Finally! We’re ready to tiptoe through the tulips, across the sand and into the water! But wait! What about our feet? “After a winter’s worth of lousy-weather footwear,” notes Christina Smitley, a board-certified family nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology with Advanced Dermatology PC, “our feet – and especially our toes – may be in need of some seasonal clean-up too.”
“In some cases,” says Smitley, “our toes may simply need a little R and R: perhaps there are calluses that will respond to pumice treatment and moisturizing. Or an ingrown nail that will clear up after soaking and changing to more accommodating footwear.”
But the moist environment of our winter boots can also lead to fungal infections like athlete’s foot: a red, itchy rash that typically shows up between the toes. “Athlete’s foot – medical name tinea pedis– is very common,” observes Smitley. “It affects as many as fifteen percent of the population.”
And fungus can infect our toenails too, causing ‘onychomycosis,’ which discolors and progressively damages the nail. “If we notice a change in a toenail’s appearance, we need to get it checked,” emphasizes Smitley. “We don’t want to try to hide it under polish because infections are harder to treat the longer we have them.”
To help get our feet in shape for the season, as well as happy and healthy all summer long, Smitley makes the following suggestions.
6 Tips to Put Your Best Foot Forward:
- ‘TLC’ = ‘Toe-Loving Care’: “Out of sight, out of mind? I hope not,” emphasizes Smitley. “Skin care routines such as daily moisturizing must include our feet. In particular, our toes and toenails need special attention, especially if we use drying chemicals like nail-polish remover. For those with calluses or corns, careful use of a pumice stone, followed by moisturizing, will help address the build up.”
- Nail the basics of nail care: “Preventative nail care will help keep our feet happy and healthy all summer long,” says Smitley, “as well as looking good for walking barefoot. We should trim our nails after bathing or soaking, being careful to cut in an even line. And we need to be extra gentle with our cuticles, which should not be trimmed or shaped. Also, we should regularly disinfect our tools. These steps can prevent infections. If applying polish, consider using an extra base coat under bright oranges and reds to prevent nail discoloration.”
- Kick the uncomfortable-shoe habit: “Our footwear can cause big problems – even after we’ve taken off the shoes,” observes Smitley. “Calluses and corns are our body’s attempt to protect our feet from tight or poorly fitting footwear. Similarly, excess pressure against the toe can trigger ingrown nails.”
- Don’t let fungus ruin your fun: “No one wants athlete’s foot or toenail fungus,” notes Smitley. “They’re unsightly and uncomfortable. Nail fungus, in particular, often requires prescription medication or other interventions, like laser treatment. Fungus loves warm, damp environments, so we want to keep our feet cool and dry, by wearing ‘breathable’ footwear, immediately getting out of damp socks, and using drying powders.”
- Give your salon a checkup: “The coronavirus really highlighted the importance of thoroughly disinfecting surfaces,” states Smitley. “Proper cleaning protocol also prevents bacterial and fungal infections that can be transmitted during spa treatments, like pedicures. If you’re unsure, ask the staff how they disinfect footbaths and nail tools. And if you regularly get your nails done, consider bringing your own tools to your salon.”
- Keep on your toes for problems that need a doctor: “In some cases, toenail problems need medical attention,” says Smitley. “Pain, redness, or swelling around the nail may be an infection. Changes in the nail such as discoloration, lifting or pitting can be due to a range of systemic conditions, some serious, so they should be evaluated.”
“Regular TLC for our feet,” concludes Smitley, “will help us enjoy that the walk across the sand to the water’s edge – and along all the other the other paths we travel throughout the summer.”
Bio: Christina Smitley, FNP-C, is a family nurse practitioner with Advanced Dermatology pc, and is board-certified through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies. http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com