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Put your best foot for ward; HEALTH; Don't let ugly feet ruin the run-up to summer. Now's the perfect time to take action!

Byline: WORDS: SARAH COOPER-WHITE.

The dark days of winter are over and the weather's warming up, so it's time to start saying goodbye to wellies, winter boots and opaque tights for another year. But are your feet ready for the big reveal? Research by One Poll found that almost half of UK women cover up their feet during summer, with many citing hard, dry skin, discoloured nails and cracked heels as the main reasons why. If the thought of showcasing your tootsies in peep toes and sandals is bringing you out in a cold sweat, don't worry. Sort out the problems now and you'll dare to bare them in no time. Here's how

Corns and calluses

What are they?

These are areas of hard skin that can cause throbbing, painful sensations when you walk around or stand for long periods. Corns tend to be small circles of thick skin, often on the toes, while calluses are rough, hard, yellow areas of skin, mostly on the bottom of the foot.

Why do I have them?

'Corns and calluses are caused by constant friction and pressure on weight-bearing areas of your foot,' explains podiatrist Michael Harrison-Blount. 'This can be caused simply by the way you walk, or by wearing the wrong shoes.'

What can I do about them?

'A podiatrist or chiropodist can remove corns and calluses with a sharp scalpel,' explains Michael. Alternatively, you can use a foot file once a week at home. Try the new Scholl Velvet Smooth Diamond Express Pedi, PS39.99, an electric hard skin remover. Then insert a supportive gel insole into your shoes to cushion problem areas, like Scholl GelActiv Everyday Insoles, PS14.99. For corns, use Carnation Footcare Corn Caps, PS2.99, which help remove hard skin, absorb impact and spread pressure.

Dry, cracked heels

What are they?

Thick, ultra-dry skin on the heels that literally cracks and sometimes bleeds. It can be very painful and occasionally difficult to walk on.

Why do I have them?

The skin on the soles of our feet doesn't have any oil glands, so it's easy for them to become dehydrated.

What can I do about them?

'Moisturising your feet daily is essential to prevent cracked heels,' advises Michael. 'The skin on the feet is much thicker than elsewhere on the body, so it needs a more intensive product specially designed for feet.' Try Lotil Foot Cream, PS5.49, a rich, moisturising formula that penetrates deep into the skin to nourish, seal in moisture and soften any hard, dry areas.

Fungal nail infections Fungal nail infections

What are they?

Caused by a fungus, the infection usually starts along the outside rim of the nail, which turns whitishyellow, brown or green. 'If left untreated it can spread into or underneath the nail plate, causing it to thicken and separate from the nail bed,' explains foot expert Neil Murphy.

Why do I have them?

'Fungi are usually found in warm, humid places, such as bathrooms, changing rooms and communal showers in gyms and pools,' says Neil. Infections can be made worse by wearing nail polish, which seals in moisture, allowing the fungus to grow.

What can I do about it? 'Ensure your feet are kept clean, and always dry them thoroughly, because germs can spread and cause further infections,' advises Neil. Change your socks daily, don't share towels and always wear flip-flops in communal wet areas. For fast-acting treatment try new Excilor Fungal Nail Infection Pen, PS22.95, which penetrates the surface of the nail without the need for filing.

Simple ways to soothe sore feet

Hard day on your feet? Try these remedies to relieve those aches & pains

TRY A TOE STRETCH: Simply slip the fingers of your opposite hand in between your toes to gently prise them apart. Hold for 30 seconds, then pull the toes downwards, so you feel a gentle stretch through the toes and the top of the foot. Or try Toe Stretchers, PS14.95, which do the same thing.

ICE THERAPY: Dunk your tootsies in crushed ice to reduce swelling. Too harsh? Then try some water therapy in the shower or bath. Warm water improves blood flow, while cold reduces inflammation.

MASSAGE: If the muscles in your feet are too tight it can contribute to pain. Use your thumb, or roll a tennis or golf ball beneath the mounds of the toes to release tension. Then start at the base of the big toe and massage down through the inner arch, working back up along the little toe side of the foot. Repeat a few times until your foot feels looser.

Ingrown nails

What are they?

The nail grows into the surrounding skin, causing pain, inflammation and infection.

Why do I have them?

'Wearing badly fitting shoes means nails won't be able to grow out easily, but instead catches the skin and grows inwards,' explains Michael Harris-Blount. Improper trimming of the nails, such as leaving sharp edges or cutting nails in a rounded shape, can cause them too.

What can I do about them?

'To prevent this happening, cut each nail straight across,' says Michael. 'Leave a few millimetres of the white part, then file any sharp edges.' Don't try to cut out ingrown nails yourself, visit a qualified chiropodist or podiatrist who will cut the toe nail properly and put a small piece of padding down the ingrown side to help encourage the nail to grow normally. In more severe cases, part of the nail has to be removed under anaesthetic. After this procedure, once the nail grows again it will be slightly narrower.

Bunions

What are they?

A painful swelling that occurs on the first joint of the big toe and causes it to jut out.

Why do I have them?

'Bunions can be hereditary,' says foot expert Mougnir Boumedjane, 'but they can also happen if you spend a lot of time on your feet or wear shoes that are too narrow.'

What can I do about them?

'Wearing good footwear will ease the discomfort,' explains Mougnir. 'If you wear high heels one day, swap to a lower heel the next to take the feet.' Or try orthotic footwear, like Vionic, which help improve the distribution of weight on your foot when you walk. 'If your bunions are very painful you can have a steroid injection into the big toe joint to help cushion it,' suggests Mougnir. But surgery is the only way to get rid of bunions. Visit Nhs.uk for more details.

WHERE TO BUY: Scholl at Scholl.co.uk; Carnation Footcare at Boots; Lotil at Amazon.co.uk; Excilor at Boots, Superdrug, Lloyds Pharmacy, Amazon.co.uk and leading pharmacies; Toe Stretchers at Jdharris.co.uk; Vionic at Vionicshoes.co.uk.

'Always wear flip flops in communal wet areas' 'If you wear high heels one day, swap to a lower heel the next'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 19, 2015
Words:1144
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