Whether you are trudging through deep snow and sub-zero temperatures or in damp and muddy conditions with severe wind chills, it is important to take care of yourself all winter long. Winter can be a busy time and you can easily forget with the holiday stress to take care of yourself–especially your feet! Each season presents new challenges for foot health, and just as your clothes change for the season, so should your foot care routine. To help you, we’ve put together a list of ways to keep your feet happy and healthy this winter.
Keep your feet warm and dry
It may seem far fetched, but foot perspiration increases during the winter even more so than during the summer. That’s because people often wear closed shoes more with warmer socks to fight off the colder temperatures. Certain fibers in socks can keep your feet constantly damp and damp feet in the winter can make you colder and lead to chills and possible hypothermia. Sweaty or damp feet can also increase your risk of developing bacterial or fungal infections. Prevent damp feet and infections by keeping your feet clean, warm, and dry with moisture-wicking socks.
Damp shoes and boots can cause foot problems like infections and blisters. Do not wear wet footwear. If your shoes become wet, store them in a warm area to dry for at least 24 hours.
Colder air does not hold humidity and combined with hours spent inside with artificial heating that is common within homes, you might find your skin and feet feeling dry! Dry skin on your feet can create deep calluses that lead to splits, fissures, cracks, and bleeding. These vulnerable spots can allow bacteria to easily enter your body.
Daily moisturizing will keep skin supple and smooth. Applying a heavier moisturizer, foot cream, or Vaseline after showering and at night (especially on callus prone areas such as heels, balls of the feet, and toes) will help keep your feet hydrated. Covering them with socks can help you lock in the moisture while you sleep.
Many of us travel during the winter. Always remember to wear comfortable and breathable clothes and shoes while traveling, especially during flights. Keep your feet and legs loose by stretching before and during the flight to prevent swelling.
Here are some items we recommend you carry with you during your travels this season:
- Pedicure tools such as toenail clippers and nail files
- Blister pads to protect existing ones or prevent blisters from forming
- Foot lotions and creams to soothe tired feet and prevent over-drying
- Anti-fungal powders or treatments for athlete’s foot from sweaty feet
- Clean, dry socks- a new pair for each day and extra ones for sports or heavy activities
For those who struggle with diabetes, winter can be extra harsh on your feet. It is crucial to have a good foot care routine during the winter to avoid issues. In addition to the tips mentioned above, we recommend avoiding heated massagers, checking your feet regularly, and maintaining nail care.
- Heated massages or hot water bottles to soothe aching feet may seem like a good idea, but those with diabetes may develop a decreased ability to feel temperature at their feet. The skin on your feet is quite tender and you may overheat or develop burns easily.
- Checking your feet regularly is good advice at any time of the year. Look for any swelling, dryness, cracks, and calluses. Check between your toes for peeling skin that could be a sign of athlete’s foot or another form of infection. If you are unable to check your feet on your own, a mirror may help or ask assistance from a loved one or care provider.
- Maintaining nail care is also important for those with diabetes as poorly kept nails can be another cause for infection. Nails should be clipped straight across to prevent edges from going inward. If you are unable to do so by yourself, asking a loved one or visit a salon to help keep your nails in check.
For those who like to stay active during the winter or enjoy winter sports, be sure not to let the winter weather get the best of you.
Never ski or snowboard in footwear other than those designed specifically for the intended sports.
- Make sure your footwear fits properly. You should be able to wiggle your toes while the rest of your foot remains immobile.
- Always warm up with stretches and light exercises to reduce the risk of injury.
If you will continue your daily workouts in the cold, wear lightweight, moisture-wicking active gear to ensure that you stay warm and dry despite the temperature. Always begin and end your workout with a good stretch as your body becomes less flexible during the winter due to colder temperatures. A loose body will help prevent injury and strain on your muscles.
For runners, joggers, and everyone else who will be out in the cold and ice, altering your foot strides into shorter steps can help you maintain stability on slick paths.
Winter activitiescan increase your risk for foot injuries, so do your part in selecting the correct footwear for the occasion. Boots or snowshoes are a must-have for winter climates, especially if you will deal with snow and ice. Waterproofing and water-resistance are essential to protecting your feet. To prevent any potential infections from wet, sweaty feet, consider foot powder inside your boots to reduce further moisture along with moisture-wicking socks. All footwear should be properly fitted to prevent blisters, chafing, and injury.
We hope these simple foot care tips for the winter weather will help to keep your feet happy and healthy this season. If you have any questions about your foot care or need to schedule an appointment, contact Martha P. Aponte, DPM today.