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Leaflet: Taking care of your feet

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Last updated: April 2020
Next review: April 2022

Foot facts

The foot is made up of 26 bones, 19 muscles and 33 joints, along with a network of blood vessels and nerves. The average person walks between 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.

Don’t wait for problems to arise. Use the following points to take better care of your feet.

Special care

The elderly and those that have medical conditions that can affect the feet, e.g. diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, may be more at risk from foot problems. Feet should be checked daily to detect early problems and prevent any further problems occurring.

Basic foot care

Check your feet daily – check between the toes, the top and bottom of your feet, and around the heels to make sure you have no cuts or discoloured areas. If you cannot check your own feet, ask a friend or relative, or use a mirror.

Keep your feet clean

Germs thrive in warm, moist places, so it’s important to wash your feet every day in warm, soapy water – make sure you dry gently but thoroughly, especially between your toes. Do not soak your feet for longer than 20 minutes as this can remove the skins natural oils and can dry the skin. Make sure your feet are dry before putting your socks on. If your skin is moist between your toes apply surgical spirit daily.


Tight socks, stockings and tights can affect the circulation to your feet, so should be avoided. Socks and tights should be changed daily. Wear socks made from natural fibres such as cotton as they allow your feet to breathe.


Wearing the correct footwear is essential for healthy feet. Ill-fitting shoes will speed up the onset of foot problems and aggravate already existing ones. Look for adjustable fastenings such as Velcro or lace-ups as these will hold your foot in place and help prevent any rubbing. Make sure there is plenty of room for your toes to move freely.

When buying shoes try and get your feet measured, or make a template of your foot by standing on a piece of card and getting someone to draw around your foot. This can be put into the new shoe – if the end or the sides curl up then it will show that there isn’t enough room for your foot. Buy your shoes in the afternoon as your feet may swell during the day.

Common foot complaints

Corns and callus: Accumulated layers of dead skin, usually the result of pressure, often from ill-fitting footwear.

Gentle use of a pumice stone or foot file over the corns or callus can help manage the areas. Use a moisturiser to help soften the skin. But do not apply it between your toes as this can make the skin too moist and prone to infections such as athlete’s foot.

Do not use sharp instruments to remove the corns or callus, nor should chemicals or corn plasters be use to ‘soften’ the skin.

Athletes foot: A fungal infection which can cause itching or soreness. Warm, moist environments can create ideal conditions for the fungus to spread. Use an anti-fungal preparation available at your pharmacist.

Bunions: Bunions result from a deformity of the big toe joint. They may become swollen and painful making walking difficult. They can be made worse by ill-fitting footwear.

Nail care:

  • Cut your toenails following the shape of the end of your toe.
  • Do not cut your nails too short or down the corners, as you may leave a spike of nail or cause skin damage which can cause an ingrowing toenail.
  • Cut small pieces of nail at a time so that the nail does not crack or split.
  • If you cannot use nail clippers, try filing them instead.
  • If you cannot bend down, ask a friend or family member to help you with basic nail care.

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