Many men don’t give their feet much attention until it’s too late (athlete’s foot, anyone?). But you can keep your feet healthy and looking good by stocking your medicine cabinet and gym bag with a few key items.
Nail Trimming Know-How
The leading cause of hangnails and ingrown toenails is clumsy nail trimming. Tracey Vlahovic, DPM, associate professor of podiatry and orthopedics at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, says, "If you trim your toenails too short, you can expose some of the tissue at the edges or under the nail. That can be painful and can lead to infections."
Look for nail "nippers" that have a curved handle and a cutting jaw shaped to follow the natural curve of nails. You can find them at drugstores and beauty supply shops. Nail nippers are particularly useful for toenails, which are hard for many people to reach.
Callus and Blister Prevention
Whether you’re a serious athlete or just a weekend warrior, you’ve probably been sidelined by painful blisters or calluses on your feet. The culprit is usually poor-fitting shoes that cause chafing, Vlahovic says. Wear proper-fitting shoes, and stock a box of bandages to put on your feet at the first sign of irritation.
If calluses or corns show up, soak your feet in water for 10 to 15 minutes to help soften the skin. Gently remove the thickened skin with a pumice stone.
Insoles for Comfort or Arch Support
If you stand for long hours, you may end the day with a case of sore feet. Insoles can help make shoes more comfortable. Most over-the-counter brands do not offer much in the way of arch support. Look for insoles that have a plastic shell at the bottom, which, podiatrists say, makes them strong enough to provide real support.
Anti-Fungal Lotions, Powders, and Sprays
Stubborn cases of athlete’s foot are one of the biggest reasons men turn to a podiatrist for help. Dark and damp conditions allow the funguses that cause athlete’s foot to flourish. Basic good foot hygiene is the best way to prevent fungal infections.
Wash your feet frequently and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes where the culprits typically take hold. Wear fresh socks daily.
Use an antifungal lotion or powder. Drugstores stock a wide variety of brands. Although different over-the-counter products use different active ingredients, a 2008 review in the British Journal of Dermatology says all are just about equally effective.
Look for a medicated powder or spray if you have sweaty feet, Vlahovic says. "For dry feet, go with an antifungal lotion."
Use the product every day for a month. If the itchy, burning rash persists, make an appointment to see a podiatrist or doctor. You may need a prescription strength antifungal preparation. The problem may not be athlete’s foot but a bacterial infection requiring an antibiotic. Bacterial infections are one of the leading causes of chronically smelly feet.
Dealing With Toenail Fungus
The same fungus that causes athlete’s foot can invade toenails, turning them yellow and crusty. Bad toenail infections can take a long time to eliminate.
If you come down with one, don’t waste your money on over-the-counter remedies, Vlahovic says. None has been shown to work. Topical creams and oral antifungal pills are available by prescription.
Your best bet is still prevention. Keep toenails trimmed to avoid hangnails and ingrown toenails that can open the way for fungus invasion.