Feet first

While our feet work fine, we’re inclinched to take them for granted. Do so at your peril. Feet are the foundations for our health, and deserve more pampering than any other part of the body. Are yours getting enough?

The eccentric British actress Beryl Reid (1920-1996) was famous for needing to find the right shoes for her character before learning the lines. For her — and many other actors — establishing the walk helped to developvand set the character. Even the voice and tone can be affected by a way of walking.

The foot has 26 bones, numerous ligaments, determines not onlyvhow the feet function, but also has implications for our whole body.

Problem feet can lead to problems in the back, knees, neck, shoulders, cause headaches, weight gain– even depression. So giving feet tender loving care can reap dividends for our entire body, and keep the spring in our step, which itself helps maintain a youthful appearance and outlook.

CORNS

Caused by friction leading to a build-up of hard, dead skin, which can press painfully on underlying nerves.

There are five types of corn:

• Hard corns – the most common, are usually about the size of a pea, perhaps within a larger area of hard skin.

• Soft corns – appear between toes, where skin may be too moist.

• Seed corns – are tiny, tend to occur on the bottom of the feet (sometimes in clusters) and are usually painless.

• Vascular corns – bleed badly if cut, and can be acutely painful.

• Fibrous corns – develop in places where corns may recur, may be quite deep, and painful.

• Corns do not have a “core” though the centre may be deep as it is where the problem originated.

What to do: Use a pumice stone or foot the regularly. Chiropodists warn that corn plasters or paints can burn heathy tissues around the corns. Using a foam wedge may help prevent areas of friction, but it’s wise to get professional advice on this, and corn removal.

CALLUSES

Thickened skin – calluses – develop in response to the pressure of walking or standing, and can cause a painful, burning sensation. As we get older we have less fatty tissue in the balls of our feet, so are more likely to develop calluses there.

What to do: Regular use of a pumics stone or foot file, followed by a massage with some moisturising cream, will help control calluses. A chiropodist can remove dead skin, and may prescribe some soft padding or corrective appliances that fit into shoes to help prevent recurrences.

CHILBLAINS

These small, itchy, red swellings can throb and burn, swell, and dry out, leaving painful cracks in the skin — often on small toes.

What to do: Improving circulation can help –which means exercise, though people with anaemia may still be more susceptible. Wrap up warmly to prevent chilling. Do not put feet on a source of heat to warm them up. Calamine lotion or witch hazel can be soothing and rubbing lanolin ointment into the feet at night can help retain heat. Pharmacist can advise on over-the-counter childblain treatments.

CRACKED HEELS

Painful cracks can open if skin has become excessively dry and thickened.

What to do: keep skin moisturised — rich foot creams are available — and file back hard skin. For healing stubborn cracks a 1% hydrocortisone cream (such as HC45) may help. Regular treatment from a chiropodist can keep hard skin to a minimum.

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