Wintertime in northeastern Ohio can present dangers to our foot health, but if we are aware of common conditions that result from this cold, wet season, we can prevent them with proper foot care.
Dr. Jennifer Flo, a podiatric physician at Ankle & Foot Care Centers, sees patients suffering frostbite, chilblains, fissures and injuries from slipping on ice. While some injuries are inevitable, Dr. Flo offers her patients the following tips for winter foot care.
1. Use Proper Footwear
Most foot problems that occur in the winter are a result of having cold, wet feet.
Dr. Flo’s top piece of advice is to keep your feet dry. She recommends wearing shoes or boots that are waterproof and have good insulation and will provide good traction. This will help to prevent your feet from getting wet and cold or from slipping on ice.
In addition to good shoes, you should wear socks that are made from 100 percent cotton or from a wool blend which will still allow sweat and other moisture to evaporate. A wool blend will keep your feet the warmest and Dr. Flo suggests wearing hunting socks if you plan to be outside for an extended period of time.
Socks made from synthetic fibers will hold on to the moisture and can lead to frostbite, blisters and chilblains, also referred to as pernio. Pernio are small lesions caused by inflammation of tiny blood vessels that results from exposure to moist, cool conditions, leaving irritated and itchy bumps or blisters on the toes that can be very painful.
Dr. Flo says to always keep an extra pair of dry socks nearby, whether you leave them in your car, your desk at work or your purse, as you never know when you might need them.
2. Use Moisturizers
Due to the lack of humidity and use of furnaces, our skin tends to become drier in the winter. This often leads to cracking of the skin, most commonly in the heels.
It’s important to moisturize your feet daily, especially when you notice cracking or fissures.
Dr. Flo recommends moisturizers that have the ingredient Urea, which helps to loosen dried skin and can help with the itching.
If you’re unaware of what lotion, cream or ointment to use, your podiatric physician can recommend off-the-shelf moisturizers or, in some cases, will provide prescription treatment.
3. Check Your Feet Daily
It’s common to forget to look at the bottoms of your feet, but Dr. Flo stresses the importance of giving yourself daily foot exams to help prevent any of these conditions in their early stages.
It’s especially important for individuals with diabetes who have weaker sensation and loss of feeling in their feet to do these daily assessments. Dr. Flo recommends using a mirror or having a loved one look at them if you are lacking mobility.
Frostbite, blisters and fissures can lead to worsening conditions such as wounds or infections, so it’s better to be aware and take a preventative stance than to deal with the problem after it occurs.
“Don’t neglect your feet,” said Dr. Flo. “They support everything we do, so it’s in our best interest to take care of them.”