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FOOT DISORDERS

Athlete's foot

Tinea pedis is the fungi that causes athlete’s foot and targets the nails, skin and hair, causing skin to redden, crack, burn, scale and itch. When the fungus invades the area between the toes, the symptom is itchy, flaking skin. Sometimes tinea stays between the toes, but it may also appear on the soles and sides of the feet and even spread to the toenails. Severe cases of athlete’s foot can be accompanied by oozing blisters. Tinea pedis thrives in warm, moist places and the feet, often confined in sweaty shoes and socks, are an ideal breeding ground.

This fungus can be easily picked up through walking on floors where others have trod who have athlete’s foot so it is important to always wear shoes, slippers or sandals in these areas.

Keeping the feet clean and dry is important as this provides an environment where tinea pedis cannot survive.

Wash bed sheets and towels often when suffering from athlete’s foot to prevent re-infection. Also keep floors very clean in bathrooms and bedrooms and always wear slippers to prevent re-infection and infecting others.

See natural remedies for Athlete’s foot below.

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Blisters

Blisters are caused by friction through tight fitting shoes, sandals and excess dancing, running or walking. They can become infected if they are burst prematurely therefore it is important to allow them to burst of their own accord and keep the feet clean and wear socks without man-made fibres such as cotton or wool.

Wearing a loose plaster over the blister during the day can help prevent further friction, and will help keep it clean and dry.  Do this by making a mini tent by applying the sticky ends of the plaster closer together allowing the middle part to be slightly raised over the blister itself. Use after one of the natural remedies below and change frequently to avoid infection, however, keeping the blister uncovered in a clean home environment will help it dry up and heal faster.

After washing the feet, always dust them with a natural talc-free powder such as arrow root, bicarbonate of soda or corn flour which can help to prevent blisters occurring and never wear wet socks or shoes.

Natural remedies for blisters

Aloe vera has powerful healing qualities as well as being antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and is as effective as any pharmaceutical preparation for healing second and third degree burns and blisters.. The gel from an aloe vera leaf can be applied directly to the blister.

Apple cider vinegar has antiseptic properties so is useful to use once the blister has popped. Either soak the feet in a solution of one tablespoon of vinegar to a bowl of water or dap directly onto the blister. A neat solution will sting a little but is perfectly safe to use to cleanse the area. Adding castor oil to a foot soak with apple cider vinegar can help heal the blister even faster.

Calendula oil, which comes from the marigold can help with faster healing.

Iodine ointment is a powerful antiseptic often used by ballet dancers who dance on point. It should be applied neat using cotton wool. Dancers also use surgical spirit to harden the skin of their toes after the iodine application. Never apply surgical spirit  to other areas of the body though, especially the face, as it will lead to unsightly open pores which will remain for life.

Vitamin E oil has powerful skin healing properties and can b applied directly to the blister or some drops added to a bowl of warm water for a foot soak.

Salt dissolved in warm water then allowed to cool can be used as a foot soak or applied by using a cloth can help faster healing.

Tea: has fast healing properties and can soothe the pain of blisters. Green tea is even more effective than black tea. Add three tea bags to a cup of hot water and allow to steep for 10 minutes then add this tea to a bowl of warm water with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and soak the feet in it at night, before going to bed.

Tea tree oil has powerful cleansing properties and can help to dry up the blister but some may experience skin n irritation in which case adding a few drops to a bowl of warm water then soaking the feet in it will work better.

Witch hazel is another cleansing and antiseptic ointment that can be applied.

Bunion, calluses and corns

A bunion forms as the first metatarsal bone (the long bone behind the big toe) spreads outward from the foot causing a bump to appear. The big toe often then bends toward the lesser toes. The causative factor is often a combination of heredity, faulty biomechanics, poorly fitting shoes, degenerative joint disease, possibly systemic disease such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, and occasionally, injuries.

Bunion

A corn is a growth of skin which forms typically on a bony prominence as a response to abnormal pressure or friction. They are often located on the tops of the toes at the knuckles or sometimes between the toes. They can also form on the bottom or the sides of the foot wherever there is an excess amount of pressure, such as a bone protruding outward against the ground or against an ill-fitting shoe.

Corn

The term corn is often used interchangeably with callus. Essentially, they are both caused by the same thing, but visually a corn is often smaller, rounder and deeper and a callus is usually broader, covering a larger area.

Callus

Often people try to slice or cut corns but this is not advised as it can cause infection and heavy bleeding especially for diabetics.

Preventing bunions, corns and calluses

Wear socks of natural fibres such as cotton or wool and make sure they are always clean and dry. Providing continued moisture to the skin can erode the skin’s natural toughness. This is when corns will develop. Socks lock in moisture to the foot without allowing them to breathe. Wear socks continuously also contributes to foot odour and conditions such as athlete’s feet.

Shoes should also be of natural fabrics like canvas or leather as synthetic materials such as rubber or plastic can make the feet sweat. Pointed toed shoes can cause bunions and corns and make them worse. Toes need to have plenty of room in shoes as any pinching will cause corns and bunions to develop.

Shoes should not be worn indoors, unless they are special corrective foot wear for a orthopaedic problem. Going barefoot at home gives the feet a break from the constant pressure and rubbing that occurs when wearing shoes.

Toenails should trimmed regularly as pressure on toe nails from shoes can push the toe so that the knuckle rubs on the shoe and a corn can develop.

Always dry feet well after washing or soaking them and sprinkle between the toes with a talc-free powder such as arrowroot, bicarbonate of soda or corn flour to soak up any excess moisture.

Petroleum jelly can be used to coat the toes if an unexpected amount of walking or running is going to be done.

Natural remedies for bunions, corns and calluses

Aloe vera: Apply aloe vera gel on the affected toe to treat various symptoms associated with a bunion. Consumption of aloe vera juice (1/4 cup) can also provide the desired results. The affected area can also be washed with aloe vera juice. This will soften the skin and stop infections developing.

Apple cider vinegar: Soak a cotton ball in vinegar and tape it to the corn or callus and leave on over night. In the morning, rub the area with a pumice stone.

Bay leaves internal remedy: Pour 300 ml (10 oz) of water over a tablespoon of crushed bay leaves and simmer for five minutes then store in a thermos flask over night. Strain the liquid in the morning and take small sips throughout the day but do not drink it all at once. Do the same for three days in a row, each time with a freshly prepared drink, then repeat the treatment after a week's break. After a month or so the bunions should disappear.

Bay leaves external remedy:  Crush five bay leaves and pour in 100 ml of 96% alcohol. Leave it for a week and strain. Soak the feet in a bowl of warm water with one tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda for 10 minutes then dry the feet and apply the bay leaf solution before putting on some clean cotton socks.

Bicarbonate of soda: Add three tablespoons baking soda to a basin of hot water and soak until the water goes cool. Or massage calluses with a paste of three parts bicarbonate of soda to one part water. This will loosen dead skin and help with healing.

Castor oil: Dip a cotton swab into castor oil and apply to the corn. Using medical adhesive tape, tape the cotton swab to the corn and keep it there over night. Continue this process for one week.

Cayenne chilli pepper can be rubbed on to bunions and corns to relieve pain and inflammation.

Chalk: Grind chalk into a powder and mix with a small amount of water to form a paste. Apply the paste to the hardened corn and leave on overnight. This will soften the corn and shrink the size of it.

Chamomile tea. Soaking the feet in diluted chamomile tea can be soothing and will temporarily change the pH of the skin to help dry out sweaty feet. The tea will stain the feet, but can be easily removed with soap and water. Consumption of tea prepared by boiling chamomile leaves in water on a frequent basis can help. Chamomile tea bags can also be placed on the affected toe to reduce the pain and inflammation resulting from a bunion.

Cloves: Apply clove oil on the affected toe and cover it with a cotton bandage to deal with the problem of a bunion. It is advisable to remove the bandage after four hours. A paste of crushed cloves and honey can also be directly applied on the affected area to cure a bunion.

Ginger: Prepare a tonic by boiling fresh ginger (a small piece) in water and consume it on a daily basis. Dry ginger powder (one teaspoon) can also be consumed before each meal. Intake of food items containing ginger can reduce the inflammation resulting from bunions.

Epsom salts:  Pour half a cup of Epsom salt into a bowl of hot water and soak the feet in it for 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. Continue this treatment for approximately one week. During the time of treatment, avoid wearing socks and shoes as much as possible.

Ice: Hard corns can be particularly painful and an icepack can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

Iodine can help to reduce bunions and corns. Soak a cotton wool pad in iodine then tape over the affected area and leave on overnight.

Lemon: Tie a slice of lemon over the corn or callus and leave on overnight.

Liquorice root: Grind three or four liquorice sticks and mix with half a teaspoon of sesame oil or mustard oil until a paste like substance forms. Apply this paste to the corn and leave on overnight. This will gradually soften the skin and reduce the size of the corn.

Margosa oil: Apply margosa oil on the affected toe several times in a day.

Pads and shoe inserts can be purchased that will stop the pressure on the feet in problem areas.

Pumice stones are useful when trying to eliminate a corn. Soak the feet for approximately 20 minutes. Rub the pumice stone over the corn until the dead and dried skin is removed. Continue this method for as many days as needed without making the area around the corn raw. Diabetics should not use pumice stones because of the chances of breaking the skin and causing infection.

Turmeric: Consume turmeric powder (one teaspoon) with warm water (one cup) on a daily basis to treat various symptoms associated with bunions. A paste of turmeric powder and mustard oil can also be directly applied on the affected toe to cure a bunion. An individual can also grate fresh turmeric and apply it on the affected area two to three times in a day to obtain effective results.

Foot odour

Many people suffer with foot odour caused by bacterial overgrowth. Wearing synthetic fibres on the feet, especially rubber, plastic, polyester and nylon, will further aggravate the problem. Feet are enclosed much of the year allowing a dark moist environment which is perfect for bacteria to multiply very quickly. During warm weather and exercise, when the feet sweat more, makes the problem worse.

Washing the feet twice a day, drying thoroughly, then dusting with a talc-free powder such as arrowroot, bicarbonate of soda or corn flour can reduce moisture and changing socks and shoes often can help to reduce foot odour. Going barefoot in a clean home environment can help to reduce the problem as well. However, going barefoot outside is not advised as some infectious microbes can be picked up as well as the fungi that causes athlete's foot which is highly contagious.

Wearing cotton or wool natural fibre socks only can help to reduce foot odour and charcoal infused insoles in shoes can also help.

The natural remedies below can help reduce bacterial growth, and hence the odour caused by it, when used daily.

Foot pain

Plantar fasciitis, also known as jogger’s heel, is a common disorder that causes acute pain in the heel and the sole of the foot. It occurs due to inflammation in the plantar fascia, a thick band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and connects the heel bone to the toes. Repetitive stretching and tearing can cause the plantar fascia to become irritated or inflamed.  Plantar fasciitis can affect both men and women and is very common in runners and hikers. However, it most often affects active men between ages 40 to 70.

Apart from age, other factors that may increase the  risk of developing plantar fasciitis include regularly indulging in activities that put a lot of stress on the heels, faulty foot mechanics, obesity, jobs that mean standing for long hours and wearing shoes with poor arch support or soft soles.

Common signs and symptoms of plantar fasciitis are heel pain, inflammation, pain in the foot arch, difficulty walking or standing, limping, acute pain after brief weight-bearing activities and stiffness in the heel after long periods of inactivity. Symptoms are often worst in the morning. In addition, it usually affects just one foot, but can be both at times.

Peripheral neuropathy can also cause foot pain. See the Pain and Inflammation page

Stretching exercises to relieve foot pain

Stretching exercises that involve the feet and lower leg muscles are one of the best ways to control heel pain due to plantar fasciitis. They will also help reduce inflammation in the calves and other leg muscles.

Before getting out of bed in the morning, stretch the feet, lower leg muscles, calf muscles and toes. While sitting up in bed, hold onto the flexed feet and gently pull them toward you for 30 seconds, release and repeat 1 or 2 more times. This will help minimise pain in the morning.

Stand at arm’s length from a wall with your unaffected leg slightly bent at the knee and the affected foot behind you. Slowly and gently, press your hips forward while keeping both the heels flat on the floor. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat this exercise in two sets of 10 repetitions, several times a week.

Roll a frozen water bottle or a golf ball under the arch of the foot, starting from the front and working your way back. Apply a little pressure. Do this for a couple of minutes, once daily.

Nutrients to relieve foot pain

The B complex of vitamins are essential nutrients that can help relieve foot pain as they help to protect the nerves and joints.

Minerals such as boron, calcium, copper, iodine, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, silica, strontium and zinc have a significant affect on the bones, joints and nerves functionality. Natural foods that provide sufficient levels of all these should be consumed when suffering from foot pain. See the Minerals page.

Red krill oil or cod liver oil capsules can provide relief for pain involving the joints of the toes and ankles. Take one extra strength capsule per day for one month to feel the benefits.

Natural remedies for foot disorders

Socks should always be made from natural materials such as cotton or wool and shoes should be leather or canvas as plastic, rubber and synthetic materials make the feet prone to sweating more. Nylon and synthetic socks or tights can cause more sweating, foot odour and allow the fungus that causes athlete’s foot to thrive.

Shoes should be changed at least twice a day during hot weather and when the feet sweat a lot and allowed to dry out thoroughly before wearing again. Socks should also be changed at least twice a day.

NOTE: After using any of the following remedies always dry the feet thoroughly then dust the affected area with a natural talc-free powder such as arrow root, bicarbonate of soda or corn flour to soak up any excess moisture.

Aloe vera gel is an antifungal skin softener. Mix three parts of tea-tree oil to one part aloe gel and rub this salve into the infected area twice a day. Give this treatment six to eight weeks to work.

Apple cider vinegar is a powerful cleanser with antifungal properties. Soak the feet at night in a bowl of hot water to which a tables spoon of apple cider vinegar has been added along with a tablespoon of olive oil. Then dry the feet thoroughly. Afterwards, wearing a pair of thin cotton socks to bed can help to stop reinfection by tinea pedis.

Alum root powder has astringent and antiseptic properties and hence inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi. Mix one teaspoon of alum powder in one cup of warm water. Wash the feet with this solution. After 15 to 20 minutes, dry the feet thoroughly and then sprinkle some alum powder on them. Do this once daily.

Arrow root can be used to dust the feet and inside shoes to remove excess moisture.

Basil: Make a basil tea by steeping the leaves in hot water for 20 minutes and dab onto affected areas or simply add some basil leaves to a foot soak.

Bicarbonate of soda is a powerful fungal killer and can be used as a paste to rub onto feet and left for 10 minutes before washing off, drying and then dust with more bicarbonate of soda powder, arrowroot or corn flour.

Black walnut tincture can be applied daily with cotton wool to eliminate fungal infections.

Borage oil may be applied to areas of fungal infection daily until it has cleared up.

Calendula, commonly known as marigold, has been valued for centuries as a topical treatment for wounds and skin conditions as it has both antifungal and anti-inflammatory powers. Rub calendula ointment on the affected areas, especially between the toes.

Clay powder poultice. Purchase clay in powder form from a health food store, soak in water in a glass container for two hours, then apply directly to the affected skin. Leave on for 15 minutes then wash off and dry thoroughly.

Coconut oil has powerful antifungal properties and can be rubbed on the feet, especially between the toes before dusting with corn flour or added to the bowl of hot water to soak the feet in.

Common stinging nettle The juice of nettle leaves as a tea or a decoction of the root can be used as a wash for fungal infections.

Corn flour can be used to dust the feet and inside shoes and boots to keep them dry after all the natural treatments listed here.

Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate crystals) fight microbial infections and neutralise foot odour and are also soothing for aching feet. Mix two teaspoons of Epsom salt in half a bucket of hot water. Soak the feet in the solution for 10 to 15 minutes. Then dry thoroughly and dust the feet with a talc-free natural powder.

Figs and fig leaves can be used as an antifungal poultice.

Garlic has powerful antifungal properties and the powder can be used as a paste with any vegetable or coconut oil or some crushed cloves can be added to a foot soak. Consuming three or four cloves a day can help the body fight off many types of infections.

Geranium essential oil in a coconut or olive oil base can be applied daily.

Ginger is an effective solution for foot odour as it inhibits bacterial and fungal growth and also removes toxins. It also has anti-inflammatory properties so can ease foot pain. Make a puree out of a medium sized ginger root. Steep the puree in a cup of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Use a coffee filter to strain the solution. Use the smooth liquid to massage the feet gently each night before going to bed. Repeat the process daily for two weeks to get positive results. Alternatively use ginger powder. Consuming ginger daily is highly beneficial and can help relieve pain and thin the blood.

Lavender oil has powerful anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties: Make a massage oil by adding three drops of lavender oil to one teaspoon of carrier oil (any vegetable oil  or coconut oil will do). Rub into the infected skin daily.

Lemongrass mixed with pure coconut oil and apply as a liniment. Add marigold for a more potent healer of fungal infection.

Mustard oil or powder can be added to a foot soak for additional fungus killing power or make a paste with coconut or olive oil and rub into feet and allowing to dry before washing off and drying feet thoroughly.

Neem leaf tea; make a tea by steeping chopped neem leaves in hot water for 20 minutes. Then strain and apply the liquid to the affected area. Allow to dry then dust with a natural talc-free powder.

Olive oil helps to soften skin hardened by athlete’s foot and allows the skin to absorb the other remedies on this list and so should be used in conjunction with any of them.

Oregano oil and olive oil: A mixture of one teaspoon of olive oil and two drops of oregano oil can also be applied.

Pumice stones are formed when hot lava mixes with water and hardens, resulting in a porous material perfect for removing dry skin. This should be done every night during a foot soak. Coconut oil and olive oil also help to the soften skin.

Sage leaves contain tannic acid that helps reduce sweat that contributes to foot odour and it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Place dried ground sage inside shoes and socks to absorb the odour and leave a more pleasant scent. Alternatively soak the feet for 15 minutes in sage tea and drink a cup of sage tea before going to bed.

Sea salt. Add a tablespoon to a hot bowl of water with olive or coconut oil, soak the feet until the eater turns cold then dry the feet and dust with a natural talc-free powder.

Tea contains tannic acid, a natural astringent that works wonderfully to dry out sweaty feet. Steep five tea bags in a litre of boiling water for five minutes. Let cool to lukewarm, then soak the feet in this “tea bath” for 30 minutes before drying the feet thoroughly and dusting a natural talc-free powder.

Tea tree oil is particularly effective at eliminating athlete’s foot. Add to baths and foot soaks or, for a soothing, healing treatment, mix tea-tree oil with the same amount of olive oil and rub the combination into the affected area twice a day. Then dry the feet thoroughly and dust with corn flour.

Turmeric: Prepare a paste-like mixture by mixing turmeric powder and water. Apply this paste on the affected area for some time until it dries. Finally, wash it off with water to ease the symptoms and remove infections, especially in nails. A combination of turmeric and basil can also treat the infection.

Yoghurt, plain with live acidophilus bacteria is an instant remedy for athlete’s foot. Dab the yogurt on the infected areas, let dry, then rinse off.

There are also many internal natural remedies than can help fight fungal infections. See the Fungi page for more information.

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"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC

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