For many, the thought of getting our feet out in public fills us with dread.
Socks and tights hide a multitude of sins but as the weather heats up there’s no place to hide the horror that lurks in your shoes.
But perfect twinkly toes are not completely out of reach, promises podiatrist David Mills.
David, a champion ballroom dancer, has lots of advice for P.S. readers on how to sort everything from discoloured toenails to unsightly rough skin.
“We spend hours a day on our feet, walking miles, and yet most people don’t give their feet any thought, care or attention until they start to cause problems,” says David.
“If your feet are causing you any discomfort, be sure to visit your GP or a podiatrist for a professional opinion.”
David, who leads the practice at Hutcheson Podiatry in Fife’s Newport-on-Tay, says something as simple as wearing the wrong shoe size can lead to damage.
“For some people foot problems feel embarrassing – even scary. In fact, nearly all of my patients say they wish they had come to me sooner.
“I see everything from thick toenails to conditions such as bunions, heel pain and verrucas, but there are treatments for all of these.”
Some of the most common complaints are hard skin, which is caused by pressure on the foot, and cracked heels.
“These are easily solved,” says David. “Use of a pumice stone to file after showering can help reduce a build-up of hard skin. Applying moisturiser or balm twice a day will help maintain good skin condition.”
For flaky/itchy skin, David suggests wearing socks that are 100% cotton and changing them regularly as well as using an over the counter antifungal cream.
“This is usually caused by a fungal infection within the skin,” he says. “It’s caused by sweaty feet being confined within shoes all the time.
“The thing most people don’t realise is that fungal spores are released into the air and sit inside people’s shoes, ready to infect again, so get a fungal talc for your footwear and put your trainers in the washing machine to banish the infection.”
Toenails look stunning with a shellac, but David’s advice is to save these treatments for special occasions.
“The lack of oxygen can cause your nails to discolour and make them brittle,” he adds. “Give your nails room to breathe. I recommend ordinary nail polish and saving shellacs for just before you go away on holiday.
“Discolouration can also occur due to thickening of the nails, bumping and bruising, and infections.
“Keep toenails neat and cut them regularly, file down any thickness and try over the counter paints for infections.
“Fixing discoloured nails usually takes a few months so start thinking about it now for summer-ready nails.”
And then there’s the nasties nobody wants to be seen with or talk about – verrucas, bunions and corns. David says: “Verrucas are caused by a virus in the upper layers of the skin. Many clear up on their own so if it’s not causing you any discomfort, leave it.
“For more painful and unsightly ones, try a treatment such as Bazuka.
“Podiatrists can freeze them, killing the root, but it’s about £30 a session and may require more than one. Or there’s a process called needling where we effectively take some of the tissue of the verruca and put it deeper into the skin where the immune system will kill it off. That costs £160-£200.”
While feet can be fixed with a bit of simple DIY, sometimes you need to consult the professionals.
David says: “Corns are layers of skin formed by the body to protect the bone. Relieving the pressure, usually caused by ill-fitting shoes or just the way you walk, is the way to fix them. A podiatrist can help with the latter by assessing the way you walk and suggesting things like special insoles.
“The only option for bunions – often caused by high heels – is surgery.”
So if you have a sunny break booked, David has 10 steps that will put you on the right path (see facing page).
He adds: “Set off on the right foot and you’ll have a fantastic time!”
10 steps to summer-ready feet
1. If your feet hurt, your symptoms are getting worse or you want to prevent a foot problem, visit an HCPC-registered podiatrist for complete confidence.
2. Wash your feet daily using warm soap and water, taking care to dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, to help reduce the chance of developing a fungal infection.
3.Cut nails using proper nail clippers and cut straight across, not leaving any sharp edges that can dig into the skin, and don’t cut your nails too short. File the nails so as not to leave any ragged edges, this will help prevent ingrown toenails.
4. Use proper foot cream to moisturise the whole foot. David recommends one from Simply Feet. It starts at just £5 and has olive oil and papaya among other medicinal ingredients, and should be used daily if not twice daily.
And use proper Heel Balm with 25% urea daily to soften and prevent cracked heels.
5. Wear 100% cotton socks with trainers or shoes, as the socks absorb sweat and help to prevent blisters between the shoes and your skin.
6. Rotate your shoes daily as this allows the shoes to dry and helps to prevent fungal infections.
7. When your feet are exposed to the sun always remember to apply sunblock to your feet. Your feet spend most of the year in darkness so exposure to strong sun means they burn very quickly.
8. When on the beach, or around the pool, wear footwear to reduce chances of picking up a verruca or burning your feet on hot surfaces from the sun.
9. If going on a walking holiday make sure you have suitable supportive footwear and an emergency pack of Compeed blister plasters to protect against infections.
10. Check your feet regularly to spot any issues and seek help if you do.