Winter Footcare Tips

This cold and damp weather can play havoc with your feet. From temperature extremes, to thick socks, feet generally suffer more in Winter. Here are a few tips to see you through to  Spring.

Top Winter Footcare Tips

foot winter

  1. I know it’s not easy, but try to avoid exposing your feet to extremes of temperatures – coming in from the cold and putting your feet in front of a hot fire is a quick route to chilblains, which can be intensely itchy and painful. If you do develop chilblains, don’t scratch them. Calamine or witch hazel can be applied to reduce the itching.
  2. Wear good, breathable socks – two pairs of thin socks may be better than one thick pair. If this makes your shoes two tight, try a thin pair of pop socks under your normal socks instead. Be sure to change them daily.
  3. Don’t let your feet get clammy. Make sure you wash and dry them thoroughly every day, especially if they tend to be sweaty. Dampness between the toes can cause funga linfections, such as athletes foot.
  4. Moisturise your feet, paying attention to any dry areas. If cracks develop (most often around the heels) see a foot health practitioner, chiropodist or podiatrist who will be able to treat the area and reduce any pain, and the chance of infection.
  5. If you develop corns, relieve the pressure using fleece or foam rings. Medicated corn pads or plasters can damage the healthy skin, which can be more painful than the corn itself.
  6. If you have hard skin or calluses on your feet, use a pumice or foot file to gently smooth it and reduce the thickness of the skin. You may find it helpful to soak your feet first, but make sure the water isn’t too hot. Apply a good moisturing cream afterwards, and put on a pair of thin socks to help the absorption.
  7. Trim your nails straight across, and smooth with a file to there are no sharp edges. This will help to prevent the chance of ingrown toenails, which tend to be more common in winter when feet are enclosed in boots and shoes.
  8. Sitting with your feet up for ten minutes is good for the circulation – take the chance to have a cup of tea guilt-free after a long day.
  9. Wear comfortable shoes. Everyone likes to don a pair of party shoes from time to time, but they don’t call them killer heels for nothing. Take a chance to wear good footwear, which supports the arch and holds your foot firmly in place. It’s best to shop for new shoes in the afternoon, when your feet are at their largest – that way they won’t be too tight.
  10. Inspect your feet daily, and watch out for anything unusual such as colour changes, swelling, peeling skin or discoloured nails.

If you are unsure about anything relating to your footcare, or have difficulty with trimming nails or removing hard skin, make an apopintment with your footcare provider, who will make sure your feet are in top condition and get rid of any problems before they take hold.

Footcare For Diabetics

Anybody who has diabetes (either Type I or II) will undoubtedly know that they need regular checkups of their feet (and hands too, but that’s a bit easier, if only because you see them more). But why?

What’s so important about footcare for diabetics?

Well, first and foremost, in some people who are diabetic, skin which becomes damaged does not heal as well or as quickly, which can lead to complications such as ulcers, and as such are prone to potentially severe infection. Poor healing is caused by a reduced blood flow to the feet, due to a narrowing of the arteries caused by fatty deposits building up around the inside of blood vessels. This is known as Peripheral Vascular Disease.

In addition to this, patients with diabetes are at increased risk of damaging the skin on their feet due to a complication called Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. This is a condition in which the nerves of the feet (most commonly) are damaged due to a raised blood sugar level, and so sensation and pain is reduced. If this happens, patients may be unaware of damaged caused to the feet, from blisters caused by footwear, or knocks and bumps which may break the skin. As the pain is not felt, no steps are taken to protect the area, and the tissue damage become worse, potentially leading to infection.

So you see, the combination of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy and Peripheral Vascular Disease makes it important to take good care of your feet, to reduce the risk of developing a foot ulcer.

Other Contributing Risk Factors

There are other factors that may increase the risk of foot ulcers for diabetic patients. If someone has previously had an ulcer, there is an elevated chance of developing another, and naturally if a patient is prone to skin damage from minor cuts, corns or calluses then the likehood of an ulcer developing goes up. There is also a correlation between other complications of diabetes, such as eye or kidney problems, and the risk of ulcers. Men appear to be at greater risk than women.

The Good News

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are steps you can take to reduce the possibility of a foot ulcer developing.

  • Attend regular check up appointments. Make sure your feet are examined at least annually, with attention paid to the sensation and circulation in your feet.
  • Where possible, keep diabetes under control. This also applies to complications of diabetes, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Pay attention to your feet – wash and dry them thoroughly, and check them daily for any changes, such as cuts or bruises. If in doubt about anything, see your doctor or chiropodist. If you have difficulty checking your own feet, ask someone to do it for you.
  • Cut nails with care. Trim them straight across, echoing the shape of the toe. Don’t cut down the sides. If you can’t trim your own nails, get someone else to do it for you rather than risk damaging the skin.
  • Don’t try to treat corns or calluses yourself. You may end up damaging the skin without realising, especially if you suffer from sensation loss. If you have dry skin on your feet, apply moisturising lotion (but do not rub moisturiser between the toes as this can cause skin to be excessively moist, and can cause infections).
  • Do not walk without shoes or slippers, even at home.
  • Wear well fitting shoes, and always wear socks with them to reduce the chance of them rubbing and leading to blisters.
  • Try to avoid extremes of temperature and don’t sit with your feet too close to a fire, or hot water bottle.

If you look after your feet well, you have the best chance of avoiding complications, but if you do develop sores on your feet it is vital to be treated by a doctor. This is likely to involve having the wound dressed and padded, which will need to be changed regularly by a nurse. Occasionally a small operation is necessary to drain the ulcer of pus if a severe infection develops. You may also need antibiotics.

What can you do every day?

The easiest way to take care of your feet is by building a simple three step routine into your day, so remember:

  1. Check your feet thoroughly for marks, bruises or cuts
  2. Wash your feet well in warm soapy water and dry thoroughly
  3. Moisturise your feet with a lotion designed for dry skin, paying attention to any dry areas but avoiding between the toes.

Now, take the first step toward healthy feet.

 

For further information see Diabetes and your Feet by The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists