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Expert Answers to Your Foot Care Questions

Wondering which foot care products will help keep your tootsies in top (and pretty) shape this summer? Our experts give their top picks.

In each issue of WebMD the Magazine, our experts answer your questions about skin care, beauty, makeup, hair care, and more. In our March-April 2011 issue, Daphne LaSalle, 30, who lives on the U.S. Air Force Base in Altus, Okla., asked about beautifying her feet for summer. We ran her question by two doctors: Eric Reynolds, DPM, a podiatrist in Jersey City, N.J., and Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, who is co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C., as well as an assistant professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University. Here's what they had to say:

Q: What can I do now to get my feet soft and ready to show off by sandal season?

Tanzi's top picks:

A: Thick, dry patches pop up on heels during winter months because feet are often crammed into heavy socks and boots that don’t allow for effective exfoliation of dead skin. To loosen up that scaly epidermis, use a nightly cream like Dr. Scholl’s Ultra Overnight Foot Cream ($6.99), containing aloe and palm oil to soothe tough skin.

To buff the dead skin away once it’s been softened, try the PedEgg Pro Pedicure Foot File with Handle ($12.99). It’s better than a pumice stone for gently sanding down thick skin on the heel and ball of the foot because its stainless-steel micro files stay sharp. Once the bottoms of your feet are smooth, keep them hydrated with an emollient-rich lotion like L’Occitane Shea Butter Foot Cream ($26), which is packed with moisture-locking shea butter. 

If you painted your toes in rich, dark hues throughout the winter, you may be noticing some nail yellowing. Take a break from polish for a week or two, and the discoloration will slowly fade. Once you’re back to coating your toenails in polish, be sure to start with a clear base coat without formaldehyde, a chemical that can react with the keratin protein in nails and make them change colors. The formaldehyde-free OPI Start-to-Finish Base & Top Coat ($12.50) is a good one to try.

Reynolds's top picks:

A: During winter months when humidity is low, skin dries out more rapidly. In some cases, feet get so dry they peel or crack. While there are plenty of prescription medications that work wonders, I like to start with home remedies, which are inexpensive and can be just as effective.

To soften super-dry areas, soak your feet in original Listerine AntisepticMouthwash ($4) (yes, Listerine!) once or twice a week. Mix one part Listerine with two parts warm water in a basin and soak your feet for 15 to 20 minutes, then apply a moisturizer like Eucerin Plus Intensive Repair Foot Creme ($5.59), which contains hydrating urea. In addition to skin-sloughing benzoic acid, Listerine contains ethanol, which kills bacteria, fungi, and germs that can lead to athlete’s foot.

Coating feet in a cream like Burt’s Bees Thoroughly Therapeutic Honey & Bilberry Foot Creme ($10), which is loaded with moisture-replenishing honey and jojoba oil, and wearing socks to bed is an excellent way to lock in moisture for softer feet. If you can’t stand to sleep in socks, place a humidifier at the foot of your bed to keep feet hydrated. Treat thick, dry patches on your feet by massaging them with Vicks VapoRub topical ointment ($3) in the p.m. to battle bacteria while you sleep.

Symptoms of Common Foot Problems

A normal nail bed is pink and smooth. Anything other than that may be a sign of a serious medical condition, Reynolds says. Here’s what to be wary of.

Are your nails brown or black?

See a doctor ASAP. A black or brown spot on your nail could be an indication of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Are they green?

This might be a bacterial or fungal infection caused by trauma to the nail. The tint could be from trapped fluid or pus underneath the nail.

Are there horizontal ridges?

Bumpy lines that run across the nail may be an indication of chronic eczema on the skin under or around the toenail.

Are there vertical ridges?

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis or problems with circulation have lines running along the length of their toenails.

The opinions expressed in this section are of the experts and are not the opinions of WebMD. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

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