Your Second Brain
7.200 nerve endings and 200.000 nerves are located in your feet. They supply information to the brain about the safety of the walking surface and the foot position on the ground. In return, the brain sends messages to stabilize the body when standing or moving.
Your Second Heart
When walking, the compression of plantar soles allow the blood flow to move upwards and ensure that there are sufficient perfusion pressures to maintain an adequate circulation of blood in the cardiovascular system.
And did you know that...
You already have the best cushion under your skin that protects your feet: Your FAT PAD!
Stop chasing soft and flimsy soles which cushion and misalign your body.
Support your feet with proper soles and cradle your heels with custom moulded orthotics / insoles to take advantage of your natural cushioning!
FEET ARE UNDERRATED
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
1/4 of Your Skeleton
Your skeleton is made of 224 bones, 56 are located in the feet!
HOW TO KEEP YOUR FEET HEALTHY
Written by James Drakeford in collaboration with Christophe Champs
Our feet haul us through thousands of steps per day. Yet, we often tend to them last when it comes to self-care.
The vast majority of us are quick to spend hundreds of pounds buying fancy trainers that look nice, or we go to a spa for treatments catering to our tired body and legs, but it is rare that we actually spend the appropriate time and money looking after our feet properly until something goes wrong. In this article, we have teamed up with podiatry and biomechanics expert Christophe Champs – whose London based clinic takes a holistic approach to all things foot care – to highlight some of the most common issues you can get with your feet, outlining their causes, prevention methods and what to do if it is too late.
Athlete’s foot is an incredibly common fungal infection of the skin, usually found between the toes. However, it can spread to other areas affecting the soles or sides of the feet, causing significant discomfort, itching and even pain from fluid-filled blisters. Cracking and peeling of the skin are additionally prevalent symptoms.
Causes: Highly contagious, athlete’s foot is most commonly caused by walking barefoot in damp areas. Changing rooms at the gym, pools and communal showers all provide the dampness and warmth that fungus needs to thrive. Touching the affected skin of someone with the infection is another way to catch it, as is wearing shoes that are particularly confining, causing the feet to sweat excessively. Floors, clothing and towels can all become contaminated, causing the fungus to grow and spread to other areas of the skin, such as the hands and scalp.
Prevention: Wearing shower shoes, flip-flops or sandals when walking around in damp areas, as well as places that see a lot of human traffic (like hotel rooms), is key to creating a barrier between potentially contaminated environments and your feet. Keeping your feet dry is just as important, meaning shoes that are made from synthetic materials like plastic and rubber are likely to cause those dangerous sweaty conditions where fungus grows. Washing your feet daily with soap is highly recommended – just make sure you thoroughly dry your feet afterwards – as is alternating the shoes you wear each day. If you live with someone who has athlete’s foot, do not share towels, linens, clothing or shoes, and make sure to wear shoes in areas where the infected feet have been. Christophe adds that it is imperative to “dry every space between your toes after showering”, and that those who “cannot reach their toes because of hip or knee pain or because of a lack of flexibility should use a hairdryer”. He further urges that any necessary foot cream should never be applied between the toes but rather on “dry areas such as your heels and ball of the foot”. Talcum powder can instead be used between the toes “to absorb moistures and prevent the athletic foot from occurring when exercising or if your feet tend to sweat easily in general”.
Treatment: Antifungal medicines are available to purchase from pharmacies and drugstores and typically come in the form of creams, sprays and powders. These usually take a few weeks to work, but if the fungus is spreading or worsening after treatment, those suffering may need to see their doctor for a prescription of more powerful oral antifungal medicines. An alternative for those seeing a worsening condition is callus debridement and treatment of open lesions at a specialist clinic. These procedures involve thoroughly cleaning infected areas and removing all thickened skin, dead tissue, and foreign debris, creating the optimal environment for healing.
Typically affecting the big toe, ingrown toenails occur when the toenail starts to grow into the nail groove, resulting in pain, redness, swelling, and, sometimes, an infection. While the ingrown nail usually extends into the side or corner of the toe, it can also curve over the top, making it particularly difficult to walk.
Causes: Wearing poorly fitting shoes is the number one cause of ingrown toenails. The pressure from footwear that is too narrow at the top or too tight all over results in the nail being too crowded, forcing it to find space to grow elsewhere. Not trimming your toenails properly or way too short can also cause the nail to grow irregularly. Trauma to the feet, including sport-related injuries, also increases a person’s risk. Christophe highlights that teenagers are at particular risk as they “have thinner nails that are often left too long”, and those who play football face the “thin nail plate potentially folding and penetrating the pulp of the toes when kicking the ball”.
Prevention: When trimming your toenails, make sure to cut straight across. Do not curve your nails to match the front of your toe, and if you are having a pedicure at a salon, be sure to notify the technician to do the same, as ensuring the corners lie loosely against the skin at the sides is key to avoiding an ingrowth. Christophe advises that when filing the nail, a glass file is ideal. This is because “the thick sides of the glass file allow you to eliminate any nail spur without irritating the surrounding skin”. Wearing shoes that fit properly is additionally key. If you have nerve damage to your feet and can’t sense if your shoes are too tight, then purchasing from a store specialising in fitting shoes for people with foot problems is ideal. Protective footwear for those who work on construction sites or in other environments where you are at risk of injuring your toes is also important – steel-toed shoes offer optimum protection not just from falling objects, but help prevent slips and falls, as well as muscle strain. If your lifestyle requires you to wear compression socks, Christophe suggests you opt for those that “do not cover and compress your toes”, which is even more important for elderly patients as “their nails get thicker and skin thinner with age”. When socks are put on, they should also be “pulled slightly forward to avoid any extra pressure on the nails”.
Treatment: Ingrown toenails can easily be treated at home – soaking your foot in warm water three to four times a day for a few days to soften the skin around your toe and stop the nail from growing into it is often recommended – but sometimes symptoms can persist. If this happens, those suffering can go to a GP, who will prescribe antibiotics if there is an infection or inflammation, or visit a clinic specialising in lifting or removing the nail. For a slightly ingrown nail (redness and pain but no pus), experienced podiatrists can carefully lift the ingrowing nail edge and place cotton or a splint under it to separate it from the overlying skin, helping it to grow above the skin edge. In more severe cases, partially or fully removing the nail may be necessary by either trimming or using a chemical or laser. Anaesthetic is injected to temporarily numb the toe during these procedures.
A bunion is a bony lump that forms on the joint of your big toe. It occurs when some of the bones in the front part move out of place causing the tip of your big toe to get pulled towards the smaller toes, thus forcing the joint at the base of the big toe to stick out. The skin over the bunion can become red and sore, and smaller bunions (bunionettes) can also develop on the joint of your little toe.
Causes: Bunions form gradually over time and are typically caused by pressure from the way you walk or the very shape of your foot. Standing for long periods or wearing ill-fitting narrow shoes can worsen symptoms, as can inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. While non-hereditary, they are often associated with ligamentous laxity (loose ligaments), which in itself can be genetically transmitted.
Prevention: As you may have already guessed, wearing properly fitting shoes is the number one way to prevent bunions from forming. Remember, you shouldn’t have to break shoes in before they are comfortable, and your toes should not touch the front of the shoes, leaving you with wiggle room. While it is fine to wear high heels occasionally, you shouldn’t opt for that pair of stilettos every day. Blocky heels, wedges and platform shoes are great alternatives as they distribute your weight more evenly across your foot and are less likely to push you onto the balls of your feet. If your foot isn’t aligned correctly or you have flat feet (fallen arches), wearing over-the counter or prescription orthotics in your shoes is key to assuring your feet are well-supported. Splints that will keep your big toe straight while still allowing you to walk are also available for purchase. Christophe adds that shoes with stitches around the toe box should be avoided: “The stitches do not allow the material of the shoes to give”. “If the shoes cannot adapt to your foot shape, then your foot will adapt to the footwear, mainly around the forefoot, causing bunions, bunionettes and lateral cross”, he states. Instead, he recommends shoes made of natural leather and equipped with laces. “The shoe is the first support your foot can benefit from, so make sure yours offer maximum protection and are replaced regularly”.
Treatment: At-home treatments for bunions include holding an ice pack to the lump for up to five minutes, wearing a splint at night to keep the toe straight, and taking non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. However, these are not permanent fixes and are rather ways to ease symptoms. The only sure way to get rid of a bunion is by having surgery (bunionectomy) to remove the persistent lump and realign the toe. Podiatrists are further able to prescribe specially made insoles, toe spaces and splints to ensure results are long-lasting. “To effectively treat the root cause means to support the arches of the feet, thus offloading pressure from the forefoot which cannot cope with bodyweight on its own”, Christophe adds.
CORNS AND CALLUSES
Corns and calluses are areas of hard skin that form from your skin’s defensive response to friction and pressure. Corns are smaller lumps that have a hard centre surrounded by inflamed skin. They can develop in various places, including below your toenail bed, between your toes, on the bottoms and sides of your feet. A callus is a much larger plaque of hard skin – often yellow in appearance – that typically forms on the soles of the feet, especially under the heels or balls.
Causes: A primary defence mechanism, corns and calluses develop as a layer of protection from the pressure and friction caused by repeated activities like walking or running. Keeping your feet snug with thick, cushioned socks is thus crucial to avoiding excessive movement within your shoe, as is (once again) wearing properly fitting shoes. This is because when shoes are too tight, feet are compressed, and when they are too loose, your foot may end up sliding and rubbing against the shoe or the inside seam and stitch. Bodyweight can also be a factor, as well as poor foot posture and medical conditions like hammertoe.
Prevention: Using protective coverings such as felt pads, non-medicated corn pads or bandages over areas that rub against your footwear can greatly reduce your chances of developing corns and calluses. Shoes that offer just the right amount of room are also essential, and it would be best to avoid hard-soled or leather-soled shoes unless they have enough padding to cushion your feet. Christophe urges those suffering to “avoid using pumice stones or foot files to remove either the corns or calluses”. While both will “sand away the hard skin, they will also stimulate skin build up because of the compression and friction they apply to your feet”. They are thus counterproductive.
Treatment: A dry pedicure from a trained chiropodist is ideal for effective treatment with long-lasting results. It involves a blade being used to gently “slice off” the hard skin without any rubbing, ensuring no friction or compression build up. Christophe explains that “as the hard skin is dead and not vascularised, there is no bleeding at all”. “The treatment is entirely pain-free so long as the therapist avoids soaking the feet before the procedure, as this causes too much skin to be removed with the feet left sore for a few days”, he adds. Post-treatment care is just as important and ensures the skin is kept soft while promoting elasticity. Patients should “exfoliate the former hard skin area with a foot scrub once a week and apply specific foot cream at least three times a week before bed”. Products that contain ingredients such as urea, salicylic acid or ammonium lactate are particularly helpful, favoured for their exfoliating and hydrating power. And for those who feel they can skip this step, Christophe highlights that “the skin under your feet is seven times thicker than the one on your face, and four times thicker than the one covering your body”, meaning foot cream is essential to seeing results. Podiatrists can further assess a client’s current footwear, advising on the best style and type for everyday wear, as well as ways in which pressure can be offloaded from the foot so that corns and calluses are avoided in the future. The orthotics offered at Christophe’s clinic PODO are curated according to individual foot shapes and needs in just 90 minutes. As corns and calluses are affected by bodyweight and pressure on the surface of the sole, it means that “losing half your bodyweight or doubling the carrying surface of your sole with orthotics have the same outcome”. The incredibly effective solution utilises a range of thermo-mouldable materials that are mixed and matched to suit a client’s age, lifestyle and underlying conditions, making sure they leave quite literally lighter on their feet.