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Put your best foot forward

Attractive feet also can contribute to good health

Attractive feet also can contribute to good health

April 28, 2008|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Getting your feet clipped, buffed and scrubbed might offer benefits that go beyond flip-flop-ready feet.

It could add to your well-being.

Podiatrists say doing without consistent foot care - proper nail clipping, moisturizing and shoe cushioning - could lead to problems down the road.

Unaddressed calluses can lead to skin ulcers. Untended corns and bunions can lead to further joint pain. Untreated fungal infections could worsen if they reach the bloodstream.

Dr. Julie Fraser, a podiatrist at Frederick Foot & Ankle Specialists, said an occasional pedicure is good for overall foot health and pre-empts many ailments, provided the salon uses sanitized equipment. Salon pedicures aren't recommended for people with diabetes or circulatory conditions because such illnesses put them at greater risk for infection, Fraser said.

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But pedicures aren't the only option. People with excessively sweaty feet, a medical condition known as hyperhidrosis, are turning to Botox to relax sweat glands. Other foot doctors recommend spraying sandals and dress shoes with Lysol to keep foot fungus at bay.

Whether you're seeking needles, aerosol spray cans or a good foot soaking at the neighborhood nail spa, options abound when it comes to keeping your feet healthy - and pretty.

Fraser and other foot experts offer some suggestions for a few common foot ailments.

Ugly nails

Foot fungus causes nail discoloration and can make toenails thick and brittle.

Most people have some kind of fungus on their feet. But too much fungus is bad.

"It usually starts with the big toe," said Dr. Carmen Zaldivar, a podiatrist at Sanicola Podiatry Associates in Hagerstown.

Untreated fungal infections spread to other toes. Over time, the nails could get so thick and brittle, they can't be cut with a normal nail clipper, Zaldivar said.

Store-bought medications do little to kill the fungus. Zaldivar said foot doctors have oral and topical treatments that will kill the germs.

Nail polish offers no protection from fungus.

"It really makes it worse," Zaldivar said. Polish makes the environment beneath the nail dark - an environment nail fungi like.

Fraser recommends spraying the insides of shoes with Lysol to kill germs, especially shoes worn without socks.

Improper clipping is another cause for nail-drama: ingrown toe nails.

Toes should be clipped straight across, without rounding off the corners of the nail, Zaldivar said. Filing the edges can inadvertently create jagged edges, which can dig into the skin.

Fraser said that beyond clipping away pesky hangnails, cuticle clipping is unnecessary and puts you at risk for infection. If you think your cuticles look really bad, push them back with a soft cuticle stick, Fraser said.

Rough, sore feet

Zaldivar said she gets many patients complaining of hard, dry heels at the end of summer because they forgot to moisturize.

Everyday lotions and exfoliators can help keep the skin of your feet smooth. A trip to the pedicurist also can help.

When calluses go too long, the outside pressure on the skin builds up, causing the skin to break down. If calluses are left to build up, they could cause an ulcer.

"You'll have a hole in your foot that you have to close up," Zaldivar said.

Fraser said "lumpy bumpy" problems such as bunions and hammertoes, a bone deformity that causes the toe to bend downward, are hereditary and should be treated as soon as possible.

Wearing wide, open-toe shoes can reduce pain problems bunions cause, but if not fixed as they arise, bunions will become the source of increasing foot pain, Fraser said.

Zaldivar said that some over-the-counter treatments might work for things such as corns, but if there is a deformity in the foot, the condition will keep coming back.

Flat feet can be another cause of foot pain and can worsen for people who wear sandals and flip-flops lacking proper arch support.

Over-the-counter inserts work for people with mildly flat feet, Zaldivar said, but custom inserts from a foot doc are recommended.

Fraser said some podiatrists have used collagen injections to plump up the pads of the feet, benefiting high-heel wearers.

Fraser said platforms are a great heel alternative because while the height of the entire shoe might be high, your entire foot is elevated, so the actual heel-height is not as bad.

Sweaty, stinky feet

Hot weather also increases the likelihood of another all too common problem - sweaty, stinky feet.

Fraser said over-the-counter foot deodorants help, but as you would do with the stuff you put under your arms, you'd want to find a deodorant with antiperspirant and deodorant properties.

Fraser said she prefers sprays to powders.

"Powders can clump up," Fraser said.

Cotton socks are another foe to sweaty feet - the material will hold 10 times its weight in moisture, Fraser said. Just as there is sweat-wicking athletic wear on the market, sweat-wicking socks can also be found, Fraser said.

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