Winter Foot Care Tips
From Carey Bradshaw to Ginger Rogers, women have always been intrigued, and enchanted, by footwear. The pointe shoe of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, Serena Williams’ Nikes, the combat boots of our female soldiers, and the “power pumps” of today’s executive woman…a shoe can define who you are, who you inspire to be, and is an important signature statement in every woman’s wardrobe.
Beauty and function are paramount, but most of all, we all want to have the happy, healthy feet that will carry us through life’s journey. To help you with tips for Winter Foot Care and recommendations for the best footwear for running, walking, hiking and general footwear, it is a pleasure to share with you the advice of my personal podiatric doctor, Dr. Johanna S. Youner, DPM, FACFAS, a specialist in foot care for over 20 years. Dr. Youner is the Founder and Medical Director of Park Avenue Podiatry Center and specializes in the latest innovations in medical treatments and non-invasive procedure. www.parkavenuepodiatrycenter.com.
Winter can be a difficult time of year to deal with, especially physiologically. If it’s not one thing aching, it’s another and sometimes it feels like your hands and feet suffer the most. Often all you want to do is wrap them up and hide them away until it all blows over, but this isn’t always the best answer.
Damp, cold conditions plus the use of artificial heat from things like central heating can be tiring for your feet, so we thought we’d share some winter foot care tips and advice with you.
From foot soaks to the type of socks to wear, there are plenty of tips and tricks to help your feet stay in shape over the winter months.
Winter Foot Care at Home
There are a number of things you can do to help your feet and that means you don’t have to spend a fortune on pedicures too! Check out the tips below:
Keep Your Feet Clean and Dry
At every opportunity you need to dry your feet and clean them. If you’re wearing socks, be sure to carry an extra pair.
Keeping your feet clean and dry will reduce bacteria build up as well as help keep them warm. Damp feet can get cold very quickly which in turn will cause sore and chapped skin.
Wear Natural Socks
When choosing socks for winter, always opt for those that are made from natural materials such as cotton or wool rather than synthetic blends. Materials like cotton and wool are naturally more absorbent and these moisture wicking qualities are extremely important during the winter months. The worst thing you can do when it’s cold out is sweat, as this will ultimately lead to damp, cold feet. An added bonus is that your feet are less likely to smell too! Diabetic socks are a great modern option.
Thoroughly Dry Your Shoes & Boots
Much like with damp socks, wearing damp shoes and boots can cause a whole world of problems. Damp shoes are a breeding ground for bacteria, meaning there’s an increased chance of infection. To avoid damaging your feet and shoes, we advise placing them in a warm, dry place away from a direct heat source for at least 24 hours before you wear them again. Putting them next to a radiator is not a good idea as this can cause cracks and premature ageing, especially if they’re made from natural materials such as leather.
Ensure Your Shoes & Boots Fit Well
Poorly fitted footwear is never a good idea in any weather, but it can be particularly problematic in winter. Shoes that are too tight can affect blood flow to the feet, which can cause them to get cold very easily and in extreme cases, contribute to frostbite. You should always be able to wiggle your toes but the heel, instep and the ball of your foot shouldn’t move in the shoe. Shoes that are too big will allow the foot to move, causing friction. Friction can cause sores and blisters which will inevitably cause pain. This can also lead to problems with hard skin later down the line as the skin heals.
Not only can poorly fitting shoes cause pain and discomfort, but they can be a potential hazard, especially in wintery weather. If your feet go numb due to the cold, you won’t be able to feel exactly where you’re walking (which is not great in wet and slippery conditions!)
Caring for Sore, Dry and Cracked Feet in Winter
Below are a few of our favorite home remedies for sore feet:
Vinegar and Listerine Soak
This might sound like an odd one but it really works! Listerine is fantastic for removing dry, dead skin due to the active ingredients present. It can also help treat athlete’s foot and other fungal infections should this be an issue.
All you have to do is mix 1 cup of Listerine with 1 cup of white vinegar and 2 cups of warm water. Fill a tub that fits the length and depth of your feet (or if you have a foot spa, this should work too). Soak your feet for around 30-40 minutes (the soak may smell quite strong but this will soon dissipate when dried). Once soaked, gently pat your feet dry and use a pumice stone to remove any hard, dead skin.
Heel Balms – Kera-42, Salve for Cracked Skin by Gehwohl
Heel balms are specifically formulated to soften, moisturize and exfoliate dead skin from cracked heels. Dr. Youner recommends using heel balm or a good quality, thick moisturiser should also do the trick.
Cracked heels which have reached the point where the heels have started to bleed can be extremely painful. On top of this, keeping the wounds clean and free from infection can be a difficult task when you have a life to be getting on with. Liquid bandages that come in spray form can be a great way to solve this problem, without the worry of them coming off as you go about your day. As the skin heals, the coating will naturally move to the surface, eventually coming off.
There are a number of natural remedies out there for dry, cracked feet, but we think these are some of the best:
Almond Oil – Light in texture and non-greasy, sweet almond oil is great for moisturising and nourishing skin. With high levels of Vitamin A, it’s great for “calming down” sore skin too as well as healing. Easily absorbed by nature, it makes a great base oil for other essential oils such as tea tree (which will encourage the healing process and prevent infection).
Honey – Full to the brim with antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, honey is great for cleansing and healing wounds, particularly Manuka honey. Create your own honey foot mask by combining it with a drop of almond oil. If you want to exfoliate, add a small amount of pumice to the mix too.
Coconut Oil – There’s good reason for the popularity spike of coconut oil recently. Not only is it full of anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties – which means it’s great for aiding in the healing process – it’s also fantastic for helping your skin to retain moisture. Apply a generous layer of coconut oil after a soak to help moisturize your feet.
Banana – Rich in vitamins such as Vitamin A, C and E, potassium and amino acids, banana is fantastic for rejuvenating and moisturizing tired skin. Just mash up some bananas in a freezer bag and then get your foot in there. For absorbency, add a touch of almond oil.
Winter Foot Care for Diabetics
Winter weather can be harsh on your feet at the best of times, but if you struggle with diabetes, often the effects are heightened. It’s imperative that you have a foot care regime in place over the winter months so as to avoid any serious issues.
Following our foot care tips regularly should help you maintain good foot health, but there are a few other things you can do too:
Avoid Using Heated Massagers and Hot Water Bottles
Sufferers of diabetes are at an increased risk of neuropathy, which means that there’s a decreased ability to feel hot temperatures in the feet. The skin on the feet is quite tender, so losing sensation could ultimately mean that it’s easier to overheat and cause burns.
Check Your Feet Daily
As a diabetic or a person with neuropathy, it ia important to check your feet regularly. Doing so could mean that any problems are recognized before they become too much of an issue. Keep a lookout for any swelling, dryness, heel cracks and calluses. It’s also important to check in between your toes for any peeling skin – this is a sign of athlete’s foot. If you’re unable to fully check your feet due to mobility issues, a handheld mirror may help. Alternatively, a willing helper that can thoroughly check on a regular basis may be your best bet.
One of the biggest causes of infection in the feet are poorly kept nails. Or nails that have been cut incorrectly. Nails should be clipped straight across to prevent the edges of the toenail going inward. Fungal nail infections are also quite common for those with diabetes. We would recommend filing your nails in this case to avoid splitting them.
Winter is one of those seasons where the only thing you want to do is wrap up and hibernate until spring. But on those few occasions where you have to get up and go, make sure you’ve got your foot care nailed down. Not only will it make life easier during the colder weather, but it will set you up for the summer months too!
DR. JOHANNA S. YOUNER, DPM, FACFAS & ASSOCIATES
40 PARK AVENUE, OFFICE 5
NEW YORK, NY 10016