Your feet take the brunt of your exercise routine. Here's how to keep them working for you.

It’s Fall, Time to Take Care of Your Feet

Many people experience problems with dry skin, callouses, and cracking at the end of the summer, after months of wearing sandals or walking barefoot on the beach. Blisters and swelling can also result from wearing new shoes, training too hard, or sweating. When your feet start protesting your exercise routine, try these tips for instant relief.

1. Start with a Soak

Fill a bowl with water, ice cubes, six drops of tea tree oil, and rosemary leaves. Take turns dipping each foot for 30 seconds, rubbing them vigorously with a towel between dips. To dissolve rough patches and soften skin, try a salve made with milk, honey, and orange juice. The humectants and vitamins will naturally heal cracks and seal in moisture. 

2. Scrub Them Smooth

Thick, callused skin can crack, leaving your feet vulnerable to pain and infection. Use a pumice stone in the the shower to strip off dead skin. This is a good time to do a check for athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that’s easy to pick up from locker rooms and gyms.

3. Moisturize Well

Choose a thick foot cream with ingredients that hydrate and soften your feet, such as petrolatum, glycerin, shea butter, or hyaluronic acid. Lotions containing urea and lactic acid also help break down calluses and smooth rough heels. Try slathering your feet in one of these strong humectants and sleeping in socks; you’ll wake to baby-soft feet.

4. Take a Good Look

Some foot problems show visual signs before they cause physical symptoms. One of these is a bunion, which is an enlargement of the joint at the base of the big toe caused by misalignment of the bones. The first sign is a protrusion at the side of your foot, which over time will become inflamed and hurt. See a doctor to discuss before this happens.

Another problem you may spot before you feel it is black toenail, which is extremely common among runners. Many of these problems result from wearing shoes that are worn out or have not been properly fitted for your feet and gait.

5. Pain Is a Signal

Runners, hikers and fitness walkers experience many common types of foot pain that will only get worse if not taken serioiusly. These include metatarsalgia, which is an ache or stabbing pain in the bones at the ends of your toes, and Morton’s Neuroma, which is a pinched nerve between your toes.

Runners are especially prone to developing plantar fasciitis, a painful condition that develops from over-stressing the band of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot. If you develop any kind of painful condition, see a sports medicine doctor or podiatrist who can help determine what is wrong and help you heal.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.