Moth and Toad Apothecary

Herbalism, self-sufficiency, and low-waste living

How to Take Care of Your Feet | 5 Tips for Healthier Toes

In the Northern hemisphere, winter is coming to an end. The days are getting longer, the sun is shining brighter, and the days of walking in sandals and flip flops are nigh. For many, winter comes not only with snow and hot cocoa by a warm fire, but also with dry skin and cracked, painful heels. These are some tips I’ve accumulated over the years as someone who struggles to keep my extremities maintained, and as a massive skincare enthusiast! I hope this advice teaches you how to take care for your feet, whether it’s mind winter or mid July.

This post contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. Warmer weather is returning, at least here in Florida; more and more often, we’ve had full days without much of a drop past 80°F. While I’m enjoying the spring weather and longer days, I find myself worrying over the coming heat waves….

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1. Wear socks or slippers inside, and wear shoes outside.

Socks and shoes buffer the impact of the ground on our feet. This is especially true if you frequent sidewalks, cement, or stony gravel. They also protect them from drying out excessively. If you’re prone to dry, cracked skin, you should do your best to protect the moisture barrier of your feet by wearing shoes outside and slippers or socks indoors whenever possible. It won’t restore moisture, but it can help retain some of it and prevent exposure to the air to some degree. I love walking on the ground barefoot, but I try to limit the time I spend on concrete, rock, and gravel for sure. If you avoid harsh and abrasive surfaces while walking barefoot, you’ll be much less likely to develop callouses. However, wearing shoes at all times is the best way to avoid dry, calloused skin.

2. Exfoliate thick callouses with a pumice stone, and gently exfoliate thinner areas with a cloth.

Exfoliation is a great way to reduce the callouses on your feet, and in turn control cracks that may form due to lack of moisture getting through them. Exfoliate your feet once a week using a pumice stone and a wash cloth. Using corn cutters, grates, and other blades is not a good way to exfoliate. It’s much too rapid of a change, and you put yourself at a higher risk of injuring yourself when using these tools. Instead, opt for weekly exfoliation using these less intense but effective methods. You can also make use of chemical exfoliation through moisturizers, which is my next point!

3. Moisturize right after getting out of the shower.

While your feet are still wet, moisturize the heels, sides, and tops of your feet. Some effective lotions I’ve used in the past include gold bond ultimate, Vaseline cocoa butter lotion, and an awesome daily lotion called Amlactin that uses lactic acid to moisturize and exfoliate dead skin in one fell swoop. If you’re wanting to formulate your own body butter type lotion, I recommend using ingredients such as shea butter (emollient, moisturizing, occlusive), beeswax (occlusive, firms the formula up), sweet almond oil (contains vitamin A to gently exfoliate, moisturizing), and cocoa butter (firms up formulas, emollient, moisturizing, and it’s vitamin E content helps with scarring). You can play around with these four ingredients alone, or infuse them with nourishing herbs including calendula, lavender, rose, and plantain. For particularly cracked and painful heals, I would use plantain, calendula, and comfrey infusions. You can infuse some or all of the oils in your salve for an effective blend!

4. If you notice a fungal infection, treat it right away.

At-home treatments of fungal infections are most effective at the onset of symptoms. If you notice a fungal infection has taken hold of your feet, don’t panic! There are several remedies to try, and if worst comes to worst, a visit to the doctor can get your feet back into balance.

The first step in treating a fungal infection is decontaminating your footwear. Washing them with soap and water often isn’t enough to get rid of the microbes. Instead, try soaking them in alcohol, hydrogen peroxide (if they’re white), or vinegar. I tend to use soap and water first with baking soda first, followed by a vinegar and water bath, and a final soak in hydrogen peroxide and water bath. Then I allow the shoes to dry and reassess them afterwards. Typically, they’ll have lost their stinkiness and look nice and clean! Keeping them dry is important, so make sure to always wear socks with sneakers and closed toed footwear.

After cleaning the shoes, a routine for fungal infections should be put in place. Regular nail trims can reduce the surface area the fungus has to spread over. A foot bath mixed with Epsom salt, baking soda, and tea tree oil (diluted or emulsified) is a relaxing way to treat fungal infections at home. There are blends like this one available at most drugstores, too! You can also apply diluted tea tree oil to your skin and nails directly. Wearing open toed and airy shoes can help, but may lead to dry skin. A way to combat this is to use a lotion that contains tea tree oil as your moisturizer.

5. Clip your nails, push back your cuticles, and massage your feet.

Daily massage, especially if you are on your feet all day, can help with pain and stiffness. You can manually massage them or use a tennis ball to roll under them. The key is to get blood flowing to the area, and to manipulate the muscles into relaxing. If you have a significant other, you could try making it a nightly habit to massage one another’s feet before bed!

Pay attention to your feet every night and after every shower, and you’ll notice a difference in how they feel and look. I hope these tips are helpful to you, and inspire you to add your feet into your self care ritual! What tips do you use? Have any other ideas? Let me know in the comments!

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