Healthy feet in the heat

Dubai podiatrist Michelle Champion gives her advice Discuss this article

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One minute you’re in flip-flops, exposing your feet to the soaring temperatures, the next you’re in the gym, sweating in soggy sports socks and trainers. Your heels don’t know what’s hit them and the skin’s starting to get spongy between your toes (urgh).

Need to give your feet some TLC? We asked Michelle Champion, chief podiatrist at Dubai Podiatry Centre, for the lowdown on what’s going on with your feet, and how to treat them.

Cracked heels

The cause
Cracked heels are common in Dubai, exacerbated by the dry climate and wearing open sandals. Cracks can become infected and are also painful, so it’s important they are addressed. This is sometimes the body’s way of trying to protect itself against abnormal stresses caused by poor foot biomechanics (the actual workings of your foot) and undue pressure on certain areas.

The treatment
Visit a podiatrist to have dead, damaged or infected skin removed, and for buffing of the area. The podiatrist can also identify if the problem is a sign of underlying biomechanical issues causing excessive pressure on certain areas of the foot.

Future prevention
See a podiatrist for regular callus reduction and to make sure any underlying biomechanical issues are addressed. They can also advise on ongoing home foot-care regime to minimise build-up, such as using a gentle foot file followed by a urea-based foot cream or heel balm.

Fungal foot and nail infections

The cause
Athlete’s foot is very common in the Middle East, thanks to a dry, sandy climate and sweaty footwear. It’s caused by a combination of fungi and bacteria, which makes skin itchy, dry, scaly and red, especially between the toes. It can also spread to the toenails, or the toenails alone may be affected.

Treatment
Routine infections usually respond well to a topical anti-fungal spray, cream or powder. For a toenail infection, treatments depend on the severity or type of infection, ranging from superficial buffing of the nail or trimming and application of topical anti-fungal nail lacquer to oral anti-fungal tablets and removal of the nail.

Future prevention
1 Dry your skin carefully,, especially between your toes, after washing.
2 Choose cotton socks to allow your skin to breathe.
3 Wear flip-flops when walking in communal areas.
4 Alternate shoes every two or three days so they have time to dry out, and treat your footwear with anti-fungal spray.
5 Moisturise using a cooling foot gel containing mint and tea tree oil to fight heat, bacteria and fungus during hot summer months.

Ingrown toenails

The cause
There are many causes of ingrown toenails: even something as simple as a bad pedicure can exacerbate the problem, as poor toenail trimming can weaken the curve of your nail and cause it to collapse at the sides. The result is pain, inflammation, hyper-granulated tissue and possibly infection in the surrounding soft tissue. Sometimes a toenail can be too wide for the width of your toe and is forced to curve.

Treatment
Ask a podiatrist to assess your toenail and diagnose the cause. Based on that, you can both plan the most appropriate treatment. Nails that are growing in a curved fashion can respond well to toenail ‘braces’ that flatten out excessive curvature and train the nail to grow flatter.

Future prevention
You or your pedicurist should never cut down the sides of toenails. Don’t allow your cuticles to be trimmed away – they’re there for a reason! Moisturise the cuticles and nails instead with an oil such as apricot or vitamin E oil. To minimize the chance of ingrowing nails, cut nails straight across, filing any sharp edges.

Verrucae

The cause
A verruca is an infectious viral infection, which enters your skin through a scratch or a cut in your foot. You may have a single verruca or a mosaic verruca (a cluster in one site).

Treatment
Visit a podiatrist to determine if you’re suffering from a corn or a verruca. If you’re diagnosed with a verruca, the podiatrist will treat it using a Dermojet – a high-pressure syringe that’s much more effective than historical treatments such as cryotherapy. Verrucas should never be surgically excised as it can cause scarring.

Future prevention
Just like catching a cold from being around someone who has the virus, you can pick up the verruca virus by walking around barefoot after someone who has a verruca. Wear flip-flops in pools and changing rooms. If you or someone else in your family has a verruca, never share a towel and don’t walk barefoot around the house. 

‘Flat feet’

The cause
This is a low arch in the foot. You may have flat feet for genetic reasons, overuse of non supportive footwear such as flip-flops or ballet pumps, or hormonal reasons (common after pregnancy). Common injuries arising from this include Achilles tendonitis, heel pain, bunions, stress fractures, arch pain, shin splints and tendon injuries.

Treatment
Unfortunately, there’s no overnight treatment for this problem. Custom-made orthotics (special insoles) can be prescribed by a podiatrist to strengthen the arch and make sure your ankle joint is not being over strained.

Future prevention
You’ll need to see a podiatrist at regular intervals for review or adjustment of your treatment. Once your foot has returned to neutral, they will usually expect to see you annually for check-ups.
Consultations from Dhs400. Dubai Podiatry Centre, Saeed Tower II, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 5390).

By Holly Sands
Time Out Dubai,

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