We'd like re-introduce you to some folks you may not have seen for while. And you many not like what you see.
Fashion friend: Meet your feet. You know, the ones that have been wrapped up in socks and boots all winter. The ones you have neglected, ignored and abused. How have you been hurting them? Let us count the ways, and offer some help:
1. The wrong shoes
Cheap shoes, uncomfortable shoes, or shoes that don't fit won't just give you aching feet– they could create serious medical problems that last a lifetime. So choose your shoes carefully – the wrong footwear can leads to stress fractures, plantar fasciitis (swelling of the tissue at the bottom of your feet), or hammer toes or bunions.
Some ground rules: the heel should be firm and the shoe shouldn't bend or twist. "Look at your foot, look at your shoe. If they don't resemble each other, you shouldn't be walking around in them," says Dr. Johanna Youner, a New York City-based podiatrist.
Bad news for ladies who love their Louboutins: Five-inch heels may be okay for a party or a date, but they're certainly not for every day. "Stilettos are gorgeous and everybody loves the way they look in them, but to wear them to walk around is not the best way to go," Dr. Youner says.
2. Perils of the pedicure
A pedicure may be relaxing - and a great way to get winter feet looking presentable again -- but an ingrown toenail will certainly stress you out. Germs picked up during a pedicure can lead to an ingrown toenail or an infection.
If that happens, don't go back to the salon, says Dr. Youner – see a podiatrist before it gets worse. A good rule of thumb is to choose a salon where the foot-soaking tub is either disposable or removable, says Dr. Youner, because a lot of infections may originate in the plumbing.
It can't hurt to bring your own tools, either – and even if they're yours, clean them before you head out. And when in doubt, apply some Bacitracin to your feet when you get home.
3. Yoga mat yuck
Forgetting your own mat when you go to yoga may cost more than a $1 mat rental fee – yoga mats are notorious for spreading plantar warts.
Sweat creates the humid atmosphere in which warts flourish, and that combined with a shared mat can add up to plantar warts or athlete's foot.
"I would be reticent to take my own socks off in a yoga studio, not because I'm accusing anyone of being dirty, just because it's very human to transmit warts," says Dr. Youner. So bring your own mat, or pick up a pair of yoga socks – Gaiam's No-Slip Yoga Socks are a popular choice – and lose yourself in your practice.
4. Beware of moisture
Foot scourges like athlete's foot and plantar warts thrive in water – so you should do your best to keep your feet protected and dry. If you take a shower after your workout at the gym, try to remember to bring flip flops with you.
But even if you don't, don't despair: You can wipe your feet down with a little alcohol to make sure all is clear, says Dr. Youner.
When you're wearing shoes, make sure your feet stay dry, she urges. "The best protective thing is just to put some cornstarch in your closed shoes," says Dr. Yourner. "It protects you from all sorts of things that can break down your skin." This is especially important with boots.
5. Running a risk
Yes, exercise is good for you; but repetitive actions can hurt your feet, especially if you're not wearing the best footwear. Dancing – particularly in ballet toe shoes (See: Black Swan) is particularly hazardous for your feet, so dance with care.
Running, too, which causes the foot to be repeatedly pushed into the heel and toe, can cause bleeding under the nail. If that happens, the toe won't grow back normally – ever.
This is a common problem podiatrists see around marathons, says Dr. Yourner. If this (or any of the above foot problems) does happen, she urges, see a podiatrist as soon as possible. "Don't let your injury get to the point where the nail falls off," she warns.