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Look after your feet

feet; toenails; tinea; ingrowing; toe; nails; verruca; plantar; warts; athlete's; foot; bones;


Your wonderful feet

feetLook at your feet. No, take a good look at them. There they are on the end of your legs.

You run, walk, skip, ride bikes and do all sorts of things that you would find it really hard to do without them. Most of the time you never even notice them.

So, let's take a good look at them now.

  • Your feet each have 26 bones.
  • Your big toe has two bones and each of your other toes has three. These bones are called phalanges (say fal-an-jeez)
  • The middle part of your feet has 5 bones called metatarsals (say met-a-tar-sals).
  • The two biggest bones in your feet are the strongest because they carry most of your weight. The heel bone (cal-ca-ne-ous) and the talus (that's the bone above your heel and below your shin bone) are two of the seven tarsal bones that spread out from your ankle to the middle of your foot.

Keeping feet sweet

  • feetYour feet do such a lot of work every day, so you need to keep them clean and looked after.
  • Wash them well and dry between the toes so that they don't get smelly and soggy. (Use a facewasher, but don't then use is anywhere else.)
  • Air your shoes at night if you are going to wear them the next day.
  • Don't wear shoes around the house, so that your feet get a chance to spread out.
  • Wash your sneakers often, or clean shoes and boots to keep them soft and smelling nice.
  • Get mum, dad or whoever looks after you to teach you how to cut your toenails and don't let them grow too long.
  • Check your feet for bumps, itchy bits, cuts and blisters and get them treated.

It's especially important to keep feet sweet if you are heading into puberty. That is when the sweat glands, especially in your feet, roar into full production, and you may not be too nice to be near if you don't work hard at keeping clean!

Check out your feet

  • feetUnless you are an elite athlete at a very early age, it is unlikely that you would have corns or calluses (hard patches of skin).
  • Plantar warts (or verruccas) are something to watch out for and they are very difficult to get rid of. See the section on 'Plantar warts' in our topic Warts if you think you may have them and need to know more.
    The best thing is to avoid getting them by wearing thongs or flip-flops when you are in change rooms or walking around public pools.
  • Athlete's foot or tinea can be avoided by keeping feet clean and dry. Also clean the shower and bathroom floors well when it's your turn to do that chore!
  • Wear shoes or thongs out of doors to avoid stepping onto something which could damage your feet, like sharp twigs, glass or prickles.
  • Watch out for syringes at the beach, parklands or playgrounds, especially near public toilets. You don't want to step on those - tell an adult if you see one.
  • Wear shoes that fit! Too small or too large can damage your feet, make blisters and cramp toes together.

Preventing ingrowing toenails

Ingrowing toenails, when the sides of the toenail grow into the skin at the side of the nail, can be very painful, get infected and take ages to get better. Unfortunately you can get ingrowing toenails and infections time and again.

  • Keep feet clean and dry.
  • Wear thongs or sandals whenever you can.
  • Always wear socks inside your sneakers to keep your feet dry.
  • Air sneakers so that they dry out after you have been sweating in them all day.
  • feetKeep your sports shoes clean and dry.
  • Get your toenails cut regularly. Don't cut the corners of the nails back. Cut them straight across.

Ingrowing toenails are more likely to happen if the nails are soft and easily broken. Keeping feet cool, clean and dry will help nails grow strong and healthy.

If your toenails feel sore or look swollen, then you may have an infection. Ask mum or dad to take you to see a doctor. You may need to use anti fungal creams or have antibiotics to get rid of the infection.

Feet facts

  • feetA toenail takes about 6 months to grow from base to tip.
  • A fly tastes its food with its feet.
    • The feet account for one quarter of all the human body's bones.
    • A father emperor penguin protects his eggs for as long as 60 days by keeping them on his feet, covered with a feathered flap.
  • At one time in China it was thought beautiful for women to have small feet, so the feet of baby girls were bound up so that the toes would not grow normally. The women had small feet but could not walk very well.
  • A millipede doesn't have a thousand feet, although that's what its name means.

Dr Kim says:

Dr KimFeet are so important that it is worthwhile looking after them. Wear good, well fitting shoes, and if you have pain in your feet, ankles or legs it is a good idea to see your doctor. Some people can have problems with ankles turning in or get painful heels. These conditions can be treated by a foot specialist, called a podiatrist, who may suggest you have orthotics (say or-thot-iks). These specially made supports fit into your shoes and help your feet and ankles to grow strong and straight.


Look after your feet

Be good to your feet
And they will carry you,
All through your young years
And all your old ones too.
Keep them dry, clean and healthy,
Keep your toenails short.
Give them shoes that fit them,
'cos new feet can't be bought!

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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