How to look after your feet
Looking after your feet (foot care) and treating common foot problems – such as corns, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails – can help to prevent problems that make you unsteady on your feet and at risk of a fall.
Wearing footwear that's safe, appropriate and in good repair can also help to prevent falls.
What can I do?
Care for and check your feet regularly.
Wear appropriate footwear for the activity you're doing.
Good foot care doesn't need to be too laboured, and can include:
- keeping them clean and dry – especially between your toes
- checking them regularly for cuts or sores, redness, swelling or bruising. Get to know your feet well and know what's normal
- applying moisturiser if your skin is dry to prevent it from cracking and improve its texture
- filing dry or hard skin using a foot file or pumice stone
You should check, and care for, your feet regularly – including cutting and filing your toenails if needed. Schedule a regular time, 10 minutes, once a week is sufficient.
If you have impaired circulation or diabetes (medium or high risk), it's recommended that you check your feet every day.
If you experience any problems with your feet – such as cuts or sores or fluid/blood leaking from any area – speak to your GP or a Health and Care Professions Council registered podiatrist for advice about what to do.
Foot screening for people with diabetes
People with diabetes are at risk of developing numbness in the feet, which prevents them from sensing where their foot is on the floor.
If you have diabetes, you should have your feet screened as part of your annual diabetes review to look for, and monitor, any changes.
You can learn more about diabetes and foot care through Diabetes UK.
As well as caring for your feet, you should pay some attention to your footwear as this can also affect your walking and balance.
A good shoe should support and protect your foot and allow natural movement during walking. Poorly fitting shoes can cause foot problems – such as corns, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails.
When replacing your shoes, look for:
- an upper made of leather or breathable natural or synthetic materials with seam-free linings
- a deep and roomy toe-box at the front of the shoe to prevent pressure on the toes and joints on the side of the foot
- a cushioned and flexible light rubber sole with good grip
- a heel no more than 3 centimetres (one and a half inches) high and broad enough to provide stability
- laces, buckles or Velcro strap fastenings that hold the shoe comfortably and securely on the foot. Avoid slip on shoes
- shoes that are too big or small, or with squashed backs
- smooth leather or plastic soles, and thick rubber soles that extend over the toe
- lace up shoes that are untied or without laces
- high heeled or backless shoes
If you wear insoles or splints that haven't been checked in a while, speak to the podiatrist or the hospital department where you got them from to check that they're still right for you.
Socks and tights
Socks should contain a high proportion of natural materials – such as cotton or wool – as this allows sweat to evaporate from the skin. As a rule, wear wool in winter for warmth and cotton to keep you cool during the summer.
When dressing, make sure your socks and tights aren't too tight, or pulled up too high that they cut into the skin or restrict the circulation. You should also avoid walking on slippery surfaces – such as polished floors or tiles – in socks or tights.
You should replace your slippers regularly as they become worn and loose over time.
When replacing your slippers, try to avoid slippers:
- without straps, laces or backs
- with high or narrow heels
Slippers should only be worn for short periods, and shouldn't be worn all day as regular footwear.
Where to start
Think about how you currently look after your feet:
- what positive things do you already do to keep your feet healthy?
- what changes can you make that might help?
- how will you make these changes?
- who do you need to talk to?
Help and support
If you're looking for foot care advice, your local pharmacy or NHS podiatry (foot health) department can help.