A leading podiatrist shares her favorite over-the-counter foot-care products…
Aching feet can be more than an annoyance. If you don’t take proper care of your feet, it can throw off the alignment of your body, leading to knee, hip and back problems. Calluses can crack and turn into nasty infections. Athlete’s foot can lead to thickened, painful toenails that make it difficult to even walk.
Good news: For less than $75, you can choose a handful of excellent over-the-counter (OTC) products that will relieve foot pain and keep your toenails and the skin on your feet healthy—without seeing a doctor. Caution: If your foot pain is daily or doesn’t improve with the products mentioned in this article, see a podiatrist for advice.
FOR BETTER SUPPORT
Even though shoes generally protect your feet from the surface you’re walking on and from the weather, they don’t always provide much support.
Fortunately, well-made, foam-padded insoles that go inside your shoes work like shock absorbers, alleviating pressure and stress on the foot. Insoles help restore balance, increase stability and reduce pain—not just in your feet but also in your knees, hips and back. Important: If an insole does not feel comfortable in the shoe, then it’s not right for you—these are not devices that are “broken in.” Before you buy expensive, custom-fit orthotics, consider trying these OTC insoles…
- Superfeet insoles are available in a variety of styles for men’s and women’s shoes. For example, Superfeet Delux Dress-fit ($29.95, Zappos.com) are slim enough to slip inside any women’s shoe, but they work best in flats or shoes with heels up to one-and-a-half inches. The insole’s structured cup under the heel adds shock absorption, and the support in the arch helps stabilize the foot. Superfeet Premium Blue insoles ($39.95, Zappos.com), available for men and women, are designed for cleated athletic footwear and most types of casual and dress shoes.
- Powerstep ProTech Full Length Orthotics ($30 to $40, Amazon.com), also available for men and women, are especially helpful for pain in your arch or heel due, for example, to plantar fasciitis. If you have this condition, which causes inflammation of the tissue along the bottom of the feet, you’ll likely benefit a lot by using these insoles.
Important: Insoles can be transferred from shoe to shoe (depending on the size of each one) but should be replaced yearly or more often if they no longer relieve pain.
TO FIGHT DRY SKIN AND CALLUSES
Dry skin can be a year-round problem for your feet. Also, corns (painful, bumpy thickenings that form on the skin) can develop on the tops and/or sides of your toes where they rub against your shoe.
Calluses (areas of dry, hard and thickened skin) can crack, especially when they are on the heel. If the cracks deepen, they can hurt, bleed and become infected.
To prevent dry skin and calluses on your feet, you need a moisturizing cream that contains a keratolytic (descaling) agent to strip away the layers of dead skin so the moisturizer can do its work. To restore your feet’s skin, try one of the following products with keratolytic agents…
Apply the cream after your shower, when the skin is softened a bit. Twelve to 24 hours later, rub the area gently with a pumice sponge, which is less damaging to use than a pumice stone. Be very gentle if you have cracks in your feet, especially if you’ve lost some of the feeling in your feet (due to neuropathy, for example). If you’re using one of the moisturizing products and it stops working, switch to the other.
FOR FUNGAL INFECTIONS
These common infections—often due to athlete’s foot, which can be contracted by walking barefoot in a public shower, for example—cause thickened, disfigured toenails that sometimes curl inward.
You’ll need a doctor’s prescription for antifungal cream, such as Ertaczo or Naftin. To speed the recovery process and help prevent recurrences, try…
- Kerasal’s Fungal Nail Renewal Treatment ($27.49 for 0.33 ounce, CVS.com) contains acids and other ingredients that soften the nail, reduce its thickness and improve its appearance, usually within two weeks of nightly use.
- Lamisil cream for athlete’s foot is an excellent inexpensive, over-the-counter medication and a great first option.
- Constarch, which is sprinkled on feet or in shoes, can be used indefinitely.