Foot Notes

Natural remedies to heal the pain

Foot Notes

Our feet carry us wherever we go, and this constant stress can take a toll—over 20 percent of Canadians suffer from a foot condition. Take the time to give your greatest supporters the care they deserve, with natural remedies for common, painful foot ailments.

Cashiers do it. Athletes do it. Even naturopathic doctors do it. No matter what we do for a living, we all depend upon our feet to get around. It’s no surprise, then, that feet are prone to painful plagues: athlete’s foot, toenail fungus, plantar warts, plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, bunions, corns, calluses, and ingrown toenails. Thankfully, these ailments have natural treatments.

Do you have a foot condition? You’re in good company—about 20 percent of Canadians suffer at least one of these ailments every year. Ease symptoms naturally. Talk to a qualified health care practitioner to find a remedy that’s right for you.

Fungal infections

Athlete’s foot and toenail fungus are contagious, which means they can be picked up in any damp place where you walk barefoot. Athlete’s foot presents as red, flaky, itchy patches, usually between toes.

Toenail fungus makes nails change colour, grow thicker, and cause pain. Take care to keep your feet dry, air your shoes for 24 hours, and disinfect hygiene equipment. Try one of the following remedies.

Heal the pain

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic and antifungal treatment. Apply a couple of drops daily to infected areas or mix three parts tea tree oil to one part aloe vera gel (known for its healing properties) and apply twice daily; cover with gauze.

Marjoram and thyme essential oils

Lab studies show that oils of Thymus vulgaris (thyme) and Origanum majorana (marjoram) have antifungal and antioxidant properties, so these oils may have a beneficial effect on your athlete’s foot or toenail fungus. Apply a few drops of either as needed; cover with gauze.

Turmeric

Thai traditional medicine practitioners use turmeric as a go-to medicine for the treatment of fungal afflictions. Essential oil of turmeric is potent; add only one drop to every 10 drops of a milder base, such as almond oil, before applying to tender skin; cover with gauze.

Plantar warts

Plantar warts, another contagious ailment, are transmitted by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and occur on the sole of the foot. Warts may decay and disappear on their own over time but cause pain when walking.

Heal the pain

Garlic

Long touted as a cure-all for any number of ailments, garlic may also have curative properties when it comes to plantar warts. Apply a couple of drops of garlic oil morning and night; cover with gauze. Continue until warts disappear.

Plantar fasciitis

Plantar fascia is a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes. Damage or strain to fascia results in a nagging, burning irritation at the heel, called plantar fasciitis. The pain is often greater first thing in the morning or after sitting or standing for long periods.

Heal the pain

First, ice the area, elevate feet, rest, and stretch the area often. Be sure you are wearing proper footwear with good shock absorption. Try exercises such as toe stretches and calf stretches, and practise self-massage (see sidebar below).

Morton’s neuroma

Neuroma is an injury to a nerve located between toes, typically the third and fourth toes. It may feel as though something is underfoot or that your sock has bunched up behind your toes. It could also cause pesky pain and cramping in toes and the ball of the foot.

Heal the pain

As with plantar fasciitis, first ice the area, elevate feet, rest, and massage. Leave the high heels in the closet and choose shoes with plenty of room in the toe area. If pain persists, consult a professional.

Bunions

Bunions form when the large bone at the base of your big toe points outward while the toe itself points inward toward the other toes. This leads to painful swelling or a bony anomaly at the base of the big toe. Bunions are more common with women than men, possibly due to aggravation by narrow-toed, high-heeled shoes.

Heal the pain

Whatever the cause, bunions are painful, so pamper your feet. Wear wide-toed shoes, pad the area with felt or foam pads, and use spacers to separate the big toe from the second. Apply ice if the bunion becomes inflamed or swollen.

Corns and calluses

Corns and calluses are caused by continual irritation, such as rubbing from an uncomfortable pair of shoes. Corns usually occur on the tops, sides, or in between toes, and they can be painful. Calluses usually appear on the bottom of feet, especially the balls and heels, and rarely cause pain.

Heal the pain

Soak feet in a footbath made of black tea to soften the thick skin of corns or calluses, followed by a gentle rub with a pumice stone. Don’t try to rub away the entire corn or callus in one day—this could lead to raw, painful areas.

Ingrown toenails

An ingrown toenail occurs when a toenail grows into the skin, rather than over it. Early signs are pain, swelling, and redness around the toenail, usually the big toe. An ounce of prevention is worth more than any weight of cure: be sure to wear shoes that don’t pinch toes, trim nails straight rather than rounding the corners, and don’t trim too short.

Heal the pain

If you suspect you suffer from an ingrown toenail, consult a professional as soon as possible. Until then, ease swelling and inflammation with a salve of tea tree oil mixed with aloe vera gel, as above; cover with gauze. a


Massage your feet, relieve stress

While seated, place the ankle of your right foot on your left knee. Gently bend each toe toward your elevated knee.

  • Draw circles in the air with toes, first in one direction, then another.
  • Massage the ball and sole of your foot with your thumbs. Apply as much pressure as is comfortable, taking care not to cause further pain.
  • Repeat with your left foot.

Strengthen your feet and improve balance

  • Place a towel on the floor. While seated, rest both feet flat on the towel.
  • Grip towel with the toes of one foot while keeping your heel on the floor. Use the other foot to anchor the towel. Curl your toes to pull the towel toward you.
  • Repeat with your other foot.

Stretch your feet and calves

  • Sit on the floor or a mat with legs extended in front.
  • Roll a towel lengthwise, then loop it under one foot (around the ball of your foot).
  • Hold the ends of the towel in each hand and use it to gently pull your foot toward your body.
  • Repeat with your other foot.

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