Feet: how to care for your feet

Foot problems include athlete’s foot, plantar warts (verrucae), corns, smelly feet and infected toenails.

  • Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection — also called tinea pedis. It is contagious via direct contact, wet floors and shared footwear.
  • Plantar warts (verrucae) are flat warts in the sole of the foot. They are forced under the skin and may occur in clusters. The surface is greyish and crumbly, and they may contain small black points that are swollen blood vessels. Plantar warts are also contagious via wet floors. Like other warts, they will disappear on their own, but this may take up to 2 years.
  • Corns are areas of hard skin that build up on parts of the foot that are subject to pressure or friction, such as on the little toe.
  • Smelly feet are usually caused by excessive perspiration and an over-growth of fungi and/or bacteria.
  • Infected toenails are commonly the result of a fungal infection, a condition known as onychomycosis. Toenails affected by onychomycosis are often brittle, discoloured or yellow.

What can you do to care for your feet?

Here are several steps you can take towards healthy feet.

  • Wear thongs in public showers such as in camping grounds and gyms to help prevent you from contracting athlete’s foot.
  • Wash your feet twice daily and dry them thoroughly, particularly between your toes. Use a clean towel.
  • Change your socks daily and wear cotton, not synthetic, socks.
  • Wash your socks and towels at a high temperature (hot cycle on washing machine).
  • Wear well-fitting leather shoes that allow your feet to ‘breathe’ (synthetic shoes tend to increase the amount of perspiration) or wear open shoes or sandals to allow air to circulate freely.
  • Bleach your shower/bath area.
  • When applying corn or wart medication, make sure it does not get on the healthy, unaffected skin.

When should you seek medical advice?

All of the above conditions can be treated: some by medications that are available from pharmacists, while others, particularly fungal nail infections, can require prescription medication from your doctor. You should also seek medical advice if:

  • you suffer from diabetes, as you may lack some feeling in your feet and that can lead to complications such as ulcers;
  • you are elderly, as you may have poor circulation;
  • you have a mole or dark-coloured spot on your foot; 
  • there is bleeding.