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How to Care for Your Feet and Toenails

Three Parts:Practicing Good HygieneGiving Yourself a PedicureAddressing Foot Problems

Your feet are two of the most abused and often used parts of the body, what with all the walking and running that you do everyday. Yet when it comes to our health and beauty routines, feet and toenails often get neglected. No matter what the season is, it is always important to keep your feet and toenails in tip-top condition. Learn how to care for your feet and toenails by having good hygiene, pampering them to heal soreness and callouses and getting medical attention when necessary.

Part 1
Practicing Good Hygiene

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    Make sure to wash your feet daily. Feet tend to get dirtier and sweatier than other parts of the body, so it’s important to have good sanitary habits. If you take showers in the morning and not at night, at least make feet-washing a part of your nightly routine when you get home. Aside from being a mark of good hygiene, doing this also stops you from carrying dirt into your bed.
    • Wash them with soap and warm water. This will cleanse your feet of sweat, dirt and bacteria that might be living there. Pay extra attention to the spaces in between the toes. Wipe your feet gently with a towel afterward.
    • Keep your toenails clean as well. If you walk around wearing sandals in the summer, you might find that your toenails get dirty. Take the time to clean them every time you bathe your feet.
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    Moisturize your feet everyday. Put lotion or foot cream on as a part of your routine. One way to achieve soft, moisturized feet is to rub on some lotion or petroleum jelly before bed, and slip on some socks. When you wake up in the morning, you'll find that your feet are very soft and are free from dryness! Just remember to never let the area between toes become over-moisturized, as this will cause fungus.
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    Wear the right footwear for the occasion. Your feet will stay healthier if you wear proper footwear designed to keep your feet clean, dry and at a comfortable temperature. You dress the rest of your body to stay comfortable in different weather conditions, and you should do the same for your feet.
    • Keep them cool in the summer with sandals and footwear that breathes. If you wear shoes that make your feet hot in the summer, you could end up with odor or a fungal infection.
    • Keep them warm in the winter with waterproof boots and socks. If you wear shoes that don't keep your feet warm enough, you're more prone to getting frostbite.
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    Get rid of odors. Dealing with odor is a problem many people face, since feet produce more sweat than the rest of the body and tend to harbor bacteria that creates a smell. If your foot odor has gotten out of hand, there are measures you can take to make them smell better right away.
    • Try changing your socks more often. If your feet tend to sweat a lot throughout the day, bringing an extra pair of socks with you could really help to decrease the odor that builds up. Change your socks when they get damp with sweat.
    • Keep your shoes clean. Sometimes the odor is worse when sweat and bacteria build up in shoes. Then every time you put them on, the problem is perpetuated. Wearing socks with your shoes, cleaning them every so often and buying new shoes when it's time are all ways to reduce odor.
    • Try foot powder. There are many products designed to keep feet dry and odor-free. Try sprinkling foot powder, baby powder or talcum powder in your shoes before you put them on.
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    Keep them dry. Athlete’s foot and other foot fungus tends to grow in moist conditions. A few tweaks in your hygiene routine can prevent you from having to deal with these unpleasant afflictions, which often cause itchy rashes. Do the following to keep your feet clean and dry:
    • Change your socks often. It's the top prevention method for all kinds of foot-related issues, from odor to fungus. Wearing damp socks provides the perfect environment for fungus to grow, so change them often, especially if you sweat a lot.
    • Use foot powder. Many people sprinkle powder in their shoes to keep everything clean and dry.
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    Shower safely. If you shower in a locker room or another public place, take precautions so you don’t end up with someone else’s foot fungus. Showers are typically damp environments that can harbor fungus and bacteria. It's not a good idea to step into a public shower without protection on your feet.
    • Wear flip flops or shower shoes when you shower in locker rooms and other public places.
    • It's also important not to share shoes with other people. If you're an athlete, don't share cleats and other athletic equipment.
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    Trim your toenails properly. Every few weeks, trim your toenails to keep them healthy and strong. Trimming them the wrong way results in ingrown toenails, which can be quite painful. Trim them strait across, rather than trimming the edges into a curve. You should also avoid trimming them too short, since this could result in ingrown toenails or an infection.[1]
    • If you would really prefer a rounded shape instead of a straight square, use a nail file to smooth out the ridges and to give the edges a bit of a curve, so you would end up with a square shape with rounded edges.

Part 2
Giving Yourself a Pedicure

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    Give your feet a pedicure every two weeks. Painting them does not necessarily have to be part of every pedicure routine, but regular pedicures really make a difference in keeping your feet soft and free from dry and rough skin, and your toenails clean and neat. You don't need to spend a lot of cash to have your pedicure professionally done in a salon, and with a few tools, you can do your own pedicure right in the comforts of your own home.
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    Start with a foot massage. If you’re on your feet a lot and they tend to be sore, massage them before you start your pedicure. While this step isn't absolutely necessary, it's a nice way to pamper yourself a little. If you're already taking time to give yourself a pedicure, why not?
    • Knead the soles. Use your thumbs to press into the soles of your feet in a circular kneading pattern. This well help loosen the tight muscles there.[2]
    • Stretch the toes. One by one, gently pull your toes back and forth to stretch them out and ease tightness and soreness.
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    Soak your feet for about 5-10 minutes in a large bowl with lukewarm water. As an added treat, you may also wish to infuse the water with a few drops of essential oils or Dead Sea salts, to keep the feet smelling good and to soften hard skin respectively. The soaking time indicated here is merely just a suggestion -- you may choose to soak your feet for much longer if you want to relax, or if the hardened skin on your feet need extra hydration.
    • Exfoliate your feet with a foot scrub to slough off dry and dead skin, and to moisturize your feet as well. The skin on your feet is thicker, and to keep it soft and smooth it’s important to remove dead skin with exfoliation. Massage the scrub in circular motions, and rinse off afterward. To exfoliate the hardened skin on the heels and bottom part of the feet, use a foot file or a pumice stone. Make sure to use a gentle filing motion, and to never rub too hard. If you have tough callouses, try a callous shaver to remove them from your heels and the sides of your toes. This will prevent them from getting larger and causing pain.
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    Attend to your toenails. Trimming your nails while they're still soft from soaking makes the task much easier. Remember to trim them straight across, and not too short. Use an orange stick or a cuticle pusher to gently push your cuticles back toward your skin. Finally, rub some cuticle oil on your nails and cuticles to moisturize the area and keep your cuticles from tearing.
    • Cut your toenails straight across, as opposed to a curved shape, to prevent ingrown toenails from occurring. If you would really prefer a rounded shape instead of a straight square, use a nail file to smooth out the ridges and to give the edges a bit of a curve, so you would end up with a square shape with rounded edges. Ensure that the nails are cut and filed to just the right length -- short, but not too much that you end up hurting yourself.
    • Remember to include your cuticles too. While you shouldn't cut your cuticles, if desired, you can apply cuticle oil to your toenails to soften and moisturize the hardened edges, and push the cuticles back with an orangewood stick to create a smooth, open area ready for your polish. Make sure that you do not push too hard, or you might risk cutting the cuticles and exposing your feet to possible fungal infection. Some people also prefer to skip this step completely and leave their cuticles untouched -- this is okay as well.
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    Moisturize your feet. With all the wear and tear your feet experience, it's important to moisturize them from time to time. After you've soaked your feet, exfoliated your skin and trimmed your nails, use a lotion or cream to protect your skin. Rub it all over the top and bottom of your feet, including your toes.
    • If you have a tendency to get callouses, consider a very rich cream. This will keep your skin moist and slow the growth of more callouses.
    • If your heels tend to crack in dry weather, wear socks to bed after moisturizing.
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    Apply nail polish if desired. If you'd like to end your pedicure with a pretty final touch, apply the nail polish color of your choice. If you want a long-lasting pedicure, you might want to start with a clear base coat. Let that dry, then paint with the color you have chosen using the "three stroke method", which consists of using one stroke on each side and a stroke in the middle. This ensures that the polish is evenly applied on the whole nail. Finish with a clear top coat to set the polish in place and prevent it from chipping.[3]
    • Use toe separators to keep your toes apart. This makes the process of painting easier, and prevents a freshly painted toenail from staining another toe.
    • Remove nail polish after a few days so it won’t stain. If you leave the polish on your toenails for too long, you might find that your nails look yellowed when you finally take it off.[4]
    • Acetone, the active ingredient in most nail polish removers, has a severe drying effect on skin and nails. Consider using a nail polish remover that doesn't contain acetone.

Part 3
Addressing Foot Problems

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    Correct an ingrown toenail. It's a common foot affliction that you can deal with on your own at home. Be careful what equipment you use, though, since an ingrown toenail can easily become infected. Start by clipping the toenail straight across. Gently lift the ingrown part and slide a tiny ball of cotton under it to keep it from growing deeper. Change out the cotton every day until the problem is corrected.
    • Protect the toe while it's healing. You might want to bandage it to make sure it doesn't get infected.
    • If you see any signs of infection, see a doctor.
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    Treat foot fungus. If you have an itchy rash, chances are it's athlete's foot. There are over-the-counter creams that can be successfully used to treat athlete’s foot and other fungus. Use a cream according to the manufacturer's instructions until the rash goes away and your foot feels better. In the meantime, make sure you change your socks often.
    • If the condition doesn’t go away after a few days, see a doctor.
    • Toenail fungus is a different type of fungus, and it's much harder to treat. If your toenails are brown or yellow and cracked, see a doctor to discuss a prescription that might help.
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    Stop bunions before they get out of hand. A bunion occurs when the bone on the side of the foot experiences stress and begins to grow outward. This condition can become very painful if you don't take measures to correct the problem. Bunions are often genetic, but they can also be caused by wearing shoes that are too pointy at the top (like high heels or ballet shoes).
    • Make sure your footwear isn’t causing problems. It might be time to trade in those stilettos for some comfy flats.
    • Wear bunion pads. They're available for purchase at drugstores. You place them over the bunion to prevent it from rubbing against your shoes.
    • Consider surgery. If you have a very painful bunion, you might want to consider surgery, since there's nothing you can do to make it go away on its own.
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    See a podiatrist if you have foot pain. If you experience pain that doesn’t go away, it’s important to seek medical attention.
    • There are many bones in the feet that can easily become fractured.
    • Walking on a hurt foot can exacerbate the problem.


  • After your shower or bath, putting a little lotion on your feet and covering them with socks are a great and easy way to preserve soft and smooth feet.
  • If you are painting your toenails, apply a small amount of vaseline on the skin around them. This prevents nail polish staining your skin, and leaves the nail polish looking nice and neat.
  • Don't cut or peel your cuticles.
  • Don't necessarily get pedicures and manicure from "professionals". You never know how sanitary products are and you an get infection or other issues.
  • Don't cut your nails too far down! That could make them bleed!
  • Moisturize your feet everyday.
  • Soak your feet in a bit hot water added with shampoo or feet cleanser. If affordable, for 10- 15 min. Hot water helps to open the pores and cleanse deeper.
  • If you don't have toenail separators for when applying nail polish, you may also use twisted tissue paper woven between the toes.
  • When your healthy, glamorous feet are ready for the summer, show them off in some beautiful flip-flops, or cool sandals in a colour you like.
  • Always use an acetone-free nail polish remover, as acetone can dry the nails and the skin/cuticles.
  • You can learn a lot from the professionals, so treat yourself to a pro pedicure when you 'need' it -- and ask questions and pay attention!
  • Use the tips of an orangewood stick wrapped in cotton and soaked in nail polish remover to help clean up small spills and polish "bleed" around the cuticle or on the skin around your toes.


  • If you have diabetes, take extra care when exfoliating, cutting your toenails or when pushing back your cuticles during a pedicure. Make sure that you do not injure yourself to prevent the risk of any infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Large bowl
  • Towel
  • Essential oils
  • Dead Sea salt
  • Foot scrub
  • Foot file or pumice stone
  • Nail clipper
  • Nail file
  • Cuticle oil
  • Orangewood stick
  • Cotton balls
  • Nail polish remover
  • Toe separators
  • Nail polish colour of your choice, basecoat, and topcoat
  • Foot cream, lotion or petroleum jelly

Article Info

Categories: Hand and Foot Care | Nail Care