Spring Cleaning for Your Feet!
Spring is officially here! The equinox (Tuesday, March 20) has come and gone. And while the warming temperatures might matter a little more to our friends up north, unburying themselves from another snowy winter, we here in South Florida will still definitely be enjoying all the extra evening sunlight.
One seasonal tradition we can all support, regardless of latitude, would be spring cleaning. There’s no time like the present to sweep out dusty corners, sort through the closet for items to discard or donate, reseal tile grout, clean the dryer vents, wipe out cabinets and drawers …
At the risk of overwhelming you, we think you ought to add one more item to your spring cleaning checklist—your feet!
We often take our feet for granted—right up until they start hurting and getting in the way of our on-the-go lifestyles. Then it becomes all too obvious that healthy feet are an essential, core component of whole-body health. Paying your feet a little extra attention (not just in springtime, but throughout the year) with preventative care and swift treatment for minor issues will help keep them healthy and happy for the long haul.
Address Any Lingering Problems Now
First things first. If you’re experiencing any kind of foot problem—chronic pain, sports injury, rashes, or even the beginning of a bunion or hammertoe, take care of it now. Not later. Not when it starts really hurting. Now.
We don’t mean to sound pushy! It’s just that most foot problems tend to get worse—not better—over the long run if you continue to ignore them. And the worse they are, generally speaking, the more difficult and frustrating they’ll be to deal with in the end. For example:
- You can often slow the progression of minor bunions and hammertoes and relieve your pain through conservative treatments. But if and when they develop into more serious deformities, you may require surgical correction.
- Minor cuts and sores on feet take longer to heal than elsewhere on the body, especially if you have diabetes. And those diabetic wounds can get infected and even lead to an amputation if you don’t get them treated. Even deep cracks in the heel can bleed and get infected if you have diabetes.
- Continuing to run and play on nagging sports injuries generally makes them worse, and increases your risk of a much more serious future trauma. Stress fractures will worsen and potentially break more completely. An ankle sprain that doesn’t fully heal properly can become weak, wobbly, and highly likely to sprain again. And so on.
- Skin infections like athlete’s foot generally do not go away unless you actively treat them. Even worse, they can spread to other areas of the body (where they cause fungal toenails, jock itch, ringworm, etc.), or to your friends and family.
We could go on, but you probably get the point. There’s no reason to wait, and there’s every reason to get your feet in top shape right now.
Clean Your Feet Daily
It’s easy to absent-mindedly gloss over your feet and toes at shower time, but if you really want to avoid fungal infections and skin irritation, you should make sure to wash them thoroughly every day. Make sure you get on top, underneath, between, and around those toes!
We recommend a good mild soap and water that’s not too hot; while scalding showers might feel refreshing for some, they actually dry out your skin. When you’re done, be sure to dry thoroughly—again not forgetting the spaces between the toes!
Once your feet are dry, use a moisturizing lotion to keep the skin from drying out and cracking. (This is the one time you don’t want to get between the toes, since it can lead to infection.)
Dress Your Feet Appropriately
If you’re going with socks and shoes, stick to moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics as much as possible. You should never wear wet and waterlogged footwear, so be ready to switch pairs if you hit an unexpected rainstorm or do a lot of sweating! You should have multiple pairs of “everyday” shoes so you can rotate them each day, giving each pair as long as possible to dry out.
Of course, sandals are more likely the fashion of choice! Just remember that wearing cheap and flimsy flip-flops all day can be quite painful! It could even accelerate the development of some chronic conditions. Investing in a sturdy, weatherproof pair of sandals that offers optimal arch support is highly recommended.
Care for Your Toenails Correctly
Are your toenails looking a little “grody”? Be honest.
Cutting nails improperly can increase your risk of painful ingrown toenails or unsightly fungal infections. (Trust us—a warped, yellowish nail is definitely not cute in a pair of sandals.) Make sure you’re cutting straight across and leaving a little extra length on the end. To keep them not-too-short, not-too-long, cut them once per month.
Now, how about those of us who love a nice pedicure and a good, colorful coat of polish? (Also, who doesn’t?) There’s nothing wrong with an occasional trip to the salon and painting your nails, as long as you’re careful. When you’re getting a pedicure, make sure the facility is licensed, that all instruments and baths are fully sterilized between customers, and that the technician doesn’t cut your cuticles too short—all these things can lead to a fungal infection!
When it comes to nail polish—even clear—don’t try to leave it on all summer long. Go two weeks on, then at least two weeks off. This gives your nails a chance to “breathe,” which helps them resist infection.
Daily Foot Checks Are a Must if You Have Diabetes
If you have diabetes, you probably already know this. But it bears repeating. People who suffer from this condition are more likely not to notice when injuries occur, because sensory nerves in their feet may be impaired. Those injuries are more likely to develop into serious problems, because you keep walking on them, and because your body can’t get the damaged cells what they need to fight infections or repair themselves quickly.
Therefore, a daily self-exam is a critical component of ensuring ongoing health. Take a close look at every single part of your foot (using a mirror if necessary), and feel it with your hands for bumps, temperature changes, etc. And if you do find anything out of the ordinary, remember the very first thing we talked about—address it right away. Don’t wait.
So, there you have it! A little spring cleaning (mixed with daily hygiene and regular maintenance) should keep your feet in good shape this season and beyond! If you do have any issues, you know where to find us. Just call (305) 514-0404 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Marizeli Olacio and the Omega Medical Group (OMG) team.