Summer is ‘happy’ season for feet. Encased in boots, trainers and lace-ups for – oh, probably nine months of the year, in this country – we get to experience the bliss of wriggling our toes in a lawn, or hot white sand, or splashing in the surf. But while all that air circulation is good for feet, foot health isn’t a given. So this month, Beauty Bible posed questions to Matthew Fitzpatrick from The College of Podiatry, who care for feet 365 days a year (find your nearest podiatrist at www.feetforlife.org).
Q. What’s the best way to cut nails – and is it OK to leave them a bit longer in summer, during the sandal season?
A. The most important piece of advice with nail-cutting is to make sure the edge of the nail is proud of the end of the toe. The second is to cut the nail following the shape of the toe itself. Thirdly, don’t cut down the side of the nail. Leaving them slightly longer in the summer months is OK – as we tend to wear less enclosed shoes (those can add pressure to the toe nail) – but as with all times in the year, regular checking of the feet is important
Q. Can you suggest some non-surgical solutions for sweaty feet?
A. Sweaty feet are normal – we all sweat as this is the body’s way of managing our temperature. The reason feet sweat more is we trap them inside shoes all day and in the summer months the temperature (we hope, in the UK!) rises. The problem that most people associate with sweaty feet is the smell. This comes from the feet being trapped in the shoes and bacteria presence produces the smell.
So to help the advice is…
1) Wear shoes that are more open – aerated and allow the feet to breathe.
2) Change your shoes daily and allow them to air out too – twice a day if possible.
3) When you take your shoes off at home change your socks, too – allow your feet to breathe.
4) If you have a condition called hyperhidrosis – which is excessive sweating – the use of surgical spirit is good to help dry the feet out when taking your shoes and socks off.
5) Be sensible and adapt your activity, footwear and hygiene regimes to help.
Q. How important is it to dry feet after swimming?
A. It is important to dry your feet after any exposure to water, including a bath, shower or swimming. The reason is you don’t want to create a moist environment – your feet naturally sweat, as discussed above, so adding to the moisture levels is not helpful. It can in those who are prone to this precipitate fungal concerns. Fungus diseases like warm, dark and damp environments – this sounds like the inside of a shoe! – so drying between the toes is an important part of the process when getting dressed.
Q. What can we do to prevent summer shoes rubbing?
A. Wear the most appropriate sized shoe – remember not all shoes are the same in their size: one size 10 in one style is not the same as a size 10 in another! Make sure you try your shoes on in the afternoon when buying them as our feet swell naturally during the day, and this will ensure you are fitting them when the foot will be at its largest, which is important. Some people wear little sock-liners; again this reduces the friction between the shoe and the skin. But if a shoe rubs and is not easing then this may not be the best shoe to wear – we don’t all have to suffer for fashion!
Q. Should we change shoes in summer more than winter, considering the sweat factor?
A. Tough one: in principle, yes – but some of us develop sweaty feet all year round. If you’ve found you are a little more sweaty in the summer months then yes, change them more often.
Q.What’s the best way to tackle hard skin?
A. Try and not let it develop in the first place. Those who are a fan of the flip-flop may think they are helping the sweat issue but actually can lead to drying the skin out on the feet, which can then harden and crack – this is most noted around the heels. Key here is to moisturise the dry areas but not in-between the toes. If there is an excess of hard skin and you are worried, then best to see a podiatrist to advise you; there may be more to it than meets the eye and they’ll be able to spot any problems.
Q. One last piece of summer footcare advice?
A. Make sure your feet are fit for purpose and the shoes you are wearing are fit for the activities you are doing. When we think of our teeth, we think of a dentist. So when you think of your feet, think podiatrist – if in doubt, go see one: we are here to help you enjoy the summer. When it comes!)