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Take the heat out of your feet

With the long, hot days most of us have been digging out the summer footwear. But while we love to whip out the flip flops and showcase our new sandals, we also need to make sure that our feet are kept healthy through the summer months, and to be ready for winter.

During warm weather, feet are often exposed and more vulnerable to irritation and injury, with many of these problems caused by our choice of footwear. One of the most common summertime foot problems is cracked heels. These are normally caused by open-backed shoes such as sandals and flip flops rubbing around the edge of the heel, as the fat pad under the heel expand sideways on weight bearing and increases the likelihood of the skin to ‘crack’. To prevent cracked heels developing apply moisturising cream twice a day, and use an abrasive stone such as a pumice stone or a non-metal foot file when in the shower or bath to exfoliate the build up of skin that can occur. However, if the problem worsens you may need to seek help from a podiatrist. The podiatrist can remove the hard skin build up and give you advice on preventing its build up.

But while cracked heels might be the biggest complaint we treat during the year, there are a number of other problems that can crop up when the temperature rises. There are more sweat glands per square inch on our feet than anywhere else on the body (250,000 to be exact) and the average pair of feet gives off about half a pint of perspiration per day. In order to prevent excessive foot sweating and odour in the summer, the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP) recommends wearing open sandals when you can or changing tights or socks at least once a day.  Choose socks containing at least 70 per cent cotton or wool, although there are man-made fibre socks specifically designed to keep feet dry. These socks wick sweat away from the skin, keeping the skin dry and reducing odour.

Another problem which can arise in the summer is blistering caused by rubbing – particularly between the toes if you are wearing flip flops with ‘thongs’. Blisters are where fluid builds up between the layers of the skin which acts as a buffer in order to prevent further damage; this is the body’s amazing way of dealing with irritation and helps protect the affected area to prevent damage to the deeper, more sensitive skin layers. Blisters on the feet are usually caused by friction.  We recommend the following tips to prevent blister formation:
•    Be sure that footwear fits properly. If a shoe is either too loose, allowing for excess motion of the foot, or too tight, creating pressure points, blisters and discomfort will occur sooner or later.
•    Keep feet dry at all times. If socks become wet from excessive perspiration, change them.
•    Give feet ample rest. Over-working the feet increases heat and moisture in footwear, increasing the likelihood of developing blisters.
•    Wear the right shoe for the job!
People with diabetes need to be especially careful in the summer, if somebody with diabetes suffers from a condition called peripheral neuropathy, (numbness or tingling in their feet), they may not notice cuts or damage to the skin caused injury e.g. by stepping on a thorn, piece of glass, splinter or other foreign body or from the shoes rubbing. Therefore, those living with diabetes must take extra care and do a daily foot check to make sure skin is intact and not broken, and try and avoid walking around barefoot. If you have a wound clean it and put a dressing on it and if it doesn’t appear to be healing after 3-4 days get the wound checked. The SCP recommends to always seek professional advice and foot health care.