Fighting for free foot care (2022)

FEW of us will spend much time contemplating our feet – they may only receive a cursory glance as we pull on our socks and shoes or remove our slippers at night.

For most of us our feet are just there and little thought is given to the role that these furthest extremities play in our day-to-day lives, or even in our overall health and well-being.

And yet our language is full of common sayings and adages – including if you look after your feet, they will look after you and if your feet hurt, you hurt all over – which hint at the important role feet play.

The rhyme – Feet, feet, they are so neat/They may smell smelly or they may smell sweet/From a gentle stroll to a swift retreat/You’ll always do it better with well-kept feet – seems to say it all.

Feet not only carry our entire body weight, keeping us upright and balanced, they are also the means by which we travel and are integral to our individual independence.

Paul and Patricia Bragg wrote in their book Build Strong Healthy Feet: “Almost all of us are born with perfect feet. It’s the abuse we give them that makes us limp into adulthood, crying: ‘My feet are killing me’.”

And Andrew James, policy officer for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists in Wales, said: “Looking after your feet is essential to remain mobile and active.”

The society states, on its website, that basic hygiene and nail-cutting can be all that is needed to keep feet in good health.

But when problems develop – some will be inherited, some will develop as a result of illnesses in middle age and some problems are caused by the pressure of ill-fitting shoes – expert help is needed.

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Research in Wales would suggest that many people, particularly the elderly, are experiencing increasing problems when trying to access NHS foot care services.

An alliance of health professionals and charities are now calling for action to tackle these problems.

Robert Taylor, chief executive of Age Concern Cymru and Help the Aged in Wales, said: “Good foot care is essential for the dignity, quality of life and well-being of older people.

“Many older people struggle to care for their feet due to health problems, such as sight impairment and arthritis, or they simply find it impossible to reach their feet to cut their toenails.

“Increasingly nail-cutting and other foot-care services are being withdrawn or restricted by the NHS. Although nail-cutting may sound trivial, lack of even the most basic foot care frequently leads to complications that can result in dangerous falls, severe restrictions on mobility and social isolation.”

A survey of NHS trusts and local health boards by Age Concern Cymru revealed that there has been a clear downward trend in the provision of foot- care services in Wales.

Criteria have been narrowed so that only those patients with the most critical needs receive treatment in most areas. And there is also a wide variation in waiting times for treatment according to where you live in Wales – from under four weeks to as long as six months.

Experts believe that this lack of funding and tighter eligibility criteria for services can result in older people who need foot care becoming housebound, isolated and susceptible to falls.

Philippa Ford, policy officer for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in Wales, said: “Footwear is very important and from the physiotherapist’s perspective it is crucial that our patients have good feet and safe footwear so that they can maintain and improve their mobility.”

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And Ruth Crowder, policy officer for the College of Occupational Therapists in Wales, added: “Having a fall can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. For example, people lose independence and confidence, which can lead to social isolation and depression.”

Age Concern Cymru and Help the Aged in Wales and a coalition of organisations representing health professionals will host fringe meetings at the Welsh Labour spring conference in Swansea this weekend focusing on improving foot-care services for older people in Wales.

The event will be held in partnership with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, the College of Occupational Therapists and the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.

Delegates will hear about current gaps in service and their consequences and discuss what needs to be done to improve the situation.

The alliance wants foot-care services – from basic nail-cutting to general chiropody services – to be made freely available to all older people living in Wales.

The alternative for many older people is to either take desperate measures or to lose independence and suffer deterioration of their physical and mental health.

The poorest and most vulnerable older people are disproportionately affected by the restrictions being placed on NHS foot-care services.

Foot care tips - next page

Foot care tips

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When buying new footwear, bear in mind the following:

It is essential that shoes, boots and slippers fit properly and allow feet to breathe;

There should always be a half-inch gap between the ends of your toes and the ends of the shoes. They should fit snugly at both the heel and the instep;

The shoes should have a fastening such as a strap or laces, which will help to keep your heel to the back of the shoe and stop your toes getting squashed;

When you try on a new pair of shoes, stand up and walk around in them;

Make sure that you feel safe and secure when you walk;

Feel around inside the shoes to make sure that there are no seams or stitching to rub your feet;

Make sure that you can get the shoes on and off by yourself. A shoe horn with a long handle could help;

If you find tying the laces difficult you could try footwear with Velcro fastenings;

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It is often a good idea to buy shoes in the afternoon, particularly if your feet swell during the day. And make sure that socks and stockings aren’t too tight;

Keeping your feet clean is the main way of preventing infections. Wash your feet every day in warm soapy water. Rinse well and dry gently with a soft towel, taking particular care to dry between the toes;

To stop patches of hard, dead skin building up, use a chiropody sponge or pumice stone now and again. Ask your chemist for advice on which product to use, particularly if you have diabetes;

Apply moisturising cream. Massage upwards, from the toes towards the knees, to stimulate your circulation. But don’t apply cream between your toes;

If your feet get very moist because of heavy perspiration, dab them with surgical spirit after washing. You could also try an antiperspirant spray for feet or a special shoe deodorant;

Wearing cotton or woollen socks, rather than synthetic ones, can also help. Make sure that your feet are completely dry before putting on shoes and socks. Never wear wet shoes;

Trim your toenails regularly with clippers. Cut straight across so that they are level with the ends of your toes. Don’t cut around the corners as this can encourage ingrowing toenails. Smooth edges with an emery board so that stockings or fine socks won’t snag. But never poke anything down under the nail.If you can’t bend down to cut your nails, ask a friend or relative to help you. Failing this, contact a chiropodist or a podiatrist.

Andrew James is the policy officer for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists in Wales


Who deals with problems with feet? ›

A podiatrist is an expert on every part of the foot. See a podiatrist if you have foot pain or injury. Get urgent medical care if you have any of these symptoms for more than one or two days: severe pain.

Can I get my toenails cut on the NHS? ›

Whilst we see and advise patients, we will not routinely see those unable to cut their own toenails. Toe nail cutting is considered as personal care; we are able to provide training for relatives/carers, alternatively there are Podiatrists/Chiropodists in the private sector who will provide this service.

How much do Chiropodists charge UK? ›

Podiatry Service Prices
TreatmentPrice £Approx Duration
General Podiatry Treatment4530
Extended Appointment6545
Regular Nail Cutting Only3010
Short Appointment (for a single problem)3015
2 more rows

What is difference between podiatrist and chiropodist? ›

There is no difference between a chiropodist and a podiatrist. The term chiropody has been traditionally used in the UK, but the term podiatry is recognised and used more internationally.

Are diabetics entitled to free foot care? ›

Everyone with diabetes should have an annual foot check.

Your foot check is part of your annual review, which means you should have it as part of your diabetes care and it's free on the NHS. This is because you're more likely to have serious foot problems and these can lead to amputations.

Is it better to go to a podiatrist or orthopedist? ›

As a general guideline, if you have an injury, condition, or symptoms affecting your foot or ankle health, it's best to see a podiatrist. If you have an injury, condition, or symptoms affecting any other part of your musculoskeletal system, it's best to see an orthopedic physician.

How much does it cost to have a podiatrist cut toenails? ›

Costs of Nail Trimming

For a special treatment that includes exfoliation, nail and cuticle trimming, fungus prevention, and maybe even a foot massage, the average cost across the country is about $35.00 to $40.00.

How do you cut thick elderly toenails? ›

Tackling thick toenails
  1. Soak your feet in warm water for about 10 minutes to soften your nails.
  2. Make small cuts with the clipper to avoid splintering the nail. Then cut straight across.
  3. If thickened toenails are too painful or difficult to cut yourself, call us for advice or an appointment.

Can you get your feet done on the NHS? ›

If your foot condition affects your health or mobility, you may be able to have a routine chiropody appointment on the NHS. A chiropodist (also known as a podiatrist) can treat most common problems successfully. Contact your doctor to see if you are eligible for NHS treatment. You can also pay privately.

Do Chiropodists remove hard skin? ›

Shoes and socks should be removed, and the podiatrist will use a metal scalpel to begin removing the initial layers of hard or dead skin from the bottom of the feet. This is known as debridement, or the cutting away of thick and hard skin from the feet.

How often should you see a chiropodist? ›

Individuals with healthy feet should still visit a podiatrist once every year. The doctor can identify potential issues and recommend steps you can take to avoid problems and maintain healthy feet. Patients who have certain foot or ankle conditions, such as a history of foot ulcers, should see a podiatrist more often.

Do Chiropodists deal with fungal nail infections? ›

Your chiropodist can examine the nail and discuss the likelihood of a fungal infection. Your chiropodist can also prescribe or recommend anti-fungal medication to use in the case of fungal nails, and reduce its thickness to physically remove the fungus and allow topical medication to penetrate the nail better.

Do podiatrists cut toenails? ›

While you may be able to care for your toenails at home, you can also schedule a visit with the podiatrists at Certified Foot and Ankle Specialists to trim your toenails properly. It is during this visit that many overlooked preventive measures are performed.

What does a podiatrist do to your feet? ›

Podiatrists treat problems with a patient's foot or lower leg. They can set fractures, write prescriptions, recommend physical therapy, and do surgery as needed. They may assist other doctors in treating a health issue.

Can a podiatrist remove a toenail? ›

Sometimes, your doctor may recommend permanent toenail removal. In this procedure, your podiatrist destroys the nail matrix to prevent a new toenail from growing. The matrix is the part of the nail bed that produces keratin to make nails.

Is a podiatrist a real doctor? ›

They are DPM's; they are a doctor of podiatric medicine; they can be both surgeon and a physician at the same time and they specialise in treating the ankle, foot and other related areas of the leg.

How many years does it take to become a podiatrist? ›

How Long It Takes to Become a Podiatrist and What's Required to Practice. Podiatry is a career path that requires a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree from an accredited podiatry school, and earning this degree typically takes four years.

Why do podiatrists call themselves doctors? ›

Are They Doctors? Podiatrists are doctors, but they don't go to traditional medical school. They have their own schools and professional associations. They also have "DPM" (doctor of podiatric medicine) after their names instead of "MD" (medical doctor).

Should I cut my toenail fungus? ›

If you do have a toenail fungus, your doctor will likely recommend one or more of the following treatment options: Trimming the Toenail Trimming the toenail is usually combined with medication, but having a podiatrist periodically trim the nail down is helpful and allows the medication to work better, says Sundling.

Can podiatrist fix thick toenails? ›

A podiatrist will grind the nail at frequent intervals. In some cases, trauma to the nail is permanent and the nail may require removal under local analgesia. In such cases the nail root matrix will need to be destroyed because damaged growth cells will continue to produce a thick new toenail.

How often will Medicare pay to have your toenails cut? ›

Medicare will cover the treatment of corns, calluses, and toenails once every 61 days in persons having certain systemic conditions.

Why do old people's toenails get thick? ›

Both fingernails and toenails thicken as we get older. We only notice it with toenails because they're usually not filed and buffed as often as fingernails. The growth rate of nails decreases when people get older. This results in thickening because nail cells pile up.

What is the white stuff under my toenails? ›

Nail fungus is a common condition that begins as a white or yellow spot under the tip of your fingernail or toenail. As the fungal infection goes deeper, nail fungus may cause your nail to discolor, thicken and crumble at the edge. It can affect several nails.

Can you apply apple cider vinegar directly to toenail fungus? ›

Apple cider vinegar is a popular remedy for toenail fungus due to its antifungal properties. If you want to treat your fungus using ACV, you can soak your feet in a mixture of warm water and the vinegar for about 15 minutes, twice a day.

Is podiatry covered by the NHS? ›

Podiatry services are included on the NHS and a therapist who treats these conditions is known as a podiatrist.

Who cuts old toenails? ›

Visiting a podiatrist regularly allows them to assess your overall foot health and share proper toenail trimming techniques. If you can't trim your own toenails, a podiatrist can do that during your visit.

How do you treat aging feet? ›

How to care for aging feet
  1. Wash and thoroughly dry your feet for good hygiene.
  2. Wear a fresh clean pair of socks and change them daily.
  3. Keep the insides and outsides of your shoes clean.
  4. Rotate your shoes — don't wear the same pair two days in a row.
  5. Wear properly fitted shoes.

Why does the hard skin on my feet keep coming back? ›

What is hard skin? Hard skin can be caused by repeated pressure and friction against your skin, resulting in corns or calluses. It most often occurs on your hands and feet from activities such as walking or running in tight shoes, playing instruments, or using work tools over and over again.

What causes thick dead skin on feet? ›

Typically Caused by Excessive Pressure

Plantar hyperkeratosis typically occurs when areas of the sole are put under too much pressure (for example, if ill-fitting shoes rub and pinch your feet). Excessive pressure triggers excessive keratin production, which results in the excessive thickening of the skin.

How do I get rid of thick calluses on my feet? ›

Soaking corns and calluses in warm, soapy water softens them. This can make it easier to remove the thickened skin. Thin thickened skin. Once you've softened the affected skin, rub the corn or callus with a pumice stone, nail file, emery board or washcloth.

Is it worth going to a podiatrist? ›

If you have any issues that involve the foot and or ankle—a sports injury, arthritis/joint pain, skin problems, etc. —a visit to the podiatrist is your best bet. A podiatrist is a specialist who manages and treats almost all symptoms that involve the ankle and/or the foot.

What your toes say about your health? ›

Your toenails tell a lot about your overall health. A fungal infection often causes thickened yellow toenails. Thick, yellow nails also can be a sign of an underlying disease, including lymphedema (swelling related to the lymphatic system), lung problems, psoriasis, or rheumatoid arthritis.

What is good for your feet? ›

Moisturize them every day with lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly. Don't put moisturizer between your toes. You want to keep the skin there dry to prevent infection. Avoid wearing tight-fitting shoes.

What do podiatrist recommend for toenail fungus? ›

Oral antifungals, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, may be the most effective treatment. They offer a shorter treatment regimen of approximately three months and improved effectiveness. Your podiatrist may also prescribe a topical treatment, which can be an effective treatment modality for fungal nails.

What is the fastest way to cure toenail fungus? ›

These drugs are often the first choice because they clear the infection more quickly than do topical drugs. Options include terbinafine (Lamisil) and itraconazole (Sporanox). These drugs help a new nail grow free of infection, slowly replacing the infected part. You typically take this type of drug for six to 12 weeks.

Can toenail fungus be cured? ›

Treatment. Fungal nail infections can be difficult to cure, and they typically don't go away without antifungal treatment. The best treatment for a fungal nail infection is usually prescription antifungal pills taken by mouth. In severe cases, a doctor might remove the nail completely.

Why can't diabetics cut toenails? ›

Myth: People with diabetes can't cut their own toenails

Don't cut them straight across, curved down the sides, or too short. Remember, your nails are there to protect your toes.

How do you cut toenails if you can't reach them? ›

Cutting your Toenails: How To Do It When You Can't Reach Them

How do you cut thick toenails with fungus? ›

Fungal infections can make your toenails thick and hard. To trim them easily, you may need to soften them first. Fill a basin or tub with warm water and soak your nails in it for 10 minutes before trimming them. When you're done soaking your nails, dry your foot and nails with a clean, dry towel.

What is the most common problem treated by podiatrist? ›

The most common foot problem that a podiatrist treats is heel pain. Heel pain can be caused by a variety of different conditions, such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. Treatment for heel pain often includes things like stretching exercises, orthotic devices, or cortisone injections.

Does walking strengthen your feet? ›

Podiatrists and most other health experts agree that walking and exercising your feet on a regular basis offers excellent benefits which includes improving overall foot health by strengthening foot and leg muscles both of which help reduce your risk for injury.

How do I prepare for a podiatrist visit? ›

Health Tip: Prepare for Your First Podiatrist Visit
  1. A list of any symptoms, all medications and any previous surgeries.
  2. Important medical records and laboratory tests.
  3. A list of any special needs.
  4. If your problem involves walking or exercise, bring your walking/exercise shoes with you to the appointment.

What does Epsom salt do for toenail removal? ›

The Epsom salt soak eases discomfort and draws pus out from the area around the toenail. It can also loosen the skin, so it can be pulled away from your ingrown toenail.

Can thick toenails be fixed? ›

Applying a small amount of melted coconut oil can help heal thick yellow toenails. You can purchase over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal nail creams and ointments. Be sure to clip and clean your nails before use to make sure the creams reach deeper layers. Laser therapy can be used to treat a fungal toenail infection.

Why are my big toenails yellow? ›

When toenails turn yellow, a fungus is usually to blame. This type of fungal infection is so common that you might not even need to see a doctor for treatment. Try an over-the-counter antifungal cream. If your nail is yellow and thick, gently file down the surface so that the drug can reach deeper layers.

What does a podiatrist do for your feet? ›

Podiatrists treat problems with a patient's foot or lower leg. They can set fractures, write prescriptions, recommend physical therapy, and do surgery as needed. They may assist other doctors in treating a health issue.

When should I see a podiatrist? ›

Ten Signs It's Time to See a Podiatrist
  • Numbness, pain or swelling in one foot. ...
  • Nail fungus. ...
  • Continuous heel pain. ...
  • You think you've sprained or broken your ankle or foot. ...
  • A reoccurring case of athlete's foot. ...
  • You have diabetes. ...
  • An ingrown toenail. ...
  • Bunions.
May 30, 2017

What is the most common foot problem? ›

Bunions are one of the most common foot problems. A bunion is a prominent bump on the inside of the foot around the big toe joint. This bump is a bone protruding towards the inside of the foot. Some symptoms of bunions include inflammation, swelling and soreness on the side surface of the big toe.

What are common foot problems in older adults? ›

Aging feet need special care as the risks for chronic foot problems increase. These conditions often include corns, calluses, nail disorders, bunions, and hammertoes, to name a few. Systemic foot conditions associated with aging patients include arthritis, gout, and diabetes.

Does walking strengthen your feet? ›

Podiatrists and most other health experts agree that walking and exercising your feet on a regular basis offers excellent benefits which includes improving overall foot health by strengthening foot and leg muscles both of which help reduce your risk for injury.

What medications can podiatrists prescribe? ›

Podiatrists have the same rights to prescribing, administering, and dispensing medication that all licensed physicians do.
For example, your podiatrist may prescribe:
  • Antibiotics. ...
  • Topical treatments. ...
  • Anti-fungals. ...
  • Pain relievers.

Will a podiatrist remove hard skin? ›

Thankfully, dead skin is a common issue that podiatrists deal with. No matter how bad your issue might be, podiatrists can remove the dry skin with specialized tools and treat you with the necessary lotions and advice to allow your feet to heal back to normal.

Is a podiatrist a real doctor? ›

They are DPM's; they are a doctor of podiatric medicine; they can be both surgeon and a physician at the same time and they specialise in treating the ankle, foot and other related areas of the leg.

Do podiatrists cut toenails? ›

While you may be able to care for your toenails at home, you can also schedule a visit with the podiatrists at Certified Foot and Ankle Specialists to trim your toenails properly. It is during this visit that many overlooked preventive measures are performed.

What do podiatrists do for toenail fungus? ›

If you recognize the symptoms of toenail fungus, you must meet with the right doctor, a podiatrist, for proper treatment. Podiatrists will treat toenail fungus by using topical creams, removing part of the nail, and or using more modern methods like laser therapy to eliminate the infection.

What is Covid toe? ›

COVID toes: One or more toes may swell and turn pink, red, or a purplish color. Others may see a small amount of pus under their skin. Sometimes, people who have COVID toes have other symptoms of COVID-19. Treatment for COVID toes: To reduce pain or itching, apply a hydrocortisone cream to the affected area.

What feet say about your health? ›

If your toes are always cold, one reason could be poor blood flow -- a circulatory problem sometimes linked to smoking, high blood pressure, or heart disease. The nerve damage of uncontrolled diabetes can also make your feet feel cold. Other possible causes include hypothyroidism and anemia.

What are signs of diabetic feet? ›

Signs of Diabetic Foot Problems
  • Changes in skin color.
  • Changes in skin temperature.
  • Swelling in the foot or ankle.
  • Pain in the legs.
  • Open sores on the feet that are slow to heal or are draining.
  • Ingrown toenails or toenails infected with fungus.
  • Corns or calluses.
  • Dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel.
Jun 22, 2021

Why do seniors feet hurt? ›

As people age, normal wear and tear on the joints, along with weakening bones, can lead to significant foot pain. Seniors also have thinner skin with less elasticity, particularly on their feet. However, the pain they experience in their feet is often preventable.

What are the symptoms of arthritis in your feet? ›

Symptoms of arthritis in your feet
  • Pain when you move your feet or ankles.
  • Tenderness when you touch affected joints.
  • Swelling or redness of affected joints.
  • Difficulty standing or putting pressure on your feet.
  • Pain or swelling even when at rest.

Why do feet hurt with age? ›

This reduction in cushioning is a result of fat loss that occurs as feet age. The fat pads on the bottom of the feet diminish with age, placing additional stress on the skin, which dries out and cracks. This is also why the feet often feel sore at the end of the day.


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