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Planning Retirement Online

Taking care of your feet

May 2017

lady sat bare foot on a bench

Our feet consist of skin, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. Our skin naturally thins with age and loses its elasticity. Healing may take longer and general wear and tear can affect joints. Problems tend to occur if you’re less mobile or you’re having difficulty bending down to tend to your feet or to see them if your eyesight has deteriorated.

Having healthy feet can help us to balance our body effectively in walking, running, dancing and in many daily activities.

Our feet are vulnerable to repetitive mechanical stress and skin irritations due to tremendous daily usage.

How to take care of your feet every day

  • Clean both feet thoroughly with warm water and a choice of mild soap, aqueous cream etc. depending on skin type. Dry both feet especially the space between the toes checking for cracks, swelling tenderness, redness or blisters.
  • Moisturise dry rough skin, avoiding excess lotion in-between toes. See also emollients for dry cracked skin below.
  • Cut toe nails straight across keeping them at a comfortable length, using a nail file for sharp corners.
  • Keep feet dry, mobile, comfortable and warm (don’t heat them in front of a fire).
  • Always wear appropriate footwear when walking to avoid slipping or a foot injury. Wear natural fibre socks that aren’t too tight and proper fitting and supportive shoes or perhaps fleece-lined boots. Bed socks at night are useful.
  • Daily foot exercises promote good blood circulation

Seek medical advice if there is any unusual sensation, tingling, numbness or pain, joint pain or deformity.

Do not apply treatment or medication onto feet without appropriate advice from your pharmacist or primary care (GP) team.

Suitable Footwear

Choose your footwear appropriately making sure they provide adequate support and they’re the right size, shape and fitting to avoid blisters (if they’re too tight) or calluses (if they’re too loose). Foot wear heels should be strong enough to support the ankle and wide enough to carry body weight.

Natural materials such as leather are more flexible. Wool and cotton allow your feet to breathe.

Use appropriate in-soles and cushions to more evenly distribute the body weight.

(If there is a specific medical problem your GP or podiatrist/chiropodist may recommend orthotic treatment which involves custom made insoles.)

Foot Care Services

NHS GP: - for specific foot problem

Podiatrist or Chiropodist: - can be arranged through the GP or a self-referral.  Such foot care professionals should always be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Orthotic Consultant/ appliances

Age UK - local services may offer nail cutting.

Common Foot Problems

  • dry or cracked skin
  • corns and calluses
  • heel pain, arch pain
  • bunions
  • friction blisters
  • ingrown toenails
  • fungal infection (athlete’s foot)

Most foot problems can be treated so that you don’t have to put up with the pain and discomfort.

These problems are usually caused by inappropriate or inadequate foot care, mechanical cause, infection, as well as underlying problems, for example diabetes, cardio- vascular disease, congenital foot deformity.

Specific Problems

Corns and calluses - both are caused by hard thickening of the skin exposed to excess pressure or friction.

Corns usually develop due to badly fitting shoes or standing for long periods. They can also develop on a bunion.

Calluses are larger than corns with thickened skin and reduced sensitivity, most frequently on the heels or ball of the foot.

You should seek appropriate advice, diagnosis and treatment initially from a healthcare professional. Over the counter corn plasters will relieve the pressure but does not treat the cause. A chiropodist or podiatrist may remove thickened skin from these areas with a sharp blade to help reduce pain.

Bunion - a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe. The medical terminology for this condition is hallux valgus. This can cause swelling, pain and tenderness. Bunions can be linked to family history as they are more likely to occur with inherited flexible joints or related to other preexisting health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or gout. Wearing badly fitting shoes can worsen the condition. Non-surgical treatments are painkillers, orthotics or bunion pads. These help to reduce the symptoms but do not improve the appearance of the foot. Surgery is an option depending on the degree of the deformity, severity of symptoms, age and other medical conditions.

Heel pain - Most cases of heel pain are caused when a band of tissue in the sole of the foot (known as the plantar fascia) becomes damage and thickened. The medical terminology for this condition is ‘plantar fasciitis’.
Treatments to help relieve heel pain are rest, stretching the calf muscle, ice pack and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Correct fitting shoes and possibly orthotic support devices.

Dry or cracked skin - regular use of moisturising emollients to soothe, smoothen and hydrate the skin using over the counter non-proprietary preparations, for example soft paraffin-based remedies. Many well known proprietary brands are available.

Ingrown toenails - causes: incorrectly cut nails, tight fitting shoes, injury, nail infection or natural shape of toenail. Self-management includes good foot hygiene, correct nail cutting, comfortable shoes gently pushing skin away from the nail with a cotton bud for example. A podiatrist or chiropodist will be able to advise and help. Surgery may be recommended - either a partial section or total nail removal, depending on how severe the case is.

Fungal nail infection - this is more common in men and the older generation. Treatment is not always required. The nail can become thicker, discoloured and white, black, yellow or green. Generally there is no pain. However, without treatment there’s a possibility in some cases, of further foot problems such as cellulitis. 
Risk factors include hot sweaty feet, regular damage to the nail or skin or an underlying health condition e.g. diabetes.  
Mild cases may be treated with an over the counter remedy under the guidance of a pharmacist.

Nail clippings may be taken by your GP to confirm diagnosis then treatment such as either nail paint or antifungal tablets may be offered.  It can take several months until there would be any obvious benefit or improvement in the condition. 


Want to find out more?

Jelf’s healthcare specialists can help put appropriate insurances in place to protect your health and wellbeing in later life. If you’d like to discuss any specific healthcare insurance requirements with one of Jelf’s healthcare advisers, simply:


This information is taken from an AXA PPP Healthcare article


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