Foot care involves all aspects of preventative and corrective care of the foot and ankle. Doctors specializing in foot care are called podiatrists.
During an average lifetime, each person walks about 115,000 miles and three-quarters of people have foot problems at some point in their lives.
Foot problems can arise from wearing ill-fitting shoes, from general wear and tear, as a result of injury, or as a complication of disease. People with diabetes mellitus or circulatory diseases are 20 times more likely to have foot problems than the general public.
Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in treating the foot and ankle. Other doctors who have experience with foot problems are family physicians, orthopedists, sports medicine specialists, and those who care for diabetics. Problems with the feet include foot pain, joint inflammation, plantar warts, fungal infections (like athlete's foot), nerve disorders, torn ligaments, broken bones, bacterial infections, and tissue injuries (like frostbite).
Daily foot care for people likely to develop foot problems includes washing the feet in tepid water with mild soap and oiling the feet with vegetable oil or a lanolin-based lotion. Toenails should be cut straight across above the level of the skin after soaking the feet in tepid water. Corns and calluses should not be cut. If they need removal, it should be done under the care of a doctor. Athletes foot and plantar warts should also be treated by a doctor if they develop in high risk patients.
Many people with diabetes or circulatory disorders have problems with cold feet. These problems can be reduced by avoiding smoking tobacco (smoking constricts the blood vessels), wearing warm socks, not crossing the legs while sitting or not sitting in one position too long, or avoiding constricting stockings.
People with circulatory problems should not use heating pads or hot water bottles on their feet, as even moderate heat can damage the skin if circulation is impaired.
No special preparation other than an understanding of the nature of foot problems is necessary to begin routine foot care.
Foot care is preventative and should be ongoing throughout a person's life.
There are no risks associated with foot care. The risks are in ignoring the feet and allowing problems to develop.
"Foot Problems." In The Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness and Surgery. 3rd ed. Ed. H. Winter Griffith, et al. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1995.
American Diabetes Association. 1701 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311. (800) 342-2383. <http://www.diabetes.org>.
American Podiatry Association. 20 Chevy Chase Circle, NW, Washington, D.C. 20015.