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Rock your socks

January 01 2020
Keep feet, shoes and socks dry to avoid trench foot © Pavement Keep feet, shoes and socks dry to avoid trench foot © Pavement

Take care of your feet this winter using these tips by Jemell Geraghty

During the winter months our feet really do take a lot of wear-and-tear. Winter is a tough season so checking how our feet and legs are may not seem high on our agenda.

Our feet are very important parts of our body: they carry us from one place to the next and allow us to stand for hours on end, if needed. However, if we do not look after our feet, we can soon realise how they can become sore, swollen and even blistered or ulcerated. Even with the temperature dropping it’s a big mistake to leave our shoes and socks on for hours, maybe days, without ever checking.

Checking your feet are OK daily is essential.

Prolonged wet feet can be a serious problem. The serious condition it causes is known as trench foot or immersion foot syndrome. Trench foot was first described during World War I (1914-18) when soldiers developed foot conditions from fighting in cold, wet conditions in trenches and did not have extra pairs of socks or boots to help keep their feet dry.

Another condition to be aware of is frostbite. This is damage to skin and tissue caused by exposure to freezing temperatures. Frostbite can affect any part of your body, but the extremities, such as the hands, feet, ears, nose and lips, are most likely to be affected. The symptoms of frostbite usually begin with the affected parts feeling cold and painful. If exposure to the cold continues, you may feel pins and needles before the area becomes numb as the tissues freeze. If you think you may have frostbite, you need to see a doctor urgently.

Tips for keeping feet and legs healthy this winter:

  • Feet need basic looking after. Keep them dry (especially in between the toes). Keep them covered with socks and wear shoes that don’t rub. Also rest your legs when you can.
  • Layering up is important, as well as having a spare pair of clean socks. Think about keeping one dry pair spare and if socks become wet, you can change and dry-out the wet ones when you get a chance.
  • Use plastic bags to line your shoes to prevent the wet getting to your feet. If your shoes get wet, it is an idea to dry them out during the day if you can.
  • Every day remove socks and check your feet. Look at the sole of each foot, heels and in between the toes. Observe for any unusual skin changes, itching or burning. If any of these symptoms persist, see your nurse or GP as you may have a fungal infection.
  • Foot and leg swelling can be common when you are on your feet and legs a lot. Try and rest when you can. If you can, elevate and rest your legs with the aim of reducing the swelling. If the swelling continues or you develop a red, hot, swollen and tender leg then you need to see your GP as soon as possible.
  • When you see a GP or nurse ask them to check your feet if you are unable to do so, and make sure you have regular follow-ups.
  • If you do develop a blister, do not burst it. You should leave it, keep it dry and remove any pressure from it. Please see you GP or nurse for further advice as blisters can deteriorate.
  • Good luck this winter keeping your legs and feet working well. Dr Jemell Geraghty works at Camden Health Improvement Practice (CHIP).
    Follow her on Twitter: @woundnurseUK

In a nutshell

  • Regularly check your feet during the winter season. That way you won’t end up with sore feet and legs, unable to put your shoes on or even walk.
  • Aim to keep one dry spare pair of socks on you, so if they become wet you can change into a dry pair. Always dry out the wet ones as soon as you can.
  • When temperatures drop below -0.55C (31F) you are going to be at risk of frostbite. If your extremities (hands, feet, ears, nose, lips) are in pain go to a doctor at once. More info from frostbite
  • If you, or someone you know, has frostbite, or is at risk of hypothermia, call 111.
  • For more information see the Legs Matter Campaign: Twitter: @LegsMatter