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How to keep your feet healthy, according to podiatrists

Jul 01, 2023Jul 01, 2023

Sweaty feet and an unkempt pedicure are not a cute combo when you're wearing sandals, especially when it's hot and humid outside. Personally, I've never been concerned about foot health until I embarked on my footwear (obsessed) journey and realized my feet were being neglected.

The majority of Americans have logged approximately 75,000 miles of movement by the age of 50, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association, but the opportunity to stride even further is possible with an effective foot care routine.

Aside from preventing common mishaps like ankle injuries and tendon problems, a proper foot care regimen can target everyday woes like blisters, calluses and odor issues. Shop TODAY reached out to a couple of foot experts to determine how to protect your soles and keep them healthy for the long haul.

What causes terrible foot odor? | How often should you clean your feet? | How to exfoliate your feet | Tips for best foot care and hygiene | Products for foot care | FAQs | Meet the experts

Most of the time, terrible foot odor is caused by poor hygiene. According to board-certified foot and ankle surgeon Tom Biernacki, not cleaning off your sweat properly can lead to the buildup of bacteria or fungus.

"When people get itchy, sweaty or odor on their feet is never their own skin. It's always the extra dendrite skin or sweat that is not cleaned off where the fungus or bacteria lives on," says Biernacki.

If you're battling with stinky tootsies, Biernacki recommends cleaning your feet often and exfoliating them.

According to Gotham Footcare founder Dr. Miguel Cunha, you should wash your feet daily with warm water and soap, especially in between your toes.

However, according to a recent poll conducted by TODAY.com, not everyone prioritizes washing their feet. 56% of the respondents said they wash their feet in the shower, while 31% admitted to letting the water and soap trickle down to their feet.

First and foremost, you should exfoliate your feet daily (or at least once a week) if you have calluses, dry and scaly feet. Otherwise, you can do it once a month or as needed.

Before exfoliating, Cunha recommends soaking your feet for 15-20 minutes in a mix of four parts water, one part apple cider vinegar and three tablespoons of Epsom salt.

"Acetic acid, the main component of apple cider vinegar, has keratolytic effects, which basically breaks down keratin, the structural material that our skin, hair and nails are made up of. Acetic acid helps break down thick and painful calluses and unclog blocked pores that may commonly occur on the soles of the feet," shares Cunha.

Afterward, he suggests applying castor oil, tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil (which are natural anti-fungals) directly to the dead skin and callus for five to 10 minutes, then exfoliating with a pumice stone.

There are many do's and don'ts when it comes to proper care and hygiene, according to Cunha. Here are some of his suggestions to keep your feet looking and feeling fresh.

Enhance your cuticles and moisturize your skin with vitamin E-infused oil from Sally Hansen. With over 11,120 positive reviews, customers say this oil softens dry toenails and cuticles. You can apply this as nail polish and a little drop goes a long way.

"The Sally Hansen oil is very easy to apply (love the brush applicator) and is easily massaged into the skin so you’re not dealing with oily fingers and hands," shared one Amazon reviewer.

The mix of eucalyptus and spearmint will help ease any soreness on your feet. This solution combines essential oils and pure epsom salt to help relax any muscle pain, plus you can use it as an exfoliant. Over 4,700 reviewers gave glowing reviews about this soothing formula.

One reviewer said, "The high magnesium content helps relax muscles, ease tension, and promote overall well-being. I primarily use them for soothing baths to relax and relieve muscle soreness after a long day."

Smooth your cracked heels with this formula from Dr. Scholl's. The restoring balm helps hydrate dry heels and soothe irritated skin. With more than 13,300 positive reviews, this product gets five stars among customers for its hydrating properties and overall performance.

"I was impressed by the noticeable results within a relatively short period. As I continued to use the balm, my heels became visibly smoother and healthier," shared one Amazon reviewer.

Add a layer of hydration to your feet with this moisturizing cream that features antioxidant-rich argan oil. The formula is non-greasy and is great to add on other dry areas like knees, elbows, face and hands. Customers rave about how absorbent the foot cream is, plus you only need a small amount for effective results.

This healing cream combines exfoliating, softening and moisturizing ingredients to help you see results within one day. Reviewers shared they could see results by the second day after use.

"It’s like having hyaluronic acid for your feet. If you are not sure, just get this product. I’m so glad I did!" said one Amazon shopper.

Prevent blisters and friction with this magical product. The non-greasy formula is designed to protect your skin and keep it friction-free during very humid days. Apply it on your heels, toes and any other areas prone to blisters due to rubbing.

It contains vitamins A and C, apricot kernel oil and comfrey leaf extract to minimize inflammation on dry skin.

Manage your callus problem with this shaver featuring an ergonomic design. With over 9,300 positive reviews, this option will remove stubborn dead skin and won't cut under the skin.

"My feet look so much nicer. It really helped get rid of that hard nasty part of my foot," said one buyer.

Battle splits and cracks with daily exfoliation from AmLactin. The combination of 15% lactic acid and stearic acid creates a smooth texture that hydrates very dry skin. According to reviewers, this formula reduces cracked skin and improves texture after few uses.

"I have very bad calluses and foot ulcers due to neuropathy. In the short time I’ve been using this, my feet have improved immensely!" said one shopper.

Some feet are sweatier than others, so an extra layer of protection is needed. This sweat-absorbing powder is formulated with calamine, which helps protect skin from blisters. Plus, it's designed with Dri-Tech technology to fight odor and absorb sweat instantly.

Fight tough calluses with this pedicure tool. It comes with a roller head that will help you exfoliate the bottom of your foot, plus it features two speeds with back-and-forth motion for an easy polishing experience. This is an easy beauty gadget to use when your feet need a quick pick-me-up.

Before you wear your socks, add a protective layer of this buttery formula. Pedestrian Project offers an array of foot care products to restore moisture and smooth your feet. This one in particular contains African shea butter, mango butter and black currant oil for a balmy texture.

The aromatic feel and cooling sensation of peppermint will target any foot odor. If stinky feet are an issue, you can manage them with this natural deodorizer that contains an eucalyptus scent.

"I spray these in my shoes after each use and they no longer smell even after all day use or a gym session. The product itself has a nice minty and tea tree oil scent," added one reviewer.

This chic heel scrapper will deliver smooth-looking feet after using it. If your cracked feet need a little extra TLC, you can remove dead skin and soften the calluses with a few back-and-forth movements with this file. All you need is to soak your feet for three to five minutes and gently apply pressure on the rough area.

If your main concern is excessive sweating, this foot lotion will control wet and smelly feet. This product is designed to control symptoms of plantar hyperhidrosis and features quick-drying properties to battle any soaking situation.

Over 6,700 reviewers say this product works its magic and one shopper said this "has eliminated any foot odor that would potentially come from the slight moisture that you may still have."

The combination of ceramides, salicylic and hyaluronic acid in this formula creates a barrier to keep your skin moisturized and soft. If your skin needs extra hydration, this CeraVe lotion will exfoliate your skin plus revive the texture of your heels.

One reviewer said this lotion works with consistent use. "After putting this on before bed three nights in a row, I could see a drastic difference in my heels. I highly recommend it!

If your foot file is no longer useful, this electric callus remover will do the trick. The tool features an LED indicator, USB rechargeable port and three different rollers for proper skin care. The varying degrees of roughness from the rollers work well on tough skin and calluses.

Over 32,800 reviewers rave about their skin results after using this device. One shopper said, "this product has eliminated any future need for a foot doctor. It is easy to use and does the job quickly."

For a silky, smooth feeling, use this rich formula infused with argan oil, shea butter and the anti-inflammatory properties of arnica. Plus, the hyaluronic acid will lock in moisture and improve your rough-looking skin over time without leaving a greasy feeling.

"I was surprised at the speed this foot cream softened all my rough spots. I would highly recommend this!" said one buyer.

If you happen to have scaliness on the bottom of your feet or fissures between your toes, it would be helpful to apply foot cream (or a cream prescribed by your doctor) twice a day — morning and night — once a week, according to Cunha.

One common issue for people with dry feet is athlete's foot. "Athlete’s foot can be easily prevented by changing your socks frequently to avoid creating a moist environment for your feet, spraying your shoes with Lysol every day to kill bacteria that is often found in warm, moist places, and avoiding wearing shoes in public facilities," suggests Cunha.

If you suffer from sweaty feet, you can use an antiperspirant foot lotion or powder to control excessive moisture. Usually, people who wear shoes without socks experience constant sweating.

"A patient that doesn’t wear socks usually has the worst foot problems. And the reason is that all that fungus and bacteria and dead skin cells stay in your shoe," adds Biernacki.

He recommends cleaning the inside of your shoes and changing your socks every day to remove the moisture on your feet.

While some calluses are thicker than others, one way to prevent them from growing thicker is to find a shoe that fits properly. According to Biernacki, a callus "will not get better with moisturizer because if it continues to have pressure, it will not get better by just hydrating the callus."

One of the best ways to treat them is by exfoliating with a pumice stone using a callus shaver or soaking them in Epsom salt.

While walking barefoot has many benefits such as increasing circulation and strengthening your muscles, Cunha doesn't recommend walking barefoot in communal bathing facilities.

"Walking barefoot exposes our feet to many germs such as fungus organisms that can result in Athlete’s foot and fungal nails, odor-causing bacteria and viruses that can lead to plantar warts," says Cunha.

Instead, he suggests wearing the proper flip-flops indoors and avoiding wearing outside shoes inside. "If you’re wearing outdoor shoes inside, you can bring a number of bacterial and fungal infections to yourself. You can catch the virus from a spouse or roommate if they have plantar warts. That’s why I suggest having an indoor shoe specifically inside."

Jannely is the SEO Writer for Shop TODAY.

What causes terrible foot odor? | How often should you clean your feet? | How to exfoliate your feet | Tips for best foot care and hygiene | Products for foot care | FAQs | Meet the expertsCheck your feet dailyWash your feet dailyTrim your toenailsApply urea creamInspect your shoes,Spray Lysol into your shoesTom BiernackiDr. Miguel Cunha