In the UK we often wonder where we’ve put the umbrella, but keeping our heads dry is only part of the challenge of living on a soggy island. We also need to think about our feet. If feet get wet regularly, this can lead to all sorts of problems.
When our feet are wrapped up in socks, winter shoes or boots, any dampness that gets in tends to stay there. Trapped in a warm, damp, enclosed space this soon encourages sores and infection.
Fungal Infections – Athlete’s Foot
Bacteria and fungus love moist, enclosed environments, so your feet are particularly susceptible to infection – particularly between the toes, although it can be anywhere on the foot.
Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection characterised by cracked, scaly skin that can also be red and inflamed. This is often annoyingly itchy and leads to uncomfortable sores. As it’s contagious (and tempting to scratch) it easily spreads to other parts of the body if you’re not careful.
Athlete’s foot is uncomfortable but rarely serious. Generally, it can be treated with topical creams and improved foot care.
Fungal Nail Infections – Onychomycosis
Damp feet and socks can also cause a fungal toenail infection. This can be painful as the nails flake, crumble and distort. They can even start pulling out of the nail bed. Nail infections can be treated with topical creams and a podiatrist can reshape the nail, but extreme cases may require an oral medication from your doctor.
Nail issues can be difficult to treat and take time to resolve, so the best approach is to avoid them in the first place.
This nasty foot condition was identified in WW1. Soldiers in the trenches suffered from persistent cold and wet feet over prolonged periods.
Although not too common now, if your job keeps you outside a lot in bad weather (military, rescue worker, builder, for example) or you’re into extreme sports like fell-running or mountaineering, trench foot is still a possibility if you’re not taking the right precautions.
The symptoms include dead, flaky skin, blisters, itching, redness and numbing. The latter is especially concerning as it can indicate blood vessel and nerve damage.
Blisters, Rashes and Sores
Persistent friction creates painful sores and blisters. This usually happens if your shoes don’t fit properly but it can also arise if your feet are wet. Dampness causes friction, and the constant rub can lead to sores and infection if left untreated.
Don’t Let It Happen
The best way to deal with these issues is to prevent them from happening.
- Make sure your winter footwear fits properly.
- Check your shoes/boots for cracks and tears and don’t forget to include the soles in your inspection.
- Wear good quality, moisture-wicking socks and carry a spare pair if you’re outdoors a lot.
- Change out of wet footwear as soon as possible.
- Dry and air your shoes thoroughly before wearing them again.
- Go barefoot indoors when you’ve been out in the wet (once you’ve dried your feet) – a good airing helps prevent the spread of fungus and bacteria.
- Treat leather footwear with a water-repellent product.
- Use suitable plasters on your feet or toes as soon as you feel a blister starting. Don’t be tempted to pierce them.
For infections like Athlete’s foot, regular washing in warm, soapy water and careful drying, particularly between the toes, will help ease the discomfort and stop the problem from spreading.
Ask Your Podiatrist for Advice
Our experienced podiatrists at Feet By Pody can help with all your foot care issues.