It is estimated that nine out of ten people have foot problems of one sort or another. When you realize how badly most people treat their feet, it is perhaps more surprising that there is one faultless pair in ten than that there are nine pairs giving trouble.

There is much that can be done to minimize foot trouble. Wearing comfortable shoes that fit properly and provide the necessary support is a help. Cutting toenails regularly and carefully also helps, and washing and drying the feet daily can help prevent skin troubles on the feet.

There are a number of problems which involve the feet. Warts and verrucae are discussed on p 188, and chilblains on p70; corns, callouses and hard skin, infections such as ‘athlete’s foot’ and ingrowing toenails are discussed in this section.

Corns and callouses

Corns and callouses are caused by a thickening of the horny layer of the skin. A callous is a flat area of thickened skin, while a corn is an inverted, cone-shaped thickening. These can occur on the hands, feet or any other part of the body which is regularly rubbed. On the feet, corns are often caused by badly fitting shoes, shoes which are made of hard, unbending materials, shoes with pointed toes or with very high heels.

Corns and callouses can be treated at home quite effectively. The affected skin should first be soaked in warm water for a few minutes and then rubbed with a rough towel, soapstone or emery board to remove loosened tissue. It is never wise to cut or pick at the skin however hard it may seem. Infected areas may take months to heal.

There are a number of special devices available for rubbing at hardened skin. Miracle Stone, Newton’s Chiropody Sponge and Scboll Hard

Skin Reducer can be used for this purpose. I don’t recommend knives, planes or any cutting instruments for use at home.

As either an adjunct or alternative to these devices one of the proprietary corn creams or ointments can be applied to continue the treatment. Ayrtons Corn and Wart Paint, hoots Corn Paint, Carnation Corn Paint, Diamond Corn Solvent, Dispello Com Cure, Freefone, Hiker Corn Salve, Pickles Ointment for Hard Skin, Scholl Corn and Callous Salve, Three Flasks Com and Wart Solvent and Union Jack Com Plasters all contain salicylic acid which is a keratolytic. It is important not to allow these creams or ointments to be rubbed on to healthy skin since they may cause damage. They are, after all, intended to help soften and remove offending hard skin. Special ‘corn plasters’which are impregnated with salicylic acid include Amovon Corn Caps, Carnation Corn Caps, Scholl Zino Corn Pads and Union Jack. Corn Plasters. These help to ensure that the salicylic acid is retained on or near to the corn or callous and also help to cushion sore points. Salicylic Acid Collodion BPC and Salicylic Acid Paint can also be obtained. Scholl Air Pillo Insoles, Scholls Cosy Sole Insoles and Omniped Foot Cushions can help prevent the development of hard skin.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a highly contagious fungal infection which thrives in warm, wet conditions. Symptoms which include an itchy rash, blisters on the skin and splits between the toes are made worse when the feet sweat in hot weather. There are several useful products available. Balto Athlete’s Foot Lotion, Mycil Ointment, Mycil Powder, Scholl Athlete’s Foot Powder and Scholl S1 Athlete’s Foot Liquid should all be effective. Treatment should be continued for several days after the symptoms have subsided, and to prevent a recurrence it is wise not to walk barefoot in public showers, baths or swimming pools. Advice that is easier to give than to take!

Ingrowing toenails

Ingrowing toenails can cause a tremendous amount of pain. The best way to avoid the problem is to ensure that toenails are cut regularly, but not too short. It is also important to cut the nails straight across so that the corners of the newly-growing nail do not grow into the flesh. Treating the problem usually requires expert advice either from a chiropodist or a doctor, although Scholl do make an Ingrown Toenail Treatment which might be worth trying as long as there is no sign of infection at the site.

Scholl, incidentally, also make an enormous range of cushions, supports, liners, grips, props, separators, pads, shields and plasters designed to relieve pressure on painful parts of the feet. These can provide symptomatic relief and, by temporarily relieving pressure, speed healing.

There are a great many other foot products. Scholl make an Antiseptic Foot Balm, Dry Powder Antiperspirant Spray, Foot Deodorant Spray and Foot Refresher Spray. There is also Germolene Medicated Foot Spray, Healthy Feet Cream, Healthy Feet Spray and Valpeda Foot Balm. Some of these products are designed to keep feet feeling fresh, and others to stop unpleasant odours developing.

Most of these products need to be used as cosmetics rather than for medicinal purposes. Avoiding nylon socks, wearing leather shoes, washing frequently and using an ordinary, plain talcum powder will probably be more effective in keeping down sweating than using deodorant or antiseptic creams or sprays.

If any foot condition persists, then advice should be sought either from a doctor or a chiropodist. Diabetics should never treat foot problems themselves and any ulceration which develops on the feet should be treated professionally.