Dr Tom: Why it's important to reward your feet for its faithful service

Us men should look after our feet - they work hard for us, day in day out. Maybe just leave out the flower petals...
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Us men should look after our feet - they work hard for us, day in day out. Maybe just leave out the flower petals...

Like most blokes, I suspect looking after my skin is not one of my top priorities.

Skin cancer excluded, I tend to let my skin do its own thing, repair and fend for itself in the often-harsh environments I expose it to. The last time I can remember being concerned about the wellbeing of skin (sunburn excluded) was as a teenager, when I grappled with the onset of acne erupting like a volcano of doom on my fresh face.

My face is no longer fresh and my feet certainly less so. From the thousands of feet I have had to inspect and treat in my time as a doctor, the only thing fresh about many of them has been the odour. Not surprising, given the harsh environment they are in – shoes that are well past their use-by date – and it's probably not the best topic if you are reading this over your scrambled eggs.

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As I spend a lot of my spare time with my feet in the sea, surfing, diving or paddle boarding, they tend to dry out, crack and become painful. As I am about to head off for a decent amount of time to the Russian Arctic (with some trekking involved), I thought it best I give my poor neglected feet some much-needed TLC. Prevention is better than cure.

So, off I trekked to the chemist to seek some protection for my beleaguered hooves.

I felt slightly awkward asking for tools and potions for a part of my body often hidden, and I feel like I am a patient on the TV show Embarrassing Bodies. The pharmacy assistant was very professional, as she met my nervous gaze and almost whispered the available remedies for corns, calluses and cracks without alerting the whole shop to my plight. It was surprisingly like another time when I needed a form of protection and asking made me blush with awkwardness... 

Armed with tools, lotions and potions, I set aside the necessary time to file the hard bits of dead skin that have built up from years of carrying my large frame. Like someone digging for gold, I preciously explored the depths of my stratum corneum to seek the new, fresh-faced basal layer of soft skin awaiting to be nurtured with my purchases.

Oh, the relief and sensation as my little trotters send thankful messages to my brain for the much-needed love and attention they require. Oh, the joy as my moisturised feet glide through my 10-hour shift at the hospital.

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All prose aside, we do expect a lot from our feet and like anything else, they do need nurturing.

Believe me, I have seen the ravages of neglect in other people's feet and that, combined with me wanting to roam free in the Arctic without pain or hindrance, prompted my DIY pedicure. I am now tempted to go and get a professional pedicure, to restore my feet to their best and reward them for their years of faithful service.

If you have diabetes of any type, a self-pedicure is not recommended as a nick or a cut can have devastating consequences.

I'm interested to know if many other blokes take the plunge and get a pedicure on medical grounds. You probably do preventative maintenance on your car, like putting a new set of tyres on it. Maybe it's time to treat your feet.

Dr Tom Mulholland is an Emergency Department doctor and GP with more than 25 years' experience in New Zealand. He's currently on a mission, tackling health missions around the world.

 - Stuff

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