It’s sandal season. So you want pretty, polished toes that are corn-and-callus-free. To get happy feet, Dr.Suzanne Levine, a celebrated NYC podiatrist, has a few home remedy tips for five common foot problems—along with advice on when to see a specialist.
1. The cause of calluses is often faulty bio-mechanics (the way your bones and muscles align your foot) that results in extra pressure on specific areas. For minor calluses, try adding gel orthopedic inserts to your shoes to reduce friction.
Also, soak your feet in a basin with warm water, and half a cup of Epsom salt for 20 minutes. Use a pumice stone to work over any thick areas of skin. Finish with a moisturizer.
If your callus becomes painful and inflamed, you’ll need professional help. A trained podiatrist can remove a callus (do not trust this to a nail salon). Dr. Levine has also pioneered a procedure called “Pillows for Your Feet®” that uses a biodegradable, injectable filler to restore padding lost over time in the ball of the foot. This helps alleviate the cause of calluses and is a great fix for general foot pain.
2. Blisters are similarly a result of bio-mechanics (or poor fitting shoes), and represent your bodies’ attempt to protect a sensitive area of the foot. Your best bet for minor blisters is to leave them alone, and cover the offended area with antibiotic cream and a Band Aid. Also switch up any shoes that may be the culprit (narrow heels often fall into this category). If the blister breaks on its own, wash with mild soap and water, and cover up as above.
Dr. Levine doesn’t recommend piercing your own blisters. In many cases this could lead to infection, inflammation and pain. If that happens, it’s time to see a doctor. As well, a doctor can provide custom orthotics to redistribute your weight more evenly or, if excessive perspiration is the problem (providing the friction that blisters love), Botox injections can do the trick.
3. Fungus isn’t pretty, but it’s a reality of life. Our shoes are confined all day, and fungus loves warm, dark places. Your toenails are the main targets. If it’s an especially minor/early case, you can try soaking your feet at home in a basin of warm water with 3 black or green tea bags in it, for 30 minutes. Tea contains tannin, which is a known home remedy for foot odor and fungus.
See a podiatrist if a fungal infection of the nail gets really bad (the whole nail is brittle and discolored). Dr. Levine recommends the Q-Clear Laser, a state of the art machine that is proven to kill fungal nail infections in as little as a few treatments. There are also anti-fungal medications that can be taken orally.
4. Bunions are, for better or worse, hereditary. And women are far more likely to develop them than men (90% of cases are women according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library). There is no home remedy to “cure” a bunion, but there are ways to reduce pain. Applying ice on and off in 20 minute intervals will help reduce inflammation. Bunion pads can also be purchased at most drugstores, and will help cushion the sensitive area.
You should consider surgery if: the bunion is affecting your quality of life; you have pain while sitting or in the middle of the night; or if you experience shooting pains from your foot up your leg. Before visiting with a foot specialist, Dr. Levine suggests keeping a log of when you feel pain, and your level of activity, to help in the diagnosis.
5. Corns are yet another protuberance that can cause your feet pain (especially your toes). And like bunions, only a doctor can remove a corn. Dr. Levine warns against corn shaving kits because, again, you run the risk of infection. Keep pressure of your corns—sandals are helpful in warm weather. An Epsom salt soak is also a good way to ward off inflammation.
If the pain becomes too much, or the discoloration around the corn is too unsightly, a podiatrist can use a mix of anti-inflammatory injections, and laser treatment to alleviate pain and beautify the foot. Depending on the severity of the corn, surgical options are available.
For more info, visit Dr. Levine's website, www.institutebeaute.com.