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How to look after your feet in winter

Winter is associated with dampness and cold but it is also, of course, a time for celebration and festiveness. The last thing you want at this time of year is to have foot problems and the best way to prevent this is by keeping them warm and moisturised.

This sounds easy - but not everyone does it. I have had patients who have come to see me with no socks on or just wear one pair of thin tights in the middle of a cold winter!

You wouldn’t go out in freezing conditions with thin summer tops on or no jacket, so please take care of your feet in the same way. Two layers of socks can be a good idea, three for those who like to go skiing, but you should make sure that there is room in your boots or shoes for them; you should be able to wiggle your toes inside your shoes, otherwise you may be affecting your circulation.

​Sometimes, a slightly larger size of boots or shoes can be helpful in this regard. Wearing socks made out of the right sort of material can be an issue too. Woollen socks are generally advisable, as they offer protection and warmth. However, if you suffer from sweaty feet, wearing a thin pair of synthetic socks before putting on the woollen ones will help to absorb excess moisture.

Christmas parties

With Christmas and New Year’s Day in the middle of winter, there are often people to visit or parties to attend. So not only will you be thinking about keeping them warm but also about keeping them looking good but pain free.

To begin with, daily moisturising of your feet can help make them look smooth and attractive. For those who want to wear high heeled shoes, these are known for putting more pressure on the forefoot and standing or dancing in them for long periods of time can lead to heel pain. A tip for reducing the pain is to try not to wear them for too long a period of time. You can do this by wearing some sensible shoes to the party before changing into your party shoes when you get there. Then, try not to spend more than 6 hours in total standing in them. Another way to reduce the pressure is by using cushioning insole components, such as plantar metatarsal pads or heel pads made of poron or gel, which can aid in shock absorbency.

Finally, when you do get home, remove your high heels and give your feet a thorough clean and moisturise. Cream that contains urea, such as flexitol, CCS and Simply Feet, can nourish your feet and keep away hard skin and cracks.

Winter foot care for people who suffer from Chilblains, Raynaud’s disease, Diabetes

Both Chilblains and Raynaud’s disease are due to an abnormal response of blood vessels to the cold. That is to say, unlike people without these conditions, when people with these conditions switch from a warm place to a cold place, their blood vessels will constrict / narrow much more quickly and for longer to preserve their core temperature, but when they come in from a cold place to a warm place, the vessels will dilate much more slowly. They will feel uncomfortable and, in severe cases, are at risk of skin break down. The best way to prevent such problems is to keep your feet under a more constant temperature and avoid exposing your feet to any extreme temperatures. For instance, don’t come in from freezing weather outside and then put your feet straight into a hot bath!

Help from the health professionals

Your podiatrist can give you a pair of insoles made of plastazote. This insole material can help thermal regulation inside your shoes and help keep your feet warm. Your doctors can also prescribe you various medications which will help. Calcium channel blockers (e.g. nifedipine) or α blockers (e.g. losartan), for example, are good for peripheral vessel dilation, so talk to your doctors if you suffer from any of these conditions severely.

Diabetic patients - beware of hot water bottles!

Diabetic patients generally need to have regular foot care as they are prone to peripheral neuropathy (i.e. being unable to feel pain), peripheral vascular diseases (i.e. poor circulation) and compromised immune systems. Because of these issues, they are at an increased risk of developing foot ulceration and infection. In winter, many people like to use hot water bottles for warming up, which is usually safe. However, for diabetic patients with neuropathy, extra caution is needed as you might not be able to feel how hot the water bottle is and end up with a burn. So do be careful!

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