While we may not give them much thought on a day-to-day basis, as our means of getting around, feet take some serious punishment each and every day. Yet many people fail to take proper care of their feet, leaving themselves open to a variety of often painful problems.
So before you pull those summer sandals out of the wardrobe, put a proper foot health routine in place to ensure your tootsies are looking and feeling their best.
Just as you cleanse, exfoliate and moisturise your skin, your feet require daily attention to maintain good health. A good scrub with a brush will help to really get at the dirt and grime that is easily ingrained, therefore cutting the risk of infection and reducing your chances of developing callouses. But do take care to dry thoroughly, particularly between the toes where athlete's foot can take hold.
Finish them off with a daily application of an oil-based foot cream to maintain smooth and supple skin and help to prevent unsightly dry, cracked heels.
If you've already succumbed to hard skin, a pumice stone or file can help to get rid of callouses, but where cracked heels become a serious problem, it's best to leave the job to a podiatrist.
Keep 'em clean
While daily scrubbing and moisturising will help to maintain healthy skin, it's also worth avoiding the possibility of picking up an infection in the first place.
Clean socks or tights should be worn each and every day, and if sweaty feet mean your shoes are giving off a less than savoury aroma, they're also more than likely the ideal location for a few nasty bacteria. Invest in some odour eaters, and give damp shoes time to dry out completely before slipping them back on.
Public places such as swimming pools and gyms are also a breeding ground for foot fungi and bacteria, so consider covering them up to prevent infection.
Inactivity is not a problem for most people's feet, but nonetheless, a little strengthening won't go amiss. Going barefoot, though not always practical, can help to strengthen the arches and allow the toes to spread as they should. But thanks to a number of exercise trends, there are now shoes that will do the same job. Try yoga shoes, or specialist shoes that mimic the barefoot experience, such as Inov-8 Evoskins or Nike Free Runs.
On the subject of shoes...
Take extra care to buy only the correct fit. Those killer heels might look fabulous, but they could cause back problems and put extra strain on your muscles, and may leave you with a variety of problems from ingrown toenails to bunions. So don't be tempted to buy a size slightly too small (even if they are the last pair on the shelf), and try to alternate between heels and flats.
Cut down on nail problems
In-grown toenails are not only painful, they're also notoriously difficult to rectify. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and that means cutting them square across, using your own nail clippers, and shaping to the match your toe with an emery board if necessary.
Whether you're suffering from a sore nail, an unsightly bunion or painful corns, it is always advisable to seek professional help. Your feet need to last a lifetime, and a podiatrist can spot potential problems early as well as tackling existing problems.