Having healthy feet is essential for overall well-being, and good quality of life, which is why caring for your feet should be a priority; here are 19 best tips to maintain healthy feet.
Did you know that during a person's life, their feet will walk enough distance to circle the world twice?
The human foot is an amazing and complex structure, that's why it's essential to be aware of the health of your feet and take steps to ensure they stay healthy; unfortunately, many of us neglect and take them for granted until we experience pain or discomfort.
Whether running a marathon or simply walking around the block, our feet are vital for proper movement and mobility because, with strong and healthy feet, it's much easier to remain active and enjoy the outdoors.
Keeping your feet in top condition requires regular care, maintenance, and protection from environmental irritants and health hazards. We'll discuss 19 best tips to maintain healthy feet, helping you keep your feet looking and feeling their best.
Here are 19 best tips to maintain healthy feet:
1. Wash your feet.
When feet are not washed and kept clean regularly, dead skin cells, sweat, and dirt build-up, leading to an accumulation of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which can cause unpleasant foot odor and infections.
To maintain good foot hygiene and keep your feet clean, fresh, and healthy, wash your feet daily with lukewarm water and mild soap — to prevent stripping and drying out the skin — (or a gentle cleansing product specifically designed for feet) and dry them thoroughly, tops, bottoms and between your toes.
2. Massage your feet.
Foot massages promote blood flow and enhance circulation, stimulate nerve endings in the soles of the feet, and reduce aches, pains, soreness, stress, and tension in the feet, all of which prevent pain and discomfort and keep your feet healthy.
Massage your feet in a slow circular motion using your fingertips, and apply light pressure to each part of your foot, working along the arch of the foot, heel, and toes. Start by using your thumbs to press firmly into all areas of the soles of your feet. Then, use your fingers to massage the top of your feet and up your ankles and legs. Or use a small ball (such as a tennis ball) to gently roll on the areas of your feet that feel sore or tense.
Use lotions or oils to make the movement smoother and more enjoyable — it helps promote relaxation while softening calloused heels and toes.
3. Or try reflexology.
Reflexology is a Chinese holistic healing therapy that involves the application of pressure to different areas of the feet, which correspond with various organs and body parts, to promote blood flow and enhance circulation, alleviate tension and pain, reduce inflammation, swelling, stress, and fatigue, promote relaxation and encourage balance in the body's systems.
By stimulating reflex points on each foot, we can affect a person's energy flow and promote health; start by massaging the entire foot area, then focus on the area corresponding to the organ or body part you want to target. Apply pressure in a circular motion and hold for up to 30 seconds. When done correctly, reflexology can help provide relief from a variety of health issues.
This treatment can be done at home — use special reflexology tools to provide yourself with a soothing experience, or visit a professional if you need help targeting specific areas on your feet.
4. Stretch your feet.
Stretching your feet helps keep muscles, ligaments, and tendons mobile and flexible, reduces stiffness in the joints and tight muscles, prevents pain and injury, and improves posture and balance.
Examples of foot stretches that you can do at home include:
- Heel raises: start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Slowly raise both heels off the ground until you feel a stretch in the calves and hold for 5 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position; repeat 10 times.
- Ankle rotations: start by standing with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Slowly rotate both ankles in a circular motion 10 times clockwise and then 10 times counterclockwise.
- Toe curls: sit or stand on the ground and point your toes outward. Curl your toes towards you and hold for 5 seconds before releasing and repeating 10 times.
- Big-toe stretches: stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward. Bend one knee and grab your big toe with that same hand's thumb and index finger. Gently pull your toe towards you until you feel a comfortable stretching sensation for about 15-20 seconds; release and repeat with the other foot.
- Rocker exercises: sit on the floor and position your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Slowly rock both feet from side to side, maintaining contact between your feet and the ground throughout the movement; do this 10 times in each direction.
These simple stretching exercises — which can be performed while sitting or standing and take just a few minutes to do — make a big difference in the health of your feet, so add them to your daily routine.
Note: It is best to consult with a podiatrist before trying these stretches to ensure they are tailored to your specific needs.
5. Use a foot peel mask.
A foot peel mask is a great way to pamper your feet and keep them looking their best because they exfoliate your feet, helping get rid of dry and cracked skin, thickened and rough patches, callouses, and corns.
The process involves soaking your feet by wearing plastic socks or booties filled with a chemical solution for up to an hour, which helps break down and slough off dead and dry skin to reveal softer and smoother feet.
You can purchase foot peel masks at most beauty stores or pharmacies; check out our list of the best foot peel masks to find the right one for you.
Note: Read and follow the instructions on the package carefully to ensure you get the best possible results; consult with a doctor if you have allergies or medical conditions that may be exacerbated by using a foot peel mask.
6. Moisturize your feet.
Not moisturizing your feet causes dry and cracked skin, leading to fissures, cuts, and infections that can cause discomfort, be painful, and be aesthetically unpleasant.
One of the best ways to care for your feet is to keep them moisturized at all times because it maintains the skin's natural protective barrier, prevents dryness and cracking of the skin, reduces and soothes redness, irritation, and inflammation, and keeps your feet soft and smooth.
Applying a good moisturizing foot cream regularly improves the appearance of your feet by protecting them from moisture loss and nourishing the skin, making your skin look soft and smoother — use a thick and creamy moisturizing lotion or cream that contains natural plant-based oils, shea butter, beeswax or petroleum jelly to the areas that are prone to cracking, such as heels and toes, until it's completely absorbed into the skin.
To get maximum hydration and healing benefits from your moisturization routine, it's best to apply your choice of product onto your clean feet after a shower or bath at night, using gentle circular motions until it is completely absorbed, then wear cotton socks over them while you sleep to lock in the moisture content.
Note: Pay special attention to the areas between your toes and around the cuticles of your nails — these areas tend to get neglected but need extra care as they are more prone to dryness and cracking.
7. Use sunscreen on your feet.
We all know to protect our skin from the sun's harmful rays, but did you know you should also apply sunscreen on your feet? Using sunscreen on your feet is an often overlooked step of daily skin care, but it's just as important as using it on any other part of your body.
The skin on your feet can be just as susceptible to skin cancer and premature aging from harsh UVA and UVB rays as other areas of the body — that's why you should always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to your feet every day at least 15 minutes before going outside to direct sunlight.
Reapply the sunscreen every two hours — even on cloudy days, as harmful rays can penetrate through clouds and still cause damage to unprotected skin — or after sweating or swimming. If you're going to be in the sun for extended periods of time, consider wearing socks and shoes to provide added protection.
8. Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salts or essential oils.
Soaking your feet in warm water with Epsom salts or essential oils combats bacteria build-up on the skin, which accumulates from sweat during everyday tasks — like running errands or shopping — ultimately leading to healthier-looking feet (not just appearance-wise but feel-wise too!).
Epsom salts contain magnesium, an important mineral for reducing inflammation, relieving pain, and improving foot circulation. Epsom salt foot baths can also help soften rough, callused skin, reduce foot odor, and improve overall foot health.
Essential oils on the other hand, can also be added to the water for their healing properties. For example, lavender oil has antiseptic properties that help promote wound healing and fight infection; tea tree oil is an anti-fungal and antibacterial agent; and peppermint oil is cooling and can help improve circulation.
Add 1/4 cup of Epsom salts or 10-12 drops of essential oil to a large basin filled with warm water to make a foot bath. Soak your feet for about 20 minutes, then use a pumice stone or foot scrubber to exfoliate your feet, paying particular attention to areas with hard skin. Finally, rinse and dry your feet thoroughly.
9. Avoid hot foot baths and showers.
Although hot baths and showers can be soothing and relaxing, they strip away the natural oils that keep skin moisturized and soft — leaving your feet dry, cracked, and sore, especially around sensitive areas like the feet, ankles, and toes, not to mention it is easy to burn yourself if you are not careful.
Therefore, it's best to take shorter showers and keep the temperature of your bath or shower at a lukewarm or cool setting to reduce further irritation caused by too much heat exposure without sacrificing hygiene altogether.
To avoid fungal infections such as athlete's foot, dry your feet thoroughly after each shower or bath; pay special attention to drying the areas between the toes, where most fungal infections start.
10. Trim your toenails carefully and properly.
Neglecting nail care can lead to uncomfortable and aesthetically unpleasant foot problems such as split, cracked, or discolored nails, ingrown toenails, and fungal infections. In extreme cases, they can lead to serious medical issues such as infection and even amputation if not treated properly.
Keeping nails well-trimmed is important to avoid unnecessary discomfort and infections, which can be painful and difficult to treat; that being said, be careful not to trim your nails too short because you risk damaging the delicate skin around your nails — such as cutting back skin instead of just the nail itself and causing bleeding.
Before trimming, it's best to apply a few drops of essential oil or petroleum jelly around the cuticles of your nails, as this helps soften and protect the skin from any damage caused by cutting too close.
To trim your nails carefully and properly, it is best to use a nail clipper or a pair of small scissors specifically designed for cutting nails; make sure that your toenail clippers are kept clean and sterilized with rubbing alcohol or disinfectant in between uses — this helps prevent spreading any fungal infections from one foot to another.
Toenails should be trimmed straight across to avoid any sharp edges that could cause infection, and — if you have thick, yellowed nails that are difficult to cut — use an emery board or nail file to file them down instead; cut back the nails on your feet regularly, usually once a week or every two weeks — depending on how quickly yours grow — to avoid uncomfortable and painful foot problems.
11. Wear proper-size shoes.
Wearing the wrong type of shoes can cause discomfort, pain, and even deformities; selecting properly fitting, comfortable, and supportive shoes with a shape that fits the length and width of your feet and enough room in the toe area is one of the most critical steps in keeping your feet healthy.
Wearing shoes that are too tight and limit movement will cause pressure and friction on your feet, leading to cramping, blisters, calluses, hammertoes, bunions, and athlete's foot. In addition, shoes that are too loose or lack arch support can cause the feet to over-pronate (roll inward on the soles); this condition — known as flat feet — can lead to several issues, such as heel pain and plantar fasciitis.
When shopping for shoes, choose shoes with good arch support, a cushioned sole, and straps that provide enough space for your feet; keep in mind that your feet may swell over the course of the day — especially during hot summer months; so try on shoes at the end of the day when you know they'll fit your foot shape properly.
12. Inspect your feet and footwear regularly.
Inspecting your feet helps you identify any foot problems early and prevent the progression of more severe issues; check your feet for signs of blisters, wounds, sores, redness, swelling, and discoloration; if you find anything unusual or out of the ordinary, contact your doctor.
Also, inspect your footwear for any signs of wear and tear, look out for any signs of damage on the soles of your shoes, and replace them when they become worn out or start to feel uncomfortable, as this could prevent them from providing the necessary cushioning and support needed during walking or running activities; replace shoes when necessary.
Check the inside of your shoes for objects like pebbles or stones that might be causing discomfort to your feet; remove any objects that may be caught in the seams or inside the shoe.
13. Break in new shoes gradually.
Breaking in new shoes can help prevent discomfort, blisters, wounds, sores, redness, and swelling, so it's important to break them in gradually.
When you first buy a pair of shoes, wear them around the house for short periods of time before committing to long walks or runs; this allows your feet to adjust to the fit and shape of the shoe and become accustomed to avoiding any discomfort or strain on your feet while wearing them for longer periods of time while giving you the opportunity to see if there any issues with fit or comfort that need to be addressed.
If a shoe is causing your feet pain, don't ignore it; instead, try different sizes, widths, and brands of shoes until you find a comfortable pair.
14. Wear socks.
Wearing socks keeps feet dry by absorbing sweat and preventing moisture from building up between your skin to prevent fungal infections and provides extra cushioning to prevent chaffing, calluses, corns, and other foot problems caused by the friction of skin rubbing against the inside of the shoe and against the floor.
Wearing the appropriate materials — such as moisture-wicking fabrics — is essential for keeping your feet dry and reducing the risk of infection; change your socks throughout the day to keep your feet fresh and comfortable.
15. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and keeping yourself well-hydrated is crucial if we want our organs and, hence, our bodies functioning optimally — including our feet.
Not only does hydration promote better circulation throughout foot tissues and muscles — flushing out toxins that could potentially cause further damage to your feet — but it also keeps everything working together in harmony, preventing complications from developing.
Aim for eight glasses each day (at least) and ensure any additional liquids taken over this quota consists mostly of alkaline drinks — like coconut water — these tend to restore essential electrolytes lost throughout physical activity while keeping us hydrated.
Drinking enough fluids throughout the day helps keep your feet in optimal condition, so make sure you are taking in the appropriate amount for your body weight and activity level.
16. Avoid walking barefoot.
Walking barefoot exposes your feet to bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other potentially harmful organisms; therefore, avoid walking barefoot, especially in public places such as showers, gyms, and swimming pools.
If you must walk in these places, wear flip-flops, sandals, or other protective footwear to keep your feet safe from potential harm; if you must go barefoot, dry your feet off properly and thoroughly afterwards.
Note: Never share footwear with anyone to avoid the risk of passing on foot bacteria and, eventually, infections.
17. Check for signs of fungus infection.
Fungal infections on your feet can cause itching, redness, and burning of the skin — as well as potentially contagious — so seek medical attention if you spot the symptoms early on to treat any infections promptly.
Common signs of a fungal infection include dry, flaky, cracked, and/or discolored skin, redness, swelling, itching, or burning sensations; in severe cases, the infection can spread to other parts of your body.
If you notice any of these symptoms on your feet, contact your doctor right away so they can diagnose the issue and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan. In some cases, anti-fungal creams or oral medications may be needed to eliminate the infection effectively.
18. Visit a podiatrist if you have foot pain or an injury that does not improve with home care.
If you have foot pain or an injury that does not improve with home care or notice any changes in how your feet look or feel, it's best to seek medical attention from a podiatrist.
A podiatrist is a qualified health professional specialized in providing treatment for the feet and lower legs — they can assess any issues you may be having with your feet, offer advice on how to fix the problem, and recommend treatments they deem necessary; they can also provide advice on the best shoes to wear, how to keep your feet healthy, and how to prevent any potential problems in the future.
See a podiatrist every 6 months to ensure your feet stay healthy and free from any pain or discomfort; after all, prevention is always better than cure.
Physical activity is great for maintaining overall body health — including the health of your feet — because it improves circulation and joint flexibility, strengthens the muscles and ligaments, and reduces stress in your feet.
Try to include activities like running, swimming, or cycling into your weekly routine — if you're already an avid exerciser, incorporate activities like weight training and stretching that are specifically designed to target the feet.
That being said, you don't have to engage in strenuous activities — jogging or even walking can be enough to keep your feet in good condition.
Note: make sure you listen to your body: if it's telling you to rest, do so — overworking your feet can lead to further injury or pain.
Feet are an integral part of a person's overall health, and well-being, which is why they must be taken care of accordingly; implementing the tips outlined above ensures that you keep your feet healthy and strong to continue enjoying an active lifestyle.