It's not uncommon to have dry, peeling or cracking feet in the wintertime when you wear boots and heavy socks. While it's important to care for your feet all year round, during cold weather they need extra hygiene care. You also need proper footwear to prevent skin problems and foot injuries from falls when it's slippery outside.
Practice Foot Hygiene
Good foot hygiene prevents foot problems from occurring. Taking care of your feet also prevents existing foot problems from getting worse. Try these steps.
Extremely dry feet may lead to fungal infections or ulcerations. Ulcerations occur when the skin breaks down, creating an opening where germs can enter. Exfoliating the soles of your feet kills bacteria and scrubs away dead skin, leaving your feet soft and smooth. Exfoliants also help your skin better absorb moisturizing ointments.
Moisturizing your feet with an oil-based moisturizer, such as petroleum jelly, also prevents the soles of your feet from becoming dry and cracked. If left untreated, cracked heels can develop into painful fissures.
Heel fissures can become infected—a complication you don't want, especially if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system. Diabetes and other autoimmune diseases put you at even greater risk of developing foot problems such as foot infection, foot cellulitis and foot ulceration.
Unless you have a health condition that causes poor circulation in the feet and legs, immersing your feet and ankles in a lukewarm foot bath offers several advantages. Not only does the temperature of the water warm cold feet, it relieves foot pain, boosts white blood cell counts and increases blood flow in the feet.
Wear Proper-Fitting Boots
Wear the proper footwear if you engage in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Even when wearing regular winter boots to protect your feet from snow and ice, you need the proper fit.
Wearing boots that are too tight can lead to blisters and chafing. Bacterial infections are then more likely to occur. When left untreated, bacterial infections spread to the tissues below the skin's surface, causing foot cellulitis. Swelling and redness are common symptoms, but as the infection worsens, the skin of the foot can become itchy or hot and tender to the touch.
Although a boot should have enough room to allow you to wiggle your toes, footwear that is too big can cause you to slip and fall. The wrong fit makes you unstable, which could lead to a bad tumble and even a sprained or broken ankle. You may also break toes or fracture your heel bone.
Friction from poor-fitting boots also causes toenails to crack or split. This can lead to a fungal infection if moisture gets trapped beneath the nail bed. Symptoms of toenail fungus include nails that are yellow, green or black in color, hard and brittle nails, thickened nails and debris under the nail.
Wear Dry Socks
Also consider the type of socks you wear. Boots and socks keep your feet warm and dry, but wearing them for too long causes your feet to sweat. Wet socks irritate the skin and give bacteria an ideal place to grow.
Prevent scaling and fungal infections by changing your socks often and applying an antifungal foot powder. When you take off your boots and socks, wash your feet thoroughly with soap and water to reduce the chance of infections.
If you notice consistent foot pain or any signs of infection, the podiatrists at East Village Foot & Ankle Surgeons provide treatment for all kinds of foot problems, ranging from mild to severe. Talk with a doctor to ensure you take care of foot problems early.