Claire Williams

10 common foot problems and how to treat them

Claire Williams
 10 common foot problems and how to treat them

Whether you're suffering from blisters or joint pain keep your feet in tip top condition with our expert tips!

The human foot has 42 muscles, 26 bones, 33 joints, and at least 50 ligaments and tendons made of strong fibrous tissues to keep all the moving parts together. This evolutionary marvel is capable of handling hundreds of tons of force - your weight in motion-every single day. The foot’s parts, including the toes, heel, and ball, work in harmony to get you from one place to another. But the stress of carrying you around puts your feet at high risk of injury, more so than other part of your body.

1. Ingrown toenail

The right way to clip toenails is straight across is key to foot health. If you don’t cut them properly, the corners or sides of the nail can dig into skin and become ingrown. Other causes of ingrown toenails include shoe pressure, a fungus infection, and even poor foot structure. When you cut your toenails, use larger toenail clippers and avoid cutting nails too short, as this can also cause ingrown toenails or infection. If you have an ingrown toenail visit your doctor as there are a range of treatment options they can suggest.

2. Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a build-up of uric acid in joint tissues and joint fluid, which happens when the body is unable to keep uric acid levels in check. One of the first places for this build-up to occur is in the big toe joint. Temperature-wise, the toes are the body’s coolest parts, and uric acid crystallizes with temperature changes. If you have an attack of gout, the toe will get warm, red, and swollen and will be painful to even the slightest touch. The best way to prevent a gout attack is to learn to identify the triggers, including high-purine foods, red meat, seafood, and alcohol. Applying ice, keeping hydrated, and staying bed may head ease the symptoms but visit your doctor to discuss long term treatment.

3. Athlete’s foot

This is caused by a fungus that likes warm, dark, and moist environments like the areas between the toes or on the bottoms of the feet. Athlete’s foot can inflame the skin and cause a white, scaly rash with a red base. The athlete’s foot fungus also causes itching, burning, peeling, and sometimes a slight odour; the infection can also migrate to other body parts. You can avoid athlete's foot by keeping your feet and toes clean and dry and by changing your shoes and socks regularly. Over-the-counter antifungal creams or sprays can be used to treat athlete’s foot. If these remedies do not work, however, you may need to see your doctor and ask about prescription-strength medication.

4. Blisters

Blisters are simply caused by ill-fitting shoes. Soft pockets of raised skin filled with clear fluid, blisters are often painful and can make walking difficult. It’s important not to pick at them. Clean the area thoroughly, then sterilize a sewing needle and use it to open the part of the blister located nearest to the foot’s underside. Drain the blister, slather with antibiotic ointment, and cover with a bandage. Follow these same care steps if a blister breaks on its own.

5. Bunions

A bunion is a crooked big-toe joint that sticks out at the base of the toe, forcing the big toe to turn in. Bunions have various causes, including congenital deformities, arthritis, trauma, and heredity. A bunion can be painful when confined in a shoe, and for many people, shoes that are too narrow in the toe may be to blame for the formation of bunions. Surgery is often recommended to treat bunions, after conservative treatment methods like over-the-counter pain relievers and footwear changes fail.

6. Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses form after repeated rubbing against a bony area of the foot or against a shoe. Corns appear on the tops and sides of your toes as well as between your toes. Calluses form on the bottom of the foot, especially under the heels or balls, and on the sides of toes. These compressed patches of dead skin cells can be hard and painful. To relieve the pain, you may want to try placing moleskin or padding around corns and calluses. Don’t try to cut or remove corns and calluses yourself — see a doctor for advice on care.

7. Discoloured Nails

Anyone can get a fungal nail infection, with 1 in 10 people suffering from the condition. However, older people can be more susceptible to getting a fungal nail infection due to factors such as a weaker immune system. Another risk factor of getting a fungal nail infection is the symptoms of the menopause. Fungal nail isn’t caused by menopause but can come as a result of other problems linked to menopause. If menopausal women suffer from hyperhidrosis this could include potential sweating of the feet, where the excessive moisture creates a warm and friendly environment where fungal nail can develop. If you suffer from brittle nails you may also experience nail traumas which can cause discomfort, and if your nails are not strong, it can be easy for fungal nail to easily set in. If you think you do have a fungal nail infection, try an over-the-counter treatment such as  Canespro Fungal Nail Treatment Set (£29.99, Lloyds Pharmacy), it can remove the infection part of the nail in 2 – 3 weeks.

8. Dry & Cracked Heels

Research has shown that 71% of women regularly have hard skin and cracked heels, however as you age the skin dries out even more. Factors in this include the reduced amount of collagen, a lifetime of placing pressure onto your feet, and even ill-fitting shoes if you don’t adapt your footwear to be more supportive as you age. Looking after your feet from an early stage in life will dynamically improve and maintain the health and “foot age” of your feet. Using moisturizers specifically for feet can help maintain flexibility, reduce discomfort from dry skin, reduces the amount of hard skin that builds up also. Your skin is like a sponge and hydration is needed. So be sure to have enough water per day. Ingredients in foot cream that are most effective is urea. Try using a trusted Heel Balm, such as Flexitol Heel Balm (£4.99, Boots). Flexitol is clinically proven to hydrate dry, cracked heels and feet and contains 25% urea. It’s non-greasy, moisturising formulation is medically proven to hydrate dry, cracked heels and feet. 

9. Foot Pain

There are several factors that can lead to increased pain in your feet. This primarily includes the fact that the fatty padding (collagen) in the balls of your feet reduces as you get older, leaving them more exposed to the ground and increasing the impact. Another cause of pain could be the development of arthritis. Comfortable footwear is pivotal; wearing shoes that are supportive and padded will definitely reduce any pain. You should also continue to exercise. Small exercises for your feet can help strength, mobility and flexibility. If you are suffering from pain in your foot and are looking for relief, products such as Movelat Relief Gel and Cream (£7.99, Boots) are effective for local relief of pain and inflammation caused by mild arthritic conditions, stiffness, sprains and muscular pains. It’s best to visit to your doctor if the pain continues.

10. Brittle Nails

Brittle nails are a common symptom of foot aging, you may find your nails even peel, split, crack or become ridged as the nail loses its flexibility and is caused when the nails are dried out. As a person ages, the water content on the nail decreases which is why you as you age you may find yourself getting brittle nails. Brittle nails can be due to hormonal changes as well as diet or other underlying medical condition. It can be the same thing that causes thinning hair causes thinning nails. using almond oil or tea tree oil is a great way to replenish the nails. Making sure you are eating a well-balanced meal is also important. To help improve your nails, you could try Holland & Barrett Skin Hair & Nails Formula Caplets (£10.29, 60 Caplets) which help maintain healthy nails and support the vital nutrients required as part of a balanced diet. 

  • For more health advice see Yours Magazine, out every fortnight, on a Tuesday.