Before moving onto tips and advice for keeping your feet healthy and in good shape, let’s take a look at some of the foot conditions which you may need to look out for. These conditions can be picked up just about anywhere and some can even develop on their own. The various foot common conditions fall into four general areas:
1. Internal – Non-Contagious: Bunions, Hammertoe & Spurs
These conditions are mainly associated with the joints, sinews and bones of the foot and as such don’t really pose any concern for the wellbeing of the other students you train with. However, all of these conditions can cause training to become uncomfortable or painful and medical assistance should be sought.
2. External – Non-Contagious: Calluses, Corns & Ingrowing Toenails
These conditions tend to occur and be exacerbated by pressure or rubbing on the feet and while they are not contagious, treatment and preventative measures should still be taken. To put it generally, corns and calluses are a hardening of the foot skin, which is a natural defence mechanism against the afore mentioned rubbing and pressure. However, if left untreated they can continue to develop and become very painful or even ulcerated, as can an ingrowing toenail.
A further point to make about these conditions is that they can sometimes be difficult to keep completely clean and can be abrasive, which can be unpleasant for your fellow students. For very developed conditions a trip to the doctor may be required but these can usually be prevented from occurring in the first place with some simple foot care steps (see below). Please note that diabetics suffering from corns and ingrowing toenails should seek medical advice immediately.
3. Contagious - Bacterial & Fungal: Athletes Foot, Tinea Pedis, Fungal Nail Infection
It is very important to check your feet regularly for symptoms of bacterial and fungal infection as they are contagious and can be spread. A lot of infections can be picked up from anywhere, on any part of the body and can spread to the feet.
Any kind of contagious skin infection on any part of the body should be treated immediately and kept away from contact with others, including direct contact and surface-to-surface contact. If an infected area of skin can be isolated and safely covered, for example a non-slip sock over the foot, then training may continue with the Instructor’s permission. If there are any infected areas which can’t be safely and effectively isolated then the student should refrain from classes until a GP declares fitness to rejoin training.
Symptoms to watch out for include: dry skin, redness, blisters, itching and peeling. Any infections should be treated immediately and thoroughly to prevent infection reoccurring and it is advisable to seek medical advice. An important preventative measure to take is to keep your feet clean and always dry them properly following contact with moisture, paying particular attention to the areas between your toes.
4. Contagious – Viral: Warts & Verrucas
Warts and verrucas also fall into the contagious category of foot conditions and should be treated as soon as they are discovered. Warts are growths which stand out from the skin and verrucas grow within the skin, often with a black cap. Both conditions can become extremely painful if left to develop. Warts usually require a trip to the GP for freezing or burning treatment, whereas there is a good range of very effective verruca treatments available over the counter.
As with all contagious foot conditions, warts and verrucas should be isolated from coming into direct or surface-to-surface contact with others; either with a suitable dressing or, for foot based conditions, a non-slip sock. Most good verruca treatments have now been developed to seal the infection whilst treating it and, in this instance, further covering may not be required.
Therefore it is very important to take good care of your feet so that:
1. You don’t pick up any of these conditions or allow them to develop, and
2. You don’t bring them into the training environment and pass them along to others, and
3. You show courtesy to the other students in your class by having clean and well kept feet
With this in mind I’ve put together a short list of handy tips that you can refer to in order to keep your feet healthy and in good shape:
- Check your feet regularly for warning signs of possible problems. Don’t forget to check between your toes. Treat suspect foot problems straight away and seek guidance if you’re not sure. Keep your feet / foot covered whilst training and alert your instructor.
- Always remember to clean your feet properly – don’t forget about the bottom of your feet just because you’re standing on them. Cleaning your feet before and after any kind of barefoot training is always a good idea but remember to always dry them thoroughly.
- Wear well fitting, comfortable shoes and socks. Try to give your feet some air regularly when it’s appropriate. If you have a condition on one foot, be careful not to accidentally swap your socks over if you have cause to remove them. Always put on fresh socks when you get dressed or after activity where you feet may have become moist.
- Keep your toenails very clean and well trimmed. Look out for breaks and ragged edges.
- Pumice your feet regularly to prevent the build up of hard skin. A good time to do this is when your feet have been soaking in the shower or bath.
- If you have dry skin on your feet, use lotion or moisturiser.
- If you have poor circulation it may be a good idea to rub your feet for a few minutes before barefoot training begins to increase blood flow.
- ALWAYS wash your hand thoroughly after handling your feet. Find out if there is anti-bacterial available for you to use at your club and if not, consider investing in your own.