Don’t be embarrassed to step out in your sandals. Take care of corns, calluses, and fungal infections before you hit the beach.
Your feet have been hidden inside socks and shoes all winter. Now it’s time for the big reveal. Are your toes summer-ready? Or will you have to bury them in the sand? Here are some tips to get your feet in tip-top shape for your flip-flops.
Give your feet a summer makeover
If you neglected your southernmost appendages all winter, now is the time to play catch-up. Moisturize dry, scaly skin on the bottoms of your feet. Gently rub off any corns and calluses – thick patches of dead skin – with a pumice stone or nail file. Your doctor might suggest you first apply a patch containing salicylic acid to soften up corns and calluses and make them easier to remove. The doctor can also remove them for you with a scalpel if they’re especially stubborn.
Cut overgrown toenails straight across. Don’t go too short, because you could nick the skin or cause ingrown toenails. Smooth any sharp edges with a nail file.
If you’d rather leave foot care to the experts at your local nail salon, tread cautiously. Make sure the shop is licensed, and that the technicians sterilize both their instruments and footbaths. Otherwise, bring your own tools and skip the footbath.
Don’t shave your legs on the day of your pedicure. “If you shave, you may nick yourself,” says Dane Ulett, DPM, a podiatrist with Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia. “Your skin is your first line of defense for infection.”
Don’t let the technician cut your cuticles. Nipping the skin with a too-close cut can let in bacteria that cause infections. And anyone who has nerve damage in their feet from diabetes is better off skipping the professional pedicure, Ulett says.
Fungus can ruin the look of even the most perfectly manicured feet. Fungal infections leave scaly patches between the toes (called athlete’s foot), and turn toenails thick and yellow. Summer is the perfect time for foot fungus to strike. “Fungi love warm, moist, dark places – like in between your toes,” said Douglas Albreski, DPM, director of podiatric dermatology at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “Athlete’s foot is easily contracted and warm-weather activities expose feet to possible infection.”
An over-the-counter antifungal lotion, spray, or ointment can clear up athlete’s foot. For fungal infections under the nail, try a medicated polish like ciclopirox (Penlac), an antifungal cream, or drugs like terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox) that you take by mouth.
To keep fungi away, wash your feet thoroughly every day, especially in between your toes. Dry them completely, and then sprinkle on an antifungal powder to keep them dry throughout the day. Avoid walking barefoot in locker rooms and other communal areas where you could pick up an infection.
Protect your feet
Your feet need special care during the summer, and that includes protection from the sun. When you smear sunscreen on your arms, legs, and face, don’t forget about your feet. They can burn, too. Reapply sunscreen to your feet whenever you reapply it to your body – every couple of hours or after you’ve been swimming.
Avoid walking barefoot in areas where your feet could get burned or cut – like hot sand, a rocky beach, or a sidewalk. “Some type of foot covering is a smart idea,” Albreski said. At least wear flip-flops, or better yet, put on a sandal that gives your feet extra support.
Finally, make sure the shoes you wear fit properly. Sandals that are too roomy or tight can rub against your feet and cause painful blisters. Try on new shoes at the end of the day, when your feet tend to swell up, to make sure you get the right fit.
March 30, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN