We rely on them to get us around, yet many of us don't give a second thought to our feet until we develop a problem. Some foot issues are inherited but there are things you can do to help keep your feet healthy and prevent problems from developing in future.
Our feet can pick up all kinds of bacteria and grime (especially when barefoot in summer). Feet should be scrubbed daily. Not just a slosh over with water but an actual scrubbing with a bristle brush to dislodge dirt and grime that makes for infections and some callus. And don't forget to dry between every one of your toes to help prevent athlete's foot, a fungus which results in itchy, red, flaking skin and which can lead to more serious complications.
Moisturise every day
Constant use means feet can take a lot of wear of tear and have a tendency to dry out, which makes it essential to moisturise. Feet should be creamed on a daily basis to restore the natural smoothness of your feet and help combat rough, dry and cracked heels.
If you have hard skin, it's even more important to moisturise. Hard skin is mostly caused by our natural walking pattern or gait, which means some people are more susceptible than others. Cracked heels or heel fissures are most often caused by dry skin but can be made complicated if the skin around the rim of the heel is thick. While using a pumice stone can help, it's best to see a podiatrist who can tackle the problem.
Be shoe savvy
Those shoes may look fantastic but what are they doing to your health? Wearing high heels has been shown to affect posture, causing the lower back to become more arched, leaving the spine subject to injury, as well as putting a strain on muscles, leading to back pain. Putting the entire weight of the body on the ball of the foot can lead to bunions, hammer toes and in-grown toenails. Wear heels constantly and it could even cause a shortening of the Achilles tendon. It's best to vary the style of shoe you wear and try to avoid heels above 4cm (1.5in).
Cut the right way
Cut nails (using clippers) square across and don't be tempted to cut or pull away at the edges as this can lead to soreness and in-grown toenails. If you want to file nails, use an emery board rather than a metal file and try to match the shape of your nail to your toe.
Strengthen your feet
You might think your feet get enough exercise throughout the day, but they can sometimes benefit from being strengthened. Yoga sandals spread the toes and improve postural alignment with the aim of strengthening the arches, stretching the leg muscles and alleviating problems such hammertoe, bunions and joint pain. You can buy them from specialist stores.
While it goes without saying to wear clean socks or tights every day, it can be a good idea to protect your feet from infection from others. Never share nail clippers and consider covering your feet at public swimming pools, gyms, saunas, and whirlpools to prevent them from picking up fungus (such as athlete's foot) or bacteria from the floor. And don't wear smelly shoes - they're likely to be a breeding ground for bacteria. If sweating is a problem use odour eaters and make sure shoes have completely dried out before wearing again.
If in doubt, get it checked out
Finally, if you have any kind of problem with your feet, get them checked out by a podiatrist. The foot problems we inherit from our parents - such as bunions, flatfeet and hammer toes - manifest themselves over the years. But there are ways to avoid them, so it's worth seeing a podiatrist to detect problems early on. Foot pain is not normal, so get advice and look after them – you only get one pair for your lifetime.
Have you had foot problems recently? Leave a comment below...