As thick socks and winter boots become more and more the footwear of choice this season, it’s easy to forget about your feet altogether, much less keep up with proper foot care. The truth is, however, that drier winter air, snugger shoes, and increased chances of walking around in ice, snow, and slush increases the risk for potential foot problems. Don’t miss these essential winter foot care tips for seniors:
If you spend any time outside in winter weather without proper water-resistant boots, chances are your feet will be a little cold, damp, or downright soggy when you get indoors. Make sure to remove damp shoes and socks right away, and dry your feet before putting on new footwear. This not only helps your feet warm up but protects against bacteria and fungi growth that thrives in moist environments between your toes and under your nails. Make sure to thoroughly dry out any wet shoes before wearing them again as well.
Clean and Moisturize
Did you know that dry outside air actually sucks moisture out from the top layers of your skin? This can result in skin cracking or flaking off, creating sores that can become infected or painful. Cleaning feet daily with soap and water, and then drying them and applying a hydrating foot cream is a must. Aim to use moisturizers specifically made for feet, or creams/lotions that don’t have a ton of extra ingredients like fragrances or alcohol. After you lather your feet up, slip on snug cotton socks that will help your skin better absorb the cream.
Exercise Your Feet
Getting to the gym or senior center for your bi-weekly yoga class may be more difficult when winter weather makes roads icy and undrivable. This doesn’t mean you have to skip exercising altogether though. From the comfort of your own home, you can successfully exercise your feet by strength training with simple resistance bands, practicing yoga or tai with free, online tutorial videos, and doing important foot exercises to relieve bunion symptoms, plantar fasciitis pain, and more.
Trim Your Nails
When your feet aren’t on display as often (like they are in warm months where sandals are the shoe of choice), it’s easy to forget to keep up with trimming and grooming toenails. Long toenails can break, crack, or catch on footwear, however, so it’s important to keep them maintained. If you have trouble trimming your own toenails, you can actually ask your podiatrist to do it for you or see if there are any upcoming “foot care clinics” at your local senior center. Remember when trimming nails yourself, always cut straight across and not at a curve - this helps prevent ingrown toenails.
Update Your Footwear
If you are trying to jam your foot with a thick wool sock on into your already snug sneakers, think again. Footwear that is too tight (or too loose for that matter) will not only feel uncomfortable but can imperceptibly alter the way you walk and potentially even increase your risk of falling. During the winter, you may find it pertinent to invest in new shoes that offer you a deep, wide toe box in which you can fit your foot comfortably, even with thick socks on. Remember, traction on the sole is great for outdoor activities and stomping through snow, while smooth bottoms are a must indoors to help keep you from slipping or catching your foot on the carpet and falling.
For the 25% of seniors who live with diabetes, foot care is even more critical to combat circulation issues that result from the condition. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor about any extra care you can be taking with your feet to keep them healthy and pain-free!