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Winter feet: Out of sight, not out of mind

Brrr, it’s proper cold now! We’re covered up from head to toe, in many, many layers, so this is a reminder not to forget about your feet hidden away down there. Whether big or small, here’s a few tips about how to keep feet healthy through the winter months.

Have you ever heard that if your feet get cold, the rest of your body is likely to follow? It’s something I often heard my mum say, so could easily have no basis in fact, but there is science to back this one up! Our bodies are designed to protect themselves, so if the brain senses body temperature dropping it will redirect blood flow away from the extremities, the hands and feet, towards our vital organs. The colder we get, the more vulnerable our extremities become.

Clearly keeping feet warm and dry is a priority at this time of year. To do this effectively, we need to think about when and where shoes will be worn, and for how long. A wool-lined pair of boots can sound very tempting, but if you or your little one are wearing them all day, inside and out, it’s quite possible feet will overheat and become sweaty.

The problem with sweaty feet is once shoes and socks become damp it can actually lead to feet getting colder! And there’s the added consideration that hot, humid environments are the perfect breeding conditions for fungal infections, which you definitely want to avoid!

If shoes do become damp inside, make sure you dry them out completely before wearing them again. The best way to do this is to open as wide as possible and stuff with paper, to absorb the moisture. Do not expose to a direct heat source, such as a radiator or hair dryer, as this can cause leather to distort, affecting the fit.

So could waterproof shoes be a good option? Potentially, if you’re spending a lot of time outside but again perhaps not if they’re worn for long periods of time indoors. Most waterproof shoes contain an additional membrane, such as GoreTex, resulting in the shoes being less breathable.

If your little one is wearing their shoes all day at nursery or school, I recommend a pair of leather shoes or boots, polished regularly and treated with a waterproof spray every 4-6 weeks, to maintain water-resistance. They will keep feet dry on all but the wettest days, help regulate the temperature of their feet and let them breathe.

Also check soles have good grip, no-one wants to end up like Bambi on ice!

Socks and tights are just as important, they should be made from natural materials, such as cotton, wool or bamboo, or a moisture-wicking synthetic, should fit the foot well, not too tight or loose, and be changed daily.

If you’re tempted by thicker socks, make sure this doesn’t make shoes too tight. If there is pressure on areas of the foot, this can restrict the blood flow, which will also lead to cold feet. This can particularly be a problem for people with a high instep, with shoes or boots being more likely to press down on the top of the foot.

While on the topic of socks, do you wear them in bed? Our body temperature needs to drop for us to fall asleep, and I’ve always thought wearing bed socks might hinder this process. However, apparently I’m wrong and wearing socks in bed increases blood flow to the feet and heat loss through the skin, helping to lower core body temperature. This can help you fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer! If you do decide to give bed socks a try, make sure they are loose fitting, including around the leg, as any tightness will have the opposite effect, restricting blood flow.

Remember to give your feet a little TLC from time to time. Trim nails regularly, both yours and your little one’s, at least every 6 weeks, always cutting straight across the nail. If you wear nail polish on your toenails during warmer months, remove while your toes are not on show, treat with some nail oil, and they’ll be back to tip top condition by Spring. Wash regularly, dry between your toes and moisturise (but not between your toes).

Very importantly, take time to put your feet up and have a rest!


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