No Small Feat: A guide to taking care of your feet

Cringing and hobbling around on dry, flaky heels and toes? Your health index may hold answers for happy feet

How often are you shying away from prying your toes and heels out of your shoes, feeling conscious of cracks, dryness and flakiness? There are things that our feet tell us, through their complexion, and we must choose to listen. 

Our feet lug our entire body weight around, especially when work demands standing for hours. Foot issues creep in with age, hormonal twists, those unwanted kilos, long spells in air-conditioned environs, and more. So, what do you do when the skin turns arid? Explains Dr Nandini Gupta, Consultant Dermatologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, Mumbai, “Dry feet and cracked soles are more common than dry skin in other parts of our body because feet lack oil glands, especially the soles. Feet, instead, rely on sweat glands to stay moisturised. Often rough, hard, and dry skin forms on the pressure points on the feet causing dry skin. This accompanied by calluses are usually an indicator of hypothyroidism.”

Dryness in feet could also be an indicator of psoriasis and long-term eczema. Humidity and heat draw moisture from the skin, often leading to cracked and dry areas on the feet. “The lack of vitamins and minerals like zinc can make your heels dry and eventually start cracking. Obesity increases the pressure on the fat under the heel, causing it to expand sideways and pressurise the feet. This leads to cracks. As does standing barefoot for a long time, frequently, especially in the bathroom. Water can rob the skin of natural oils, leaving it rough and dry,” says Dr Stuti Khare Shukla, dermatologist, Mumbai.

Using chemical-free soaps, and moisturising your feet daily is a good start. Steer clear of detergents. Slough off the dead skin on your toes and heels with a homemade scrub of salt and coconut oil. “Soak your feet in lukewarm water for 15-20 minutes every day. Apply coconut oil on your feet and keep it overnight for best results,” suggests Dr Stuti. “Aloe vera gel is a saviour as it brings in vitamins A, E, C and antioxidants that work well in healing the dryness. Bananas come in handy too. Mash one banana and add a tablespoon of honey. Apply this mixture on your feet and rinse it off after 20 minutes. Repeat twice daily for three days for encouraging results.”

It is important to invest in a nutrient-dense cream. Which ingredients to look for on the labels? “Compositions of bornyl acetate, lactic acid, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, dimethicone, urea, acetyl alcohol, peppermint, ginger help in hydrating the feet,” advises Dr Nandini. “Even lemon oil foot cream, tea tree foot cream, milk, and honey foot cream soothe cracked feet. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) can also prevent dry skin on the feet,” she adds. 

Food for feet 
✥ Strap your diet with zinc-rich foods such as oysters, chicken, crab, kidney beans, yoghurt and brown rice. 
✥ Bring in the beta carotene and Vitamin C in oranges, strawberries, avocados, flax seeds, sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes and peppers to keep the skin supple and smooth.

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