Feet can sometimes get a bad rep. Many people are grossed out by them and consider them ugly or disgusting, but that’s really unfair to the vast majority of hardworking feet out there. Your feet help you walk, run and dance all day long, without a word of complaint. They’re one of your most important body parts — and for that, they deserve a little love.

If you’d rather hide your feet in your shoes because they’re not looking — or smelling! — their best, help is on the way. With a bit of preventive care and some helpful tips and tricks, you can say goodbye to foot shaming and keep those dogs from barking. Here’s what you need to know.

Foot Care Basics

Keep Clean

Because your feet are in contact with the ground, they can get dirtier than the rest of your body. Keep them clean by making sure to soap them up in the bath or shower, just as you would any other body part. When you towel off afterwards, be sure to dry your feet thoroughly — especially between the toes, where excess moisture can lead to fungal infections. As you dry, inspect your feet for any problems like discolored nails, peeling or cracking so you can get treatment promptly.

Eliminate Dry Skin

If your heels are cracked, or if you have flaky, dry skin elsewhere on your feet, wearing sandals may feel embarrassing. Excess dry skin can also lead to foot odor, so removing it is a good idea. To do so, soak your feet in a warm water bath for 15 minutes, then use some sugar or salt to scrub away dry skin. Pat your feet dry and moisturize: coconut or olive oil from the kitchen works great. Put on some socks overnight to avoid leaving greasy footprints while your skin absorbs the moisture.

Check Your Footwear

Your footwear should support your feet, not cause problems, so make sure all your shoes fit properly. You should have about 3/8 of an inch of space for your longest toe at the top of the shoe when you’re standing up. When you walk, the back of the shoe should be snug so you heel doesn’t slip up when you take a step. Shoes should be breathable, so look for natural leather or athletic mesh. Likewise, choose socks with good wicking properties and a snug fit.

Commit to Pedicures

A pedicure is important for both men and women. You don’t have to paint your nails a wild color, but proper trimming is crucial to prevent common foot problems like ingrown toenails. Cut your toenails as often as necessary to keep them from extending past the tip of your toe, where they can rub against shoes and cause pain. Use a toenail clipper with a straight edge and make straight cuts to avoid ingrown nails. It may take more than one cut to work your way across your big toe; file rough edges if needed.

Improve Circulation

Blood clots and nerve damage can occur if your feet don’t get good blood flow. Throughout the day, make sure you get some exercise. Walking is always beneficial, but you can also just stand up, stretch your legs and rotate your ankles to improve circulation. Try to avoid tight-fitting hosiery and crossing your legs while sitting to keep your feet happy. Excess cold can also keep the blood out of your feet, so be sure to wear proper footgear on extremely cold or snowy days.

Common Foot Problems

Corns and Calluses

When your skin is under regular pressure or friction, it will protect itself with an extra layer of skin to toughen up the area. Corns form on the feet when the pressure comes from a bone rubbing up against your shoes; calluses are thickened skin that can form anywhere but are most likely to happen on the soles of your feet. Prevention is the best medicine, so pay attention to the fit of your shoes as a precaution. To treat existing corns and calluses, soak them in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes and use a pumice stone to file away the thickened layer. Moisturize and repeat weekly as necessary.

Bunions

Bunions are caused when your big toe is pressed out of alignment and the bony base protrudes from your foot. Though some people’s bunions are genetic, the majority occur in women who wear narrow shoes and high heels that put pressure on this are of the foot. These shoes should be avoided to prevent bunions from forming, and changing to properly fitted flats can reverse early damage. Icing a painful bunion and treating discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers can also help. For severe bunion pain, a podiatrist may recommend surgery to realign or fuse the injured joint.

Sweaty Feet

Your feet naturally have thousands of sweat glands, but when sweat builds up in your shoes, sweaty feet can cause odor, infections and a unique discomfort as feet feel clammy. To protect your feet from problems related to the excess moisture, change your socks throughout the day if they are soaked through, consider using wicking athletic socks instead of nylon or cotton. Wash feet daily with antibacterial soap as well. Your podiatrist may recommend antiperspirant wipes for your feet, iontophoresis or even Botox injections to help reduce sweating if needed.

Foot Pain

Foot pain can have many causes, so it’s important to pay attention to physical symptoms so a potentially serious problem doesn’t go untreated. For mild pain due to injury or overuse, elevate and rest your feet as much as possible and avoid activities that increase the pain. Icing your foot for 15 minutes several times a day will also help. If your foot pain doesn’t abate in a day or two, see a doctor for a diagnosis and additional advice on the best course of action for your problem.

Extra Help for Hardworking Feet

If you’re on your feet for most of the day, you might benefit from shoe inserts that provide extra cushioning for your tired feet. Shoe inserts or upgraded insoles can also help your shoes fit better, and they’re especially useful if you need additional arch support. If you’re looking to reduce pain or fatigue, look for insoles designed for comfort, support or pain relief. Many of these have a gel base that cushions your feet from the impact of walking. Always test the insole by standing on it in the store — or better yet, trying it in your shoe — to check for a good fit.

With a little extra attention to foot hygiene and care, you can keep your feet healthy, clean and pain free. You’ll feel much better showing off your feet to the world when the weather is warm, too, so it’s worth the effort to pamper your piggies. When you take good care of your feet, they’ll take good care if you!

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