From slogging through snow, ice, and slush to being confined in heavy boots to fight the cold—if your feet could talk, what a tale of winter woe they might tell. You may be tempted to pull your sandals out of the closet and stuff your heaviest hosiery to the back of the sock drawer, but before you set your soles free to savor spring, some preparation is in order. Being cooped up in cramped footwear during winter months can cause feet to suffer from a variety of ailments, from dry, flaky skin and discolored toenails to pesky corns and unsightly calluses. Pampering your feet in preparation for warm weather can help feet look and feel their best when warmer weather calls for donning flip-flops and peep-toe shoes.
“Caring for your feet not only promotes good hygiene, but it can also alert you to any problem areas that may need attention before slipping into sandals this spring,” says Shaun Hafner, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “Plus, it’s a good way to relax and de-stress after a tiring winter. When your feet feel good, you’re more likely to feel good all over.”
APMA offers these 10 tips for getting your feet spring-ready:
- Start with a soak. Immerse your feet in warm water with Epsom salts, herbal soaks, or oils for at least 10 minutes.
- Use a pumice stone or foot file to gently remove thickened, dead skin build-up (calluses) around the pre-soaked heels and the balls and sides of the feet. Never use a razor, as it removes too much skin and can easily cause infection or permanent damage if used incorrectly.
- Eliminate dry, flaky winter skin on the soles, sides, and tops of the feet by using an exfoliating scrub.
- Massage a generous amount of emollient-enriched skin lotion all over your feet. The lotion hydrates the skin, and the massaging helps to promote circulation. “Be sure to remove any excess moisturizer from under your toenails or between toes,” Dr. Hafner adds. “Build-up in those areas can provide a breeding ground for bacteria.”
- Use a straight-edged toenail clipper to trim nails to just the end of each toe to ensure nails don’t become curved or rounded in the corners.
- Help lock in moisture by wearing a pair of poly-cotton blend socks at bedtime.
- Forgo nail polish if your nails are not healthy. If you have healthy nails, remove polish regularly to keep them in top condition.
- Wash your feet daily with soap and water. Dry carefully, paying extra attention to the areas between your toes.
- Inspect last spring and summer’s footwear. Throw away any shoes or sandals that appear worn.
- If any skin or nail problems exist, see a podiatrist for a medical diagnosis. Today’s podiatrists are physicians, surgeons, and specialists trained to diagnose and treat conditions that affect the foot, ankle, and related structures of the leg.