From ‘What causes an ingrown toenail?’ to ‘What’s a corn?’, here are the answers to the questions you’ve been typing into your search bars

Flummoxed by feet? You’re not alone. Just when we think we’ve got our tootsies looking summer-sandal ready, we’re met with a new issue, whether it’s a fungal infection or an ingrown toenail. Oh, the glamour. Plus, the reality is that many of us neglect our feet, what with keeping them hidden in socks for the majority of the year, so it’s no surprise we turn to Google as soon as the clocks go forward to swot up on the basics. 

To make life a little easier, we’ve enlisted the help of Dina Gohil aka The Foot Scraper – a podiatrist at DG Podiatrist specialising in cosmetic overlay, diabetic feet and ingrown nails – and assembled a go-to guide with the answers to our most Googled questions on foot care all in one place. 

It’s important to note that if a foot problem persists without improvement, is getting worse or develops any worrisome symptoms, you should speak to your GP. If you have diabetes, you are also more at risk of developing foot problems that can lead to serious complications, so please make sure to attend regular foot care appointments, check your feet every day and seek medical attention if you develop any issues you are concerned about.

So, files, moisturisers and treatments at the ready… here are the answers to the most popular questions on foot care.  

The most Googled feet questions

1. What does an ingrown toenail look like?

2. What causes ingrown toenails?

3. How can I treat an ingrown toenail?

4. What’s athlete's foot?

5. What does athlete’s foot look like?

6. What causes athlete’s foot?

7. Is athlete's foot contagious?

8. How can I treat athlete's foot?

9. What is a foot corn?

10. What causes cracked heels – and what can help?

11. How can I get rid of foot cramps?

12. How can I prevent foot odour?

13. How do I care for stitches on my foot?

14. How can I treat a foot blister?

1. What does an ingrown toenail look like?

Dealing with an ingrown toenail is far from pleasant. If you’re unsure, Dina explains how we can identify the problem. "Look to the corner of the nail," she explains, "if the skin appears swollen, inflamed and painful to the touch, it’s likely you’re dealing with one."

2. What causes ingrown toenails? 

"There are several causes of ingrown toenails," says Dina. "Improper cutting of the toenails and wearing footwear or socks that are too tight are among the most prevalent causes for a nail becoming ingrown."

3. How can I treat an ingrown toenail?

There are several steps you can take to help treat an ingrown toenail at home. These are:

Step 1: Soak your foot in warm, salty water. This will soften the skin around your toe, as well as minimise the chances of infection.

Step 2: Keep your foot dry for the rest of the day.

Step 3: Wear wide, comfortable shoes or sandals.

And if the ingrown toenail is causing you pain, consider taking some paracetamol or ibuprofen to help manage it.

If you’re concerned that at-home treatment isn’t working, or it’s getting worse with perhaps pus building up, book an appointment with your GP. The same applies if you have a very high temperature or feel hot or shivery, or if you have diabetes as foot problems can take a more serious turn if you have this condition. Your GP or local pharmacist is always on hand to advise further, or, alternatively, you can access treatment privately. 

"In severe cases, you can get treatment from a foot specialist," says Dina. "This can involve cutting away part of the nail – you’ll have an injection of local anaesthetic to numb your toe, so you won’t feel a thing."

4. What is athlete’s foot?

"Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that affects the skin predominantly between the toes," says Dina. 

5. What does athlete’s foot look like?

"Athlete’s foot can appear scaly, with peeling and white patches between the toes," explains Dina. It can also affect your soles or sides of your feet and can sometimes cause fluid-filled blisters. The skin can look red, but this may be less noticeable on brown or black skin. 

6. What causes athlete’s foot?

It can be caused by walking barefoot in places where someone else has the infection, especially in "public areas like changing rooms, swimming pools and gym facilities", Dina warns. "You’re also more likely to contract it if there’s a moist, sweaty environment in your shoes or socks. That, and a poor hygiene regime."

7. Is athlete’s foot contagious? 

The short answer? "Yes," says Dina. "And it’s easily spread." Some preventative measures you can take include:

• Dry your feet with a separate towel after washing

• Pay extra attention to between the toes

• Wear clean cotton socks every day

• Wear flip-flops in places like changing rooms and showers

• Never share towels, socks or shoes with others

8. How can I treat athlete’s foot?

"You can use antifungal foot treatments, but for chronic cases I always recommend seeing a podiatrist or GP," says Dina.

For more advice on athlete’s foot, including which remedies could suit your symptoms, pop in store for a chat with your local Boots pharmacist. If you find that over-the-counter treatments don’t work or if the infection spreads to other parts of your body, such as your hands, book an appointment with your GP who can advise you further. The same applies if you have diabetes, as foot problems can be more serious if you have this condition, or if you have a weakened immune system.

9. What is a foot corn?

"A foot corn is a hard piece of skin that develops in a localised area in the outermost layer of the skin," says Dina. "Although it’s rarely serious, it can cause pain and needs to be removed – there’s over-the-counter medicines that allow for this." Others ways to deal with the hardened skin causes by corns and calluses include:

• Soaking your feet in warm water to soften

• Regularly using a pumice stone or foot file to remove hard skin

• Moisturising

However, if you have diabetes, heart disease or problems with your circulation, do not try to treat corns and calluses yourself. Book an appointment with your GP or see a foot specialist.

10. What causes cracked heels – and what can help?

Cracked heels are usually caused by a lack of moisture in the skin and can worsen as a result of wearing sandals and other types of open-backed shoes (which is why you might find you experience them more in the summer). 

Taking steps to keep your feet at a comfortable temperature may help. "Too hot or too cold can cause further cracking," says Dina. "Wear cotton socks to prevent further water loss and I always recommend using a rich foot emollient to help restore deep, cracked heels."

11. How can I get rid of foot cramps?

"Just breathe," says Dina. "They’re caused by a build-up of lactic acid, and oxygen is needed to help the muscles function. You can also massage the foot to help release the cramp." While you can’t completely stop them from happening, regular calf-stretching exercises may help reduce their frequency. 

While foot cramps are usually nothing to worry about, if they are happening regularly or causing serious pain, it could be worth visiting your GP to rule out any underlying cause. 

12. How can I prevent foot odour?

"There are a few simple steps you can take when it comes to preventing foot odour," says Dina. "I always suggest opting for breathable shoes and moisture-wicking socks, ensuring you wash them regularly. Between uses, use an antibacterial shoe spray."

13. How do I care for stitches on the foot?

"Always keep the area clean and avoid anything that would irritate the foot. It’s also important to listen to your consultant’s post-care advice – this will be specifically tailored to you," says Dina. 

14. How can I treat a foot blister?

"Use a blister plaster to cover the blister," recommends Dina. "This will allow the blister to release the fluid on its own account. However, if too big and painful, I always recommend seeing a podiatrist to help with draining and dressing. And remember the golden rule: never peel the blister."

And there we have it. The answers to the most Googled questions about foot care. We hope you enjoyed this feet-ture – before you go, discover our handy tootsies toolkit below for fabulous feet all year round. 

All you need to take care of your feet…
Scholl Advance Athlete's Foot Cream (£5.99)

• Size: 15g

• This product is suitable for adults and children over the age of 16

Containing ​​terbinafine hydrochloride, apply this cream thinly to affected areas once or twice a day and rub it in gently. Use for a week. If there’s no improvement of symptoms, contact your GP or foot specialist for further treatment. Always read the label.

 Boots Hard Skin & Callus File (£4.59)

• Specially contoured handle 

While it’s never the most glamorous of jobs, a good foot filing session has the power to do wonders. This file is a dream for helping to remove hard skin and calluses gently. Simply rub away thin layers of hard skin with the coarse surface to reveal softer, smooth-looking tootsies. 

 No7 Beautiful Skin Softening Heel & Foot Balm (£9.95)

• Size: 125ml 

Say goodbye to cracked heels and hello to softer, supple and silky-looking feet with this gorgeous foot balm. Slather on before bed every night and let the intensively hydrating moisturiser do its work. 

CCS Foot Care Cream (£7.99)

•  Size: 175ml

•  Recommended by podiatrists

This thick balm-like cream is extremely effective in treating sore skin and cracked heels. Brimming with urea (a moisturiser found naturally in the human body), it helps keep feet gorgeously soft and supple.

Odor-Eaters Foot & Shoe Spray (£3.99)

• Size: 150ml

• Quick-drying

This antiperspirant and deodorant spray is perfect for spraying into shoes. Just a spritz neutralises odour in an instant, while the quick-drying formula cools and soothes to help keep your feet feeling cool and fresh. A summer must-have. 

Compeed Blister Plasters Mixed 5s (£4.39)

•  Size: 5 plasters

There’s nothing fun about blisters. Thankfully, Dina recommends Compeed Blister Plasters to relieve pain, protect, and repel germs to help prevent infection. Apply on dry skin for the most long-lasting results.