Watch the Water

Many commercial creams are water-based; they feel good when you use them, but as the water becomes absorbed into your body, the dryness returns. Over time, water- based lotions do not help. Check the label of any foot lotion you purchase. If the basic ingredient is water, pass that one up and go for an emollient instead. Eucalyptus oil is said to bind water, soothe and detoxify, all at the same time. Other emollients that contain lanolin, coconut oil, shea butter or squalene are good choices.

Get Into a Routine

Pay attention to your feet each day. Wash with tepid water, not hot. Apply emollients afterward (within about 3 minutes of washing) to maximize the effects. Hot water will dry your skin further, as will vigorous rubbing with a towel after washing. Pat your feet dry. Avoid leaving moisturizing lotions between your toes. Top off your daily care with a quick inspection: Look for cracks, skin injuries or bruises, or signs of infection that might demand the attention of your podiatrist, especially if you suffer from a circulatory problem or diabetes.

Take Care of Your Toes

Wear sandals, trim your toenails straight across, and make sure your shoes give you plenty of toe room (3/8 to ½ inch longer than your longest toe). Use an emery board instead of clippers if you have any circulatory problems, to avoid nicking yourself. Do not trim the nails of an elderly person if they have diabetes. It is best to have a visiting nurse or a podiatrist perform the care.

Inspect your feet weekly for these common problems:

1. Fungal or bacterial infection: Your toes can be victims of both bacterial and fungal infections, which are much easier to prevent than to treat. If you suspect you have an infection of either kind, visit your doctor within 2 weeks. Prevention is much easier than cure. Wear clean, dry socks, and don't go barefoot in public places where bacteria and fungi flourish.

2. Corns. Corns are the foot's response to repeated pressure in one area. Over-the-counter corn remedies remove the skin but don't treat the problem. See your doctor for a long-term solution.

3. Ingrown toenails: Sometimes, a toenail (most often on one of the larger toes) can cut into the skin. Prevention includes cutting the nails straight across instead of tapering them at the edges. If ingrown toenails are a problem, your doctor or podiatrist can help you by removing the part of the toenail that causes the problem.

Your feet are hard-working parts of your body. There are many advantages to good foot care, and great risks are associated with practicing poor (or no) foot care. Taking good care of your feet can help you to feel better and live a healthier life.