar to one another. Both are made up of thick, hard, dead areas of skin. The difference is that calluses are flat and usually form on the bottom of the foot, whereas corns are smaller and cone-shaped and usually form near bony areas of the foot or between the toes. Calluses are usually not painful, whereas corns can cause pain when you put pressure on them (such as when wearing certain shoes), and they may also ache.
Both of these problems are caused by friction against the skin of the foot. They are sort of like blisters, except there is no fluid buildup inside them. That’s because they form more slowly, as the skin seeks to protect itself from rubbing against something rough. In fact, “rubbing” is the entire reason for these conditions. If you wear poor-fitting shoes, you have a bunion that makes your toe joint rub against your shoe, or you wear sandals that don’t fit well without socks, your going to have rough materials rubbing against the skin of your foot, potentially causing these issues.
Fortunately, neither of these problems is usually serious. Both can be unsightly though, so you may want to address them in the summer months. In some cases, particularly with corns, they may cause pain—if that happens, check with your podiatrist for more help. Corns that press against a nerve, for example, can be really painful, so you may need your doctor to remove them.
In general, wearing comfortable shoes and socks will help, as will wearing non-medicated corn or callus pads. Don’t try to cut these off, as you will likely only cause more problems, like wounds and infections. Instead, get into the habit of using a pumice stone after each shower or bath to gently rub the skin while it’s still soft. Don’t get too overzealous. You don’t want to bleed. But gentle, persistent care will help remove the hard skin buildup.
It also helps after you have used the pumice stone to apply a natural moisturizer to skin—something like shea butter or jojoba oil—as that will also help break up those hard patches. Avoid over-the-counter treatments that contain exfoliating acids, as they can damage the sensitive skin around the corn.
4. Plantar Warts
Warts. Just the word is ugly, right? Women don’t like warts anywhere, but certainly not on their feet. Unfortunately, these are caused by a virus and you can catch them just like you might catch a fungal nail infection. The virus enters the skin through very small cuts or scratches, and it lives in places like public pools and showers, as well as in children’s playgrounds.
These small skin growths are just like other warts you may have had on your hands, arms, or elsewhere on your body. They are called “plantar” warts because they are located on your feet. Fortunately, these warts aren’t serious, but they can be unattractive and painful. They are usually about the size of a pencil eraser, and they may grow in clusters. Though it’s possible to catch them from another person, it’s more likely that you’ll pick them up from surfaces that have been contaminated.
Like nail infections, warts can stubbornly resist treatment. In some cases, they will go away on their own, but that usually takes longer than most women want to wait. When it comes to treatment, you can take your pick. There are a number of home remedies out there you can try, some of which may work better than others.
The one that seems to be most effective is to put duct tape over the wart. This method has actually been tested and found to be more effective than cryotherapy in patients, but it did take about a month. In patients treated with duct tape, 85 percent of the warts completely resolved, compared to 60 percent in the cryotherapy group.
Simply apply small pieces of tape over each wart, and leave it in place for six days at a time. If the tape falls off, reapply. On the seventh day, soak the foot in water, and gently rub the warts with a pumice stone or Emory board. Repeat the pattern until the warts are gone.
If you don’t have any success with this option, you can ask your podiatrist for help. He may choose to freeze the wart off with liquid nitrogen, remove it with a laser, or use injected medicines to help the body fight it off internally.
As with any type of wart, you have to be patient. Expect it to take a few weeks if not a few months, and even if you get rid of one wart, another may show up later. Your best bet may be to boost your immune system with rest, a healthy diet full of fruits and veggies, and some immune-boosting supplements like vitamin C, zinc, selenium, garlic, Echinacea, and astragalus root.
Mayo Clinic Staff, “Nail Fungus,” Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/nail-fungus/basics/treatment/con-20019319.
“Bunions,” American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, February 2016, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00155.
“What to do about bunions,” Harvard Health, June 2011, http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/what-to-do-about-bunions.
Shawn Bishop, “Home Treatment Options for Corns and Calluses,” Mayo Clinic, February 10, 2012, http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/home-treatment-options-for-corns-and-calluses/.
“Duct Tape More Effective than Cryotherapy for Warts,” Am Fam Physician, Feb 1, 2003; 67(3):614-615, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0201/p614.html.