Prepare to bare your feet for summer

Adrienne Wyper / 01 June 2016 ( 15 June 2017 )

Hard skin and cracked heels don’t look smart with sandals, but happily, you can usually deal with these minor problems yourself.



Now summer’s coming, look down on your feet – before anyone else does! And it’s not only changing seasons that reveal your feet: are you worried about unveiling gnarled hooves on holiday, at the pool or at the gym? Help is at hand…

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Hard skin on feet

It’s natural for skin on your feet to harden in response to pressure. If it didn’t, feet would risk damage every day! Your feet also get drier with age, as sweat glands become less effective, so skin dries out more quickly, and needs to be moisturised more often.

Extremely tough, thick, hard skin is probably best initially removed by a podiatrist. Find one at the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. If you have diabetes, ask your GP if you may be eligible for an NHS podiatrist, as the reduced blood supply to your feet and loss of feeling means that any small cuts caused by over-enthusiastic scraping may take ages to heal or get infected. Download the Diabetes and your feet leaflet from the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists website.

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Minimal hardening might need only a weekly scrub. Carnation Footcare Exfoliating Foot Scrub (firstaidfast.co.uk£4.14) contains apricot seed and walnut shell. Lush’s Pumice Power (£3.25) soap has pumice powder to gently scrub.

For removing hard skin, traditionalists vouch for the pumice, so light it handily floats in the bath, like Superdrug's Pumice with Rope (£1.59), while others swear by the synthetic Newtons Chiropody Sponge (expresschemist.co.uk, £2.69), which contains antibacterial sulphur. Rub the bar – it’s a lava-like block, not a sponge – with soap to help it glide over skin.

It’s hard not to sound like a DIYer when describing foot files. Buy a simple sandpaper, or metal rasp type from chemist or supermarket, then use it weekly. Using it on wet skin may seem more effective, but can damage the skin.

Doing away with the need to clear up filed-off skin is the JML Ped Egg (boots.com, £9.99). Looking like a cheese grater, it collects the skin in its plastic egg.

Gadget fans will love powered foot files. Move the rotating abrasive head over the area, with minimal effort, and see skin fall as white dust. The market leader is the Scholl Pedi Velvet Smooth Electronic Pedicure Foot File (Boots.com, £29.99), which boasts a roller head coated with finely ground diamonds. For £49.99 there’s the Wet and Dry, cordless with rechargeable batteries – to use in the bath or shower too. For plug-in convenience, the Emjoi Micro Pedi Power (boots.com, £33.30) runs on mains power.

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For a less hands-on approach, try Footner Exfoliating Socks (boots.com, £19.99, ). Wear the plastic gel-filled socks for an hour, then wash your feet, and over the next ten days the hard skin will peel off.

Don’t get carried away with scraping, sanding or sloughing – satisfying though it is. Podiatrist Emma Supple warns: ‘Over-enthusiastic use of foot files can stimulate soles to produce more hard skin.’

Cracked heels

Not just a cosmetic concern, cracked heels are caused by tiny splits in skin that’s dry and damaged, often by central heating and cold temperatures. The cracks can become deeper, bleed and get infected. If left untreated, this can affect walking.

Flexitol Heel Balm (boots.com, £3.99) contains 25% urea, which improves skin’s water-binding capacity, and is often recommended by health professionals. People with diabetes can get it on prescription. Apply twice daily and see results within three days.

Carnation Footcare Cracked Heel Cream (firstaidfast.co.uk, £3.20) is formulated with 20% urea to quickly rehydrate the skin, while peppermint leaves feet fresh and cool.

Compeed Cracked Heel Overnight Cream (boots.com, £4.99) contains urea and lactic acid. Apply it before bed, under old socks. Your heels should look better in the morning, and the cracks should be repaired within four weeks.

Keep your heels healed, with daily lavishing with a rich moisturiser. Podiatrist Margaret Dabbs advises against body lotion. ‘Skin on your feet is much thicker, so use a product that has been specially formulated for feet.’

The Body Shop’s bestselling Peppermint Intensive Foot Rescue (£9) contains rich emollients including cocoa butter, plus peppermint essential oil for a tingle and to combat odour.

Award-winning L’Occitane Shea Butter Foot Cream (£19) is made with 15% shea butter, lavender essential oil and anti-inflammatory arnica to soften and soothe.

Boots Deep Moisturising Foot Cream (£3.99, ) contains sweet almond oil, cocoa butter and extract of marshmallow plant, noted for its moisturising properties.

As Margaret Dabbs says: ‘There aren’t many parts of your body you can improve so radically with proper attention once you get to a certain age - but with your feet you can feel the difference instantly!’

Common foot problems and how to treat them 

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