Sandal season is almost here, which means pedicures in fun colors, flip-flops and the inevitable end-of-the-day dirty feet.
Yes, this means the possibility of your feet encountering microbes and sharp objects throughout the day, but shoes have their problems too. Shoes can irritate the skin, collect sweat and harbor their fair share of harmful microbes.
You may not see dirt or dust on your feet, but unless you shower in the evenings, your feet are far from clean at the end of the day, podiatrist Dr. Stephen D. Lasday of West Coast Podiatry Center told SheKnows.
Whether you walk around barefoot or you never let your feet touch the floor, taking the time to scrub your soles before bed has plenty of benefits.
Just because you didn’t step on broken glass or scrape your foot on a rock doesn’t mean your skin isn’t damaged. If you walk barefoot, your feet may suffer from micro-cuts you can’t see or feel. Your shoes can rub blisters or small irritated patches that make a great entry point for pathogens. Dry, cracked feet are also susceptible to infections. A rinse at the end of the day helps keep infections away.
Throughout the day, bacterial and viral populations land on our skin and grow. Scrubbing your feet with a gentle soap will remove these populations and put you less at risk for an infection if your skin breaks in the future. You also won’t be spreading the microbes around your home to be picked up again later. Not only that, but clean feet are less likely to smell — something everyone can appreciate.
Whether your feet are in heavy snow boots, leather pumps or flip-flops at the beach, your feet will probably sweat. Sweating is useful, but it can promote microbial growth and irritate your skin if you leave it for too long. Washing your feet will also remove sunscreen, bug spray and any other chemicals that are soaking into your skin throughout the day.
Fungal infections often take hold on our feet, particularly around the nails, where a quick rinse won’t dislodge them. Athlete’s foot and other fungi flourish in damp environments, so using a gentle soap to clean between your toes can help lift them from your nails. And don’t forget to dry your feet afterward.
According to Lasday, people with medical issues like diabetes, poor circulation or numbness should also be quite aware of their feet and inspect and clean them on a daily basis. He suggests reporting any changes to your medical provider.
Even if you don’t have foot-related issues, knowing what your feet normally look like lets you identify any changes faster. Look out for things like discoloration, structural changes or an issue isn’t clearing up on its own.
Some people find it soothing to scrub the day off their feet just before they crawl into bed. It can be therapeutic to see all the dirt and dust rinse off your feet and into the water at the end of a long day. If you dread sticking your feet in the bath tub each night, find a special soap or a lotion you love and turn it into a relaxing ritual.
When you get in bed with dirty feet, all the microbes, fungus and chemicals you picked up during the day settle on your sheets, growing and spreading in the warmth of the bed. Each evening, you bring new contaminants, adding to the thriving populations from the previous nights.
If that doesn’t make you reach for the soap, think of your partner. Lasday warns these contaminants “could certainly spread to a spouse or partner that shares the same sheets.”
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