With over 25 bones and a complex structure of muscles, tendons and ligaments, your feet keep you upright and balanced for a lifetime and absorb the impact of your body weight whether you're walking or running.
And yet, our feet are probably the last thing we think about until they start hurting or when we expect someone to hold them, rub them or lick them. In fact, when it comes to our health routines, feet and toenails often fall to the bottom of the list.
Problems include odour, fungal infections, cracked skin, calluses, corns, and ingrown toenails - many easily avoided. So, here are our top tips for keeping the skin, bones and muscles of your feet functioning properly. However, if you have any concerns see you GP pronto.
Wash your feet every day gently but thoroughly with soap and warm water to get rid of dirt, sweat and bacteria, including the eight spaces in between your toes. Don't forget to dry them properly. And feet can be 'forgotten' if you shower, particularly in cramped spaces where you can't bend down. Also, if you tend to bath or shower in the morning you may be taking dirt into the bed with you at night.
Moisturise your feet regularly as there's nothing worse than dried or cracked feet. Cocoa butter is good, for example, a natural emollient. If they're particularly dry consider rubbing in some lotion or petroleum jelly at night bed (then putting on socks to protect the sheets). It will leave them soft but take care not to over moisturise between the toes which can lead to fungus.
Fit your feet
Your feet will perform better if your shoes (including sandals or trainers) fit and support your feet, keep them dry and clean and allow them to breathe at a comfortable temperature. For example, tight shoes cause hammer toe, corns, ingrown toenails and general pain while overly large cause blisters and calluses, sore heels and excessive shoe wear. Also, synthetic materials tend not to breathe as well (trapping heat and moisture) while natural materials like leather and cotton will keep your feet cooler and release moisture. Athletic shoes with specialist materials or mesh can work even better.
Rotate your shoes
You can't avoid foot sweat, but you can try to alternate your shoes so that the pair you wore yesterday has a chance to dry out completely before you wear them again. If you wonder why your trainers smell so rank (maybe a mate has had the decency to tell you) it may because you've been wearing the same pair.
Change your socks
Change your socks daily; not every 2nd or 3rd day from a pile in the corner! Change your socks more often if you feel they are damp or sweaty; maybe taking an extra clear pair with you for when you finish at the gym. Socks made of natural fibres like cotton or wool draw moisture away from your feet while high-performance socks made of synthetic materials can do the job better because the material doesn't compress as much when saturated with sweat.
Keep shoes clean
Avoid putting clean feet into shoes with dried sweat and bacteria. This can be difficult when you're slipping on the same trainers everyday, but each time you do this makes the problem worse. Some guys will pop trainers into the washing machine (once in a while at a low temp wash) but don't come running to us if they fall apart. You have been warned and it's your call. Sometimes it's just time to buy a new pair.
It's the place where feet meet so take precautions so you don’t end up with someone else’s foot fungus. Changing areas are typically damp environments next to showers so a haven for fungus and bacteria. It's notoriously difficult drying feet properly in a public changing area before putting on socks and shoes. Some guys wear flip flops, and try not to share with others; eg: if a guy lends you his towel, how do you know he's not used it on his feet first? Are you going to ask him?
Athlete’s foot and other foot fungus just lurve to grow in damp, moist environments. Deny them this and it's probably our top tip when it comes to prevention. We're putting it at the bottom because if you follow the steps above you will all but eliminate the likelihood of getting an infection.
How to stop smelly feet | NHS Choices
Foot pain | NHS Choices
10 tips on foot care | NHS Choices
Ingrown toenail | NHS Choices
Athlete's foot | NHS Choices
Foot (unit of measurement) | Wikipedia