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Our feet are among the busiest parts of our body, yet they often receive the least attention when it comes to hygiene and care. As a result, we may experience various foot problems such as ingrown toenails, calluses, and even fungal infections.

To prevent these issues and maintain good foot health, Dr. Michael Ruiz, DPM, a podiatric physician and surgeon at Lake Erie Podiatry in Erie, PA, with over 20 years of experience, shares his expert tips on proper foot hygiene.

Why Foot Hygiene Matters

Feet are the unsung heroes of mobility. Every day, they take you places, support your body weight, and endure hours of confinement in shoes that often favor fashion over function. Neglecting proper foot care can lead to discomfort, pain, and even problems with your posture.

Maintaining good foot hygiene is important for several reasons:

  • Preventing infections: Bacteria and fungi thrive in warm, damp environments, such as those found in your shoes. Regular cleaning and drying of your feet can help prevent athlete's foot, toenail fungus, and other infections.
  • Reducing odors: Bacteria that cause odor love to feed on the sweat and dead skin cells that accumulate on your feet. Good hygiene practices can keep odor in check.
  • Promoting circulation: Proper care for your feet can assist in good blood circulation, which is essential for wound healing and overall foot health.
  • Supporting healthy skin: Regular foot care helps prevent calluses and blisters, keeping your skin soft and supple.

Basic Foot Hygiene

A great foot hygiene routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Dr. Ruiz recommends the following simple steps that you can include in your everyday regime to keep your feet clean and healthy:

  1. 1. Daily Foot Bath

    Taking the time for a daily foot bath can do wonders for your feet. Not only does it help to relax tense muscles, but it can also:

    • Improve circulation: Warm water can help dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow, which is essential for foot health.
    • Reduce swelling: A foot bath can reduce swelling and inflammation in your feet, especially after a long day. Add Epsom salt for added relief.
    • Soften skin: Soaking your feet in warm water can soften calluses and rough patches of skin, making it easier to remove them later.

    To do a foot bath:

    1. 1. Fill a tub or basin with enough warm water to cover your feet up to the ankles. You can add essential oils, Epsom salt, or mild soap to the water.
    2. 2. Soak your feet for 10-15 minutes.
    3. 3. Use a soft brush to gently scrub your feet and in between your toes.
    4. 4. Rinse with clean water and pat dry with a towel.
  2. 2. Moisturize & Protect

    After your foot bath, it’s important to moisturize your feet. This helps to prevent dryness and cracking of the skin. Use a good quality foot cream or lotion, and make sure to apply it all over your feet.

    If you plan on wearing socks or shoes right after moisturizing, opt for lighter lotions that absorb quickly to avoid a slippery sensation. For nighttime, consider using thicker moisturizers or petroleum jelly and wearing socks to lock in the moisture.

    Pro-tip: Avoid moisturizing between toes to prevent trapping moisture and increasing infection risks. It's best to focus on hydrating the tops and soles of your feet, especially the heels, which are often prone to dryness and cracking.

  3. 3. Trim Toenails

    Regularly trimming your toenails is an important part of maintaining foot health. Here's how to do it properly:

    • Use clean, sanitized nail clippers or scissors.
    • Cut straight across your toenails to prevent ingrown toenails.
    • Don’t cut your nails too short, as this can lead to pain and increase your risk of infection.
    • Use a cuticle pusher to gently push back the cuticle. Be careful not to cut or tear the skin.
  4. 4. Footwear Hygiene

    Shoes can harbor bacteria, fungi, and other germs, so it’s important to keep them clean. Here's how:

    • Rotate your shoes: Wearing the same pair of shoes every day can lead to a buildup of sweat and bacteria. Give your shoes at least 24 hours to dry out before wearing them again.
    • Clean and deodorize: Use a shoe spray or powder that kills germs and removes odor.
    • Wash your socks: Change your socks daily, especially if you have sweaty feet or are prone to fungal infections. Use hot water and detergent when washing them.
    • Invest in quality footwear: Avoid wearing tight shoes. Good-quality shoes provide better support, are more comfortable, and last longer. They may be more expensive, but they can save you money in the long run by preventing foot problems.

    Pro-tip: Consider using moisture-wicking or breathable socks to help keep your feet dry and comfortable throughout the day.

  5. 5. Address Foot Issues Promptly

    If you ignore foot pain or discomfort, the problem may worsen and lead to more serious issues. If you experience any of these symptoms, see a podiatrist right away:

    • Persistent pain: Pain that doesn’t go away or keeps coming back.
    • Swelling: Swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs can be a sign of an underlying condition.
    • Discoloration: Changes in skin color, especially dark patches or redness.
    • Numbness or tingling: Numbness and/or tingling can be a sign of nerve damage.
    • Foul odor: Persistent bad odor from your feet may indicate an infection.

Advanced Foot Care

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, foot problems arise. Here are some common foot issues and tips for addressing them:

  • Fungal Infections

    Fungal infections can be itchy, unsightly, and extremely uncomfortable. To prevent fungal infections

    • Keep your feet dry.
    • Wear breathable shoes.
    • Use antifungal products.

    If you suspect you have a fungal infection, consult Dr. Ruiz for treatment options.

  • Ingrown Toenails

    Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of a toenail grows into the surrounding skin, causing pain and infection. To prevent:

    • Trim your nails straight across.
    • Don’t cut your nails too short.
    • Avoid wearing tight or narrow shoes.

    If you have an ingrown toenail, soak your foot in warm water and Epsom salt for 10-15 minutes a few times a day. If the pain persists, see Dr. Ruiz for proper treatment.

  • Corns & Calluses

    Calluses are toughened areas of skin that develop in response to repeated friction or pressure. They most commonly occur on the feet and can be quite painful. To prevent them

    • Choose proper-fitting shoes that don’t rub or pin your feet.
    • Use protective pads on areas of the feet that are prone to calluses.
    • For thick calluses, use a pumice stone or foot file after a foot bath to gently smooth the skin.
    • Apply a moisturizer after removing the callus to prevent the skin from hardening again

    If you have corns or calluses, avoid using over-the-counter products that contain acid, as they can cause harm if used incorrectly. Instead, see Dr. Ruiz for safe and effective treatment options.

  • Athlete’s Foot

    Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that commonly occurs between the toes, causing itching, burning, and cracking of the skin. To prevent athlete’s foot:

    • Keep your feet dry.
    • Use over-the-counter antifungal creams and sprays.
    • Wear socks that absorb moisture, such as those made of a combination of cotton and synthetic fibers.
    • Change your shoes and socks regularly.

    In severe cases, or when over-the-counter treatments don’t work, see Dr. Ruiz for prescription medication.

Foot Care for Special Conditions

For individuals with diabetes or other conditions that affect the feet, special care and extra attention are necessary because they are at a higher risk of developing serious foot conditions.

  • Diabetic Foot Care

    Diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy, a condition that reduces sensation in the feet, making it difficult to feel cuts, sores, or blisters. Proper foot care is crucial to avoid serious complications for those with diabetes. Here are some tips:

    • Check your feet daily for any injuries or issues.
    • Wash and dry your feet carefully, especially between the toes.
    • Never walk barefoot, and always wear shoes appropriate for your activity level.
    • Keep your feet moisturized (except between the toes).
    • Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes.
    • See Dr. Ruiz regularly for foot exams and treatment of any issues.
  • Pregnancy Foot Care

    Pregnancy can cause changes in the feet, including swelling and discomfort. Here are some tips for maintaining foot health during pregnancy:

    • Elevate your feet when possible to reduce swelling.
    • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes with a wide-toe box.
    • Avoid high heels.
    • Exercise regularly to improve circulation

    If you experience persistent pain or discomfort in your feet during pregnancy, consult Dr. Ruiz for appropriate treatment options.

  • Senior Foot Care

    As we age, our feet may require more attention due to changes in bone density and circulation. Here are some tips to maintain healthy feet as a senior:

    • Keep your feet clean and dry.
    • Trim your toenails carefully.
    • Check your feet regularly for any injuries or issues.
    • Wear properly fitting shoes with adequate support.

    If you experience any foot issues, see Dr. Ruiz for treatment and guidance on how to maintain foot health as a senior.

  • Athlete & Active Feet Care

    For athletes and those with an active lifestyle, the feet undergo extra stress and therefore need additional care:

    • Use appropriate sports shoes designed for the specific activity to prevent injuries and strain.
    • Replace worn-out shoes regularly to ensure proper support.
    • Use custom orthotic inserts or specialized socks to provide additional support and cushioning.
    • Stretch and warm up before engaging in physical activity.
    • Seek treatment for any injuries or conditions at Lake Erie Podiatry.

    By following these tips and regularly seeing Dr. Ruiz for foot exams, athletes and active individuals can keep their feet in top shape and avoid setbacks caused by foot problems.

Keep Your Feet Happy & Healthy with Dr. Ruiz

We often take our feet for granted, but they are an essential part of our daily lives and deserve the highest care level. By following these tips and seeking treatment when needed, we can maintain healthy feet and avoid serious complications.

Whether you're dealing with the common foot ailments brought on by everyday life or looking for preventative measures to maintain optimal foot health, Dr. Michael Ruiz, D, and the team at Lake Erie Podiatry are committed to offering comprehensive care and personalized treatments.

If you have any concerns or require expert care, don't hesitate to reach out to Lake Erie Podiatry at (814) 833-3668 or schedule an appointment with Dr. Ruiz. Your feet will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I visit a podiatrist?

It is recommended to see a podiatrist at least once a year for routine foot exams and to address any foot concerns. However, if you have diabetes or another condition that might require more frequent appointments, Dr. Ruiz will work with you to determine a schedule that best fits your specific needs.

Are there any home remedies for foot conditions?

While some at-home treatments may provide temporary relief, it's best to consult Dr. Ruiz for the proper diagnosis and treatment of any foot condition. Over-the-counter products containing acid should be avoided as they can cause harm if used incorrectly.

What is the best way to keep my feet dry?

To keep your feet dry, wear socks that absorb moisture and change them regularly. You can also use antifungal powders or sprays to help prevent athlete's foot. It's important to properly dry your feet after washing them, especially between the toes, as excess moisture can lead to fungal infections.