Our feet get a hard time of it. We spend all day walking on them, we squeeze them into unsuitable shoes with pointy toes and killer heels, then, come summer when the shops are full of gorgeous strappy sandals, we all wish we took better care of them.
True, it can be a bit of a chore to look after your feet, particularly when they’re not on show most of the year but no amount of sandals will disguise callouses, hard skin or discoloured nails that haven’t seen a lick of polish, never mind a file, in a long time
It’s estimated around four out of five of us suffer foot pain and recent research found that almost half of UK women cover up their feet during summer, with many blaming hard, dry skin, and cracked heels as the main reasons why.
Just like the rest of us, our feet age. Skin on the feet thins and the fatty pads that protect the heel from impact wear down, muscle tone weakens and joints lose their youthful suppleness. They also take an extra pounding during summer months.
But we can fight the effect ageing has on our feet so if you’re dreading sandal season, here’s our action plan for happy feet along with some feet treats so you can bare them with pride.
The number one foot problem is dry skin and cracked heels, made worse during summer by wearing flip flops or flatties which offer no foot support or cushion, causing a build up of layers of dead skin,
Action: The skin on the soles of our feet doesn’t have any oil glands, which is why feet easily become dried out and flaky. Use a foot file to slough off any hard skin that’s formed on your heels, the balls of your feet or the big toes. Foot files are easier to use than a pumice stone. but choose a stainless steel one, which is more effective and will last longer. File on dry skin as doing it on wet skin is not as effective. Try Margaret Dabbs Professional Foot File £24 (www.margaretdabbs.o.uk) which has replaceable pads for hygiene and longevity.
You must moisturise daily to prevent cracked heels and dehydrated feet. Use a heavy-duty foot moisturiser which can penetrate the skin’s barrier more effectively – try What Skin Needs Cracked Skin Cream £8.99 (www.whatskinneeds.co.uk). For an added treat, slather on an extra helping, put on a pair of thick socks and wear overnight.
PARROT TOE NAILS
Toenails actually grow more slowly as we age, because of reduced circulation but years of toenails rubbing against shoes can make them harder and thicker, making them difficult to cut and shape.
The condition even has a name, onychogryphosis, which is not only unsightly, but also painful when pressing against shoes.
Action: Soak feet first to make nails softer. Use nail clippers on thick nails, as these are sharper than scissors, but if nails are still too difficult to cut you may need to see a podiatrist to have them trimmed with an electronic file. If you can trim yourself always cut the nail straight across following the natural shape of the nail and avoid trimming too close to the skin or yanking at hangnails.
A common problem affecting up to one in ten and usually caused by a toenail fungus, called onychomycosis. Most types of infection are harmless but generally thrive on warm, dark moist conditions and may be caused by trauma to the nail, inflammation from an in growing toenail or untreated athlete’s foot.
Action: Good hygiene habits are essential so wash feet daily and always dry thoroughly. Most fungal nail infections can be treated at home. Ask your chemist for an antifungal cream to rub in or you could try rubbing in a small dollop of Vicks VaporRub to the affected areas daily but be patient as this method can take time. Always trim nails and file off any white spots before treating. For a hi tech laser option see, try Lunula Cold Laser treatment the latest advance treatment for fungal infections. The treatment takes twelve minutes and is painless as there is no heat involved. www.thelondonnaillaserclinic.co.uk
As we get older rogue hairs can suddenly sprout all over the feet, especially around the toes and on tops of the feet – not a good look when wearing dainty sandals.
Action They may be an eighties throwback but hair removal creams are a good option but always go for a cream for sensitive skin.
Tweezers will do the job quickly and painlessly or try waxing and shaving, also quick and easy.
Over sixty per cent of us have spider veins on our feet which can spoil the look of a strappy sandal.
Action: Cover with a fake tan or try a good Corrective Foundation like Dermablend £16, from most chemist. For an effective and more permanent solution IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) is the best treatment. During treatment, they are zapped by an intense pulsed light and the veins collapse and are then absorbed by the body. You may need three to six treatments to completely remove them but do not have IPL five weeks before or after a sun holiday as the light targets the pigment in the veins and you could risk getting hyperpigmentation. Always wear a minimum SPF 30 after treatment. Costs vary but expect to pay from around £100 per area.
WORN OUT FAT PADS
As we age the skin on the feet thins and slackens, and the protective fat pads under the balls of the feet and the soles, can disappear over the years making standing and walking painful. Most people will lose these fat pads by 65, but it can happen from age 50 onwards.
Action: Although you can’t stop fat thinning out, wear shock-absorbent shoes will help cushion feet. Silicone insoles may also help. If it’s really painful to walk as feet lack any cushion a filler can be used at the clinic to build up the fat pads The effect will last from three to six months. From £250 and available at most cosmetic clinics.
There are over 250,000 sweat glands in our feet producing up to half cup of sweat a day. Excessive sweaty feet – the medical term is hyperhidrosis – can be extremely embarrassing but is easily treatable.
Action: Use talcum powder after you shower and throughout the day, as it’s great for controlling humidity. Wash fee regularly using tepid water. Try absorbent and odor fighting shoe insoles, but the best cure is Botox. A few strategically placed injections can stop sweating at the source, and results can last four months or more. From £250.
BYE BYE BUNIONS
Usually caused by badly fitting shoes, there’s nothing that’ll age your feet more than a pair of whopping great bunions. Just ask Victoria Beckham. The official name for a bunion is hallux valgus and it develops when the big toe becomes angled inwards, towards your other toes.
Action: You can try bunion pads to relieve pressure, special insoles and painkillers. If they become very swollen and painful, your only answer is surgery to remove the bunion and realign the bones. What was traditionally considered a painful procedure can now be safely carried out as a one-day operation, under local or general anesthetic. Called a scarf and skin osteotomy, it involves removing some of the bone and then realigning it preserving the joint. The procedure is available on the NHS or privately, when you can expect to pay around £4k. Ask your doctor for a referral.
*Swollen ankles? Keep them elevated them, and try peppermint enriched creams which will give relief from swollen ankles – try Body Shop Peppermint Intensive Cooling Foot Rescue £9.50 from all branches.
*Forget that old wives tale that nails need to breathe. They get their nutrients and oxygen from the blood stream. A nail polish will help hide discolouration. If nails are very brittle choose one of the new ‘healthy’ varnishes which contain oils and vitamins to strengthen and condition. Try Sally Hansen Colour Therapy range £8.99 which contains argan oil to feed the nails or use a base-coat like Nails Inc NailKale Superfood Base Coat £15 from most department stores.
*For an extra hydrating hit, pamper dried out feet with a weekly foot mask. Try Starskin Magic Hour Foot Mask Socks (£9.99 www.starskinbeauty.com)
*If you suffer from painful feet there is a new breed of experts called MSK (musculoskeletal) podiatrists specializing in feet niggles and how feet interact to help prevent and manage common complaints – for more info see. www.mskpodiatrists.com
*Give your feet some water therapy in the shower- simply blast them with warm water which helps improve blood flow or cold water to reduce inflammation.
*Yoga and Pilates are both excellent for exercising feet but you can stretch your toes yourself – simply put the fingers of your opposite hand in between your toes to gently stretch them apart. Hold for 20 seconds and then gently press toes downwards so you can feel a stretch in the toes and the top of the foot. Or you can buy Toe Stretchers £14.95 from jdharris.com