Dr Mel Wynne-Jones shares her advice on dealing with blisters, corns and calluses
During the winter months, our feet need extra care and protection whether we’re indoors or out. In particular, easing them into restrictive footwear can cause friction on toes, heels and other pressure points, or create a micro-environment that may damage skin.
These can appear quite quickly, so carry a Compeed® Anti Blister Stick in your
bag to rub on if you notice chafing. If a fluid-filled blister develops, get immediate relief by covering it with a shaped, moisture-absorbing blister plaster until it heals.
Don’t pop it, as the skin of a blister works to keep out germs.
Corns and calluses
Calluses are yellowish thickened areas caused by direct pressure on skin surfaces – for example, under the ball of the foot, especially when wearing high heels. They usually produce a burning sensation.
Corns are smaller hard circles produced by sideways rubbing, often over prominent bony areas such as toes or bunions, and tend to be painful.
Prevention is better than cure, so try different shoes, cushioned insoles and/or cushioning pads.
You may be able to smooth a callus with a pumice stone, file or a hard-skin electrical remover or cream.
Or you can treat a simple, uninfected corn yourself with a medicated corn plaster. But over-treatment can be harmful, and corns/calluses often indicate an underlying problem, so you may need treatment from a chiropodist/podiatrist.
Shoes and boots often become moist, warm boxes in winter – perfect for germs that cause smelly feet and fungal foot or toenail infections. So take shoes off when you get home, and let them dry before wearing them again.
Wash and dry feet thoroughly at least once a day. Antiperspirant or deodorant foot powders may help, too.
Athlete’s foot produces itchy, white, soggy skin between the toes or an itchy red rash on the foot.
You can treat this yourself with miconazole cream from your pharmacist.
Fungal infections produce yellow/brown discolouration of the nails with ridging and crumbling. Again, you can treat this with anti-fungal paints from your pharmacist.
If pharmacy treatments don’t work, your GP may prescribe anti-yeast/fungal tablets. You’ll need to take these for several months to cure slow-growing toenails.
Chilblains develop when skin is exposed to severe cold, then suddenly warmed (for example, on a hot-water bottle). You’ll notice small itchy/burning swellings that feel worse when you’re warm. They may look red or blue and take several weeks to heal.
Sometimes they can blister, especially if scratched, so to prevent this, keep feet warm, whileavoiding sudden temperature changes.
Raynaud’s disease affects tiny skin arteries in feet, hands and other extremities. Occasionally, it’s linked to medication or immune-system disorders. Cold makes these arteries shrink/narrow, so skin goes blue or even white, then red when it warms up again.
It’s painful and if severe can lead to frostbite, but most people can cope with extra socks and/or fur-lined boots. If you can’t avoid cold exposure, your GP can prescribe drugs such as nifedipine to open the arteries.
6 Tips for healthy winter feet
1 Choose lined/insulated shoes or boots in natural fibres so feet stay warm
but can breathe.
2 Check covered-up styles of shoe for unexpected pressure points (including ankles). Tight socks/seams can cause chafing, too.
3 Flexible but ridged soles (better grip) and low heels are safer when it’s slippery.
4 Take indoor shoes to change into at work to relieve feet.
5 Most wellies provide little support, so use them for short distances only.
6 If you have diabetes, check your feet every day. Seek medical advice promptly rather treating problems yourself.