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Foot foul

With the sweltering summer well and truly here, those who have sweaty feet need to take extra care. A few experts suggest tips to keep feet healthy.

Choose sandals and open shoes instead of closed shoes to allow your feet to breathe.

If you have feet that sweat excessively, they can disrupt all aspects of your life – from work, to sleep, to recreational activities. When feet sweat, socks and shoes are immediately affected. Socks often need to be changed frequently throughout the day.

Sufferers also have difficulty keeping sandals and other open shoes on their feet. Because they perspire heavily, feet keep slipping out of such footwear making walking not just difficult but also dangerous. For instance, walking in high-heeled open shoes can become dangerous if your feet keep slipping out of your footwear.

Foot fresheners

While there is no permanent cure for this, a feet deodorant is a great option to help control the condition. "Applying an antiperspirant to your soles before bed will help curb sweat," says Yolanda Joubert, senior buyer for ladies footwear, Shoe Mart, Landmark Group.

"When buying shoes in the UAE summer months, look for those that are made of natural materials like leather that can help prevent sweat by allowing the feet to breathe.

"Choose sandals and open shoes instead of closed shoes. When wearing closed shoes, look for those that have cotton or other absorbent linings. Preferably, use absorbent shoe liners as these are specifically made for closed and open shoes.''

She suggests wearing socks made of natural fibres when stepping out in shoes. "Also, such people should change their socks every day,'' says Yolanda. "Make it a point to use loose insoles to protect your socks and feet.

If you have removable insoles, pull them out of your shoes at the end of the day. This way, the insole as well as the shoe can dry out. Insoles should be replaced often to decrease the odour within the shoe. This will also decrease your chances of contracting a fungal infection.

Shoe liners may need to be changed weekly or monthly, depending on your perspiration levels. Luckily they are fairly inexpensive. You might also opt for absorbent shoe liners."

Yolanda warns against wearing the same shoes two days in a row. Shoes take more than 24 hours to dry out so it makes sense to have more than one pair of shoes. This way you can change them every day.

"When possible, wear sandals rather than shoes. This also eliminates constant pressure on the same spot of the foot."

Wear thick, soft socks to help draw moisture away from the feet. "Cotton and other absorbent materials are best," says Yolanda. "There are no shortcuts but with a few simple techniques, individuals can reduce perspiration in terribly sweaty feet."

Soak away your troubles

Foot care in summer is not limited to what shoes you choose. According to Yolanda, you should also pay close attention to how you treat your feet.

"Wash your feet morning and evening in warm – not hot – water using a natural antibacterial soap," she suggests. "Rinse your feet in cold water and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. Sprinkle feet with talcum powder containing lavender, lemon and/or tea tree oil."

Try soaking your feet in black tea water for 30 minutes a day for seven to 10 days. To prepare the soak, brew two teabags per litre of water. "Black tea has tannic acid," says Yolanda, "which is anti-bacterial by nature.

"Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or biofeedback. These can help control stress that triggers perspiration."

Soaking sweaty feet in cider vinegar and warm water (one part vinegar to two parts warm water) for about an hour a day will help too.

Alternatively, using aromatic massage oil containing peppermint and cypress oils help reduce perspiration. Add eight drops of cypress oil and two drops of peppermint oil to 25 ml of sweet almond oil and massage into your feet twice a day. "But avoid using cream between the toes," warns Yolanda.

Medical intervention

Your final option in the case of excessive sweating would be to refer to a podiatrist or dermatologist about prescription antiperspirants.

While over-the-counter antiperspirants may help, a doctor can offer prescription products that really reduce issues and cure sweaty feet.

If you have a very difficult foot odour problem, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic like two per cent erythromycin or one per cent clindamycin, applied each morning and at bedtime. These medications will be effective in killing most odour-causing bacteria.

Acetic acid footbaths can be effective in drying up sweat glands, if treatments are given three times a day.
Another footbath technique is iontophoresis. The feet are immersed in a pan of water and low electric current is applied.

Iontophoresis is not a cure for excessive sweating, but it usually provides temporary relief, if applied frequently. Note: This should be done only under medical supervision.

Foot notes

Dr Sami Tabib, a podiatrist at Dubai Chiropody Centre, Jumeirah Beach Road, tackles a few common summer feet conundrums:

How do I combat stinking footwear?

First, practise good foot hygiene to keep bacteria levels at a minimum. Bathe your feet daily in warm water then dry them well. Change your socks frequently, especially after exercising.

Dust your feet frequently with a non-medicated baby powder or foot powder. Applying antibacterial ointment also may help. Allow your shoes to air out at least 24 hours after use by alternating with other shoes. Avoid wearing nylon socks or plastic shoes.

Wear shoes made of leather, canvas, mesh or other materials that let your feet breathe. Wear thick, soft socks to help draw moisture away from the feet. Cotton and other absorbent materials are best. Look for fungal infections between your toes and on the soles of your feet and if you spot redness and dry skin, get treatment.

Do regular pedicures help to keep feet clean and healthy?

Pedicures are good if they're done properly and without aggressive intervention such as cutting cuticles or cutting deep into the nail corners. Maintaining good foot hygiene is enough to keep your feet in good shape.

What is the correct way to wash feet and how many times should a person wash them every day?

Scrub your feet daily with a washcloth and antibacterial soap, and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel. Make sure to dry between the toes. This should be done at least once a day.

How frequently should socks be washed?

Clean socks are the best defence against bromohydrosis. Socks should be washed daily.

Pure cotton socks are better than wool or those made with fibres that don't breathe. Even better are the new synthetic fibres specially designed to wick away moisture. Check the label for that claim.

What is the role of shoe-liners and antiperspirants? Do they actually work?

Ultra-absorbent soles provide a specially blended wool fabric that is not tightly woven. They have small air crevices between the interlocked fibres that are able to capture perspiration from sweaty feet and as pressure is applied while walking,
this perspiration slowly moves to the sides of the insole where it dissipates.

The result is that the plantar foot stays drier, and remains unaffected by friction with shoes.

What types of footwear should men,women and children purchase during summer?

Open sandals are best to keep the feet aerated during the hot summer months. These sandals, however, are only for casual walking and cannot handle the impact of long distances.

If you are going to walk long distances, use trainers to prevent blisters and pain resulting from walking in sandals with no support.

Are there any shortcuts to reduce excessively perspiring feet?

When sweating is excessive it is called hyperhydrosis. Consult a podiatrist for a remedy.