Though they perform many vital functions, human feet don’t get a lot of love (at least for most of us). We hide them away in socks, forget to wash them in the shower, and bemoan their appearance when we do let them out in the light of day.
This is too bad. Your feet should be your friends. They hold you upright, carry you from place to place, and even function as tools and weapons if ever we’re in a situation requiring a good kick. Feet can be a foundation for our generalized well-being. Or they can be a hotbed for discomfort, infection, and poor hygiene. The choice is yours.
If you’ve never considered foot care as a part of your daily health, wellness, or beauty regimen, you may be at a loss for how to begin. Fortunately for you, foot care has been standardized by the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, and is also practiced in other foot care traditions. Here are some great practices with which to start:
- To clean your skin and nails, try soaking your feet in warm, soapy water for at least 10 minutes. Your toenails are thick and rigid and this practice can slightly soften them while dislodging dirt and bacteria for easy and thorough cleaning.
- While your feet are still warm and soft, use a pumice stone or emery board to gently rub away calluses and dry skin. Our feet take quite a beating during our daily life, so some major exfoliation can be necessary to keep them looking and feeling their best. An exfoliant moisturizer is also a great idea for feet in need of some TLC.
- Trim your toenails straight across! This is a strange idea for many people, but it’s a remarkably simple remedy for ingrown toenails. When we cut our toenails too close, and in a curved shape, the edges tend to grow into the skin. This can produce painful ingrown nails which may require professional help to correct! Straight nails solve this problem, but should never be so long as to harbor bacteria and fungus. Always leave a few millimeters of toe visible beyond the end of each nail. Use an emery board to smooth the sharp edges of the squared nails.
- Use a specially formulated moisturizing foot cream to soothe and nourish the foot regions you’ve just worked on. Foot creams and foot balms will be thicker than standard body moisturizers, and will include powerful oils like neem oil, which is effective but is usually not desirable for moisturizers for the hands and body, due to its smell and texture. Applied to the feet, it’s no problem at all and does great work for health and appearance.
It’s important not to overdo it with foot care. The above regimen is something of a home pedicure, but there’s always too much of a good thing. If you do the above once every month or two, the successive care sessions will make a huge difference over the long term. Also, resist the temptation to cut or trim your cuticles. Cuticles are “there for a reason”, and any open skin you create, however small, could act as a haven for fungus and bacteria (again, yuck).
Feet don’t need dramatic care sessions, but they do deserve more love than most of us grant them. Periodic foot care at home or in the hands of a professional can work wonders for foot comfort, skin health, odor, and appearance. You may not be proud of your feet, but this doesn’t mean your feet are a lost cause. Give them what they need and you may be surprised at how much they return the favor.