There’s a lot of pressure on your feet — literally and figuratively — to keep you upright and active. Those two take a beating day in and day out, especially if you lead an active lifestyle. But sadly, they can’t take care of themselves as well as they take care of you. Your feet need some proactivity from you in order to stay smooth, soothed, odorless and strong.
From cracked heels to calluses, from poorly trimmed toenails to bacteria-causing odor, there are a lot of maladies barking at the door of your feet. And the best way to prevent them from barking — and to start the year on the literal and figurative right feet — is to heed the following foot care tips.
Buff the buildup to stay smooth
As your feet take a beating, they develop calluses, rough patches, and cracks, from the heels up to the toes. And just as you would exfoliate your face and body in order to have your healthiest, freshest skin at the surface, you also need to exfoliate your feet. One way to do this routinely — especially if you’re prone to cracks, calluses, etc. — is an automatic callus grinder. I like these way better than the manual scrubbing removers because they don’t lead to any tugging or sudden tearage. Instead, the little wheel just whirs over top your cracks and calluses, and sands everything down to a smooth finish. (You can see the dead skin turning into dust as it takes to the air. But it’s equally satisfying as it is gross.)
You just have to be careful not to expose it to healthy (or broken) skin, though it won’t hurt if you accidentally touch your good skin with it. Do this every few days if you’re working down a callus, or every week if you’re simply maintaining smooth feet and tending to the latest cracks and rough patches. I prefer dry use since it keeps everything still. Follow with a shower, then a targeted callus cream or softening foot lotion.
Trim correctly to prevent infection and pain
Gnarly toenails are a surefire sign of a fungal infection, while poorly and overly trimmed toenails lead to a painful ingrown nail — which is as much of a pain to have removed. So, heed this simple advice: Always trim toenails with a straight-across clipper, as opposed to rounded ones which are designed for the fingers. Leave a sliver or two of white at the top, and consider using a nail filer to soften any inconsistent or uneven trim jobs.
Just don’t over trim, despite all temptations. The toenail is a tiny shield for your toenail, and you wouldn’t want to compromise its defenses — or your own personal comfort. (Overtrimming is the fastest way to the ER, too — for an ingrown removal surgery.)
Moisturize before bed to prevent cracked heels and buildup
While lotioning your feet nightly might seem like a difficult habit to build, it’s certainly an easy one to do 2-3 times a week. The trick to remembering is to have a pair of socks nearby when you apply, or to already be in bed when you apply the lotion (then to tuck them away inside the socks, too). This ensures that you don’t leave grimey footprints around the house, or lose any product as you march to bed.
And by doing this before bed, you allow the lotion — ideally packed with smoothing urea/uric acid (for cracks and calluses) or antifungal and antimicrobial ingredients like tea tree oil — to soak into your skin and work with your body’s cellular turnover while you slumber. It’s the fastest way to having and maintaining smooth feet. You can alternatively use an arnica-packed cream to help soothe and comfort tired, achy feet.
Try a soak, for multiple reasons
If you pick a foot soak that is more than just Epsom salts, then there’s a good chance it serves multiple benefits to your feet — that is, beyond calming sore muscles and tired skin. If it’s also packed with essential oils like tea tree and lavender, then it also neutralizes bacteria and fungus (as well as any odors they cause), while expediting healing of any achy, sore muscles. Ingredients aside, they can also soften hard calluses and cracks, for any manual scrubbing you choose to do after the soak.
Use a powder-based product to prevent moisture, bacteria and odor
Powder-based products (as in, powders, sprays, and dry-app lotions) will absorb excess moisture when applied to the feet. Some even have additional antifungal or odor-fighting ingredients, but in their simplest forms, powders will prevent the accumulation of sweat and moisture, which itself limits the proliferation of bacteria and fungus (and those that cause odor). Sprinkle, lather, or spray it onto clean, dry feet — or sprinkle powder in your socks or shoes — prior to heading out for the day.
Do a peel to reset everything
Sometimes, it feels like things are beyond simple repair. You’ve got cracks, calluses, rough patches, discoloration, gnarly toes, cantankerous odor and whatnot. It might be time, then, for a simple reset, in the form of a foot peel. You can do this easily at home with the right product, which will soak into your skin and then lead to a gradual, painless peel over the course of the next week.
It’s something nasty and fantastic to see all of the dead skin fall and flake right off, only to reveal your healthiest, freshest feet underneath it all. Just make sure to start with a proper foot care regimen after the fact, or you’ll be right back where you started months later. The best ones will use gentle exfoliating agents, too, like fruit extracts.
Maintain good foot hygiene
All of this would be done in vain if you weren’t also maintaining proper hygiene down there. You need to change your socks every day, or after a workout. You need to wash your shoe insoles and air them out between uses. You need to wash your feet daily —and nightly too, if you take morning showers — and keep your floors clean at home (or wear socks around the house). Use cushioned insoles in your shoes, and choose moisture-wicking fabrics for your socks — like merino wool, polyester, nylon, lycra and acrylic.