Foot Problems and How to Prevent or Treat ThemDo you have a bothersome foot problem like smelly feet, athlete’s foot, or a toenail infection? Read on to learn what causes these problems, and how to prevent and treat them.
1. Smelly feet
What’s that smell?
If you’re one of those people who don’t dare remove their shoes in public because they’re afraid the smell will be overwhelming, you’re not alone! It is estimated that between 10% and 15% of the population suffers from smelly feet.
The nasty smell is caused by bacteria that feed on dead skin cells and produce organic waste. These bacteria don’t usually generate enough waste to create a strong odour.
However, bacteria love warm, moist conditions, like the inside of your shoes. If your feet sweat a lot, and you don’t wear socks in your shoes, this creates the ideal conditions for bacteria to multiply until their smell becomes truly nauseating.
How do I prevent my feet from smelling bad?
Good hygiene and proper footwear choices can help reduce the smell.
- Wash your feet daily with a gentle soap. Be sure to dry them well, especially between the toes.
- Never go barefoot in closed-toe shoes. Socks help absorb sweat from your feet.
- Opt for cotton or wool socks that are more absorbent, or sports socks designed to keep feet dry. Change your socks during the day, or whenever they become damp. Always wash your socks before wearing them again.
- Avoid wearing the same shoes on consecutive days, so they have time to dry out properly before you wear them again. Tip for drying shoes: In summer, put them out in the sun; and in winter, place them on a rack above a heater.
- Opt for canvas or authentic leather shoes. Avoid plastic, nylon, or faux leather shoes, which don’t “breathe.” You can also try wearing sandals, washable shoes, or footwear whose insoles can be removed and washed.
- When you’re at home, go barefoot, so your feet have a chance to dry properly. However, avoid walking barefoot outdoors as there is a risk of injuring your feet.
Are there any odour-busting products for smelly feet?
You will find an array of foot deodorant and shoe disinfectant products at your pharmacy. There are also insoles that can help fight odours. Ask your pharmacist for help in choosing the right product for you.
If, despite your best efforts, you are still unable to control the bad smell, your doctor can propose other treatment options.
2. Athlete’s foot
What causes athlete’s foot?
Despite its name, athlete’s foot can affect anyone. It's an infection caused by a microscopic fungus that thrives in warm, moist environments like that between your toes. The same fungus can also cause an infection in the groin (jock itch).
Like for smelly feet, it is important to adopt excellent foot hygiene practices and to limit the time your feet spend in moist environments.
Since this type of infection is highly contagious, avoid going barefoot in humid environments like locker rooms and around swimming pools, where the fungus may be present.
If you have athlete’s foot, avoid sharing shoes, socks, and towels.
What products can I use to treat athlete’s foot?
You will find antifungal foot powders and creams at your pharmacy. Foot creams are used to treat the infection, whereas powders are useful as a preventive measure to avoid reinfection. For more serious or recurrent infections, a prescription antifungal may be required. Ask your pharmacist to help you choose the right product for you.
3. Toenail fungal infection (Onychomycosis)
What causes toenail infections?
Onychomycosis is a fungal nail infection that affects primarily the toenails. It can appear only on the toenails, or in conjunction with athlete’s foot.
As the infection develops in the nail, the infected nail takes on a yellowish or greyish colour and becomes thicker and flakier. Onychomycosis is highly contagious and can spread to other nails—and to other people.
How to prevent toenail infections?
The preventive measures described above are also recommended for reducing the risk of fungal nail infections, i.e., wash and dry feet thoroughly, avoid prolonged exposure to moist environments, avoid going barefoot in public places, etc.
How to treat toenail infections?
When detected early, an over-the-counter treatment (lotion or polish) can be tried. However, if the infection has already taken hold, a doctor’s prescription (cream or tablet) is often necessary. Treatment can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. While the discoloured part of the nail will not regain its normal colour, it will gradually grow out and be replaced by a healthy nail.
During treatment, it is crucial to carefully disinfect (with rubbing alcohol) the tools you use on the infected nail, e.g., nail clippers, before using them on healthy nails. Also avoid applying nail polish until the infection is resolved.
Are your feet giving you trouble? Talk to your pharmacist!
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.