FROM THE ARCHIVE| Here's how to solve the most common heel and toenail problems this season

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Walk with healthy feet from top to bottom. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Walk with healthy feet from top to bottom. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

April is Foot and Awareness month and since our are also one of the most hardworking parts of our body, so it’s no wonder they need a lot of TLC.

While some issues with feet can be solved at home, others may need medical attention. Check out these common heel and toenail problems and what you can do about them to maintain good foot health. 

READ MORE| Now's the time to get your feet in tip top condition – here's how to do it at home

Common problems

Cracked heels

The skin around the heels is thicker than anywhere else on the body because it needs to survive the harsh envi - ronment, pressure from our weight and constant friction.

Cracked heels are caused by a mixture of dryness and pressure, and are a common problem which can come and go over time. This isn’t cause for concern, but left untreated it can end up requiring a doctor’s attention.

(Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Cracked heels. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)


  • Pregnancy
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Obesity
  • Ageing
  • Change of season
  • Dehydration
  • Abnormal skin thickening
  • Open footwear
  • Genetics


  • Flaky skin
  • Itching
  • Inflammation
  • Loss of feeling or tightness in the heel area


These are treatments you can try at home. Seek medical attention should your heels be painful or if you experience tenderness and bleeding.

Heel balm contains key ingredients that work on the skin to treat dryness. Ingredients such as urea, alpha-hydroxy acid and salicylic acid help exfoliate and soften the skin.

Soaking & exfoliating feet in soapy water softens dead skin and makes it easier to file off. Apply foot cream and lock it in with petroleum jelly afterwards.

Paraffin wax treatment is suitable for both hands and feet, it helps soften and adds, boosts and locks moisture in the skin. This is done at a salon and treatments are inexpensive.

Fungal infection 

This is caused by fungal organisms that commonly begin as yeast or mould under the nail, and can spread from one nail to another.

“Many of us may think of fungal infections as merely a cosmetic nuisance, but for sufferers, fungal infections can have a significant effect on the quality of their lives,” says Shannon te Roller, general manager for Mundipharma South Africa. 

Fungal infection. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)


  • Age
  • Psoriasis
  • Exposure to damp communal areas such as showers, pools and gyms
  • Sweating
  • Athlete’s foot


  • Thickened nail
  • Foul smell
  • Brittle nail
  • Discolouration


  • Wear breathable shoes.
  • Treat old shoes with disinfectant.
  • Wash hands and feet regularly with antibacterial liquid or soap.
  • Disinfect nail clippers after each use.
  • Wear absorbent socks if your feet sweat more than normal.
  • Wear flip-flops in communal areas and wash them regularly.
  • See a doctor if self-care steps haven’t worked and your nails become worse.

Ingrown toe nail

This usually affects the big toe and is caused by the corner of the nail growing into the flesh instead of over it. It can be quite painful and cause other complications.

(Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Ingrown toe nail. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)


  • Not cutting your nail straight across.
  • Wearing shoes that constrict the flesh around your toe.
  • Injuring your nail.
  • Toenails that curve and grow inwards.


  • Pain
  • Swelling on side of ingrown nail
  • Redness
  • Infection


  • Cut your nails straight across. To achieve this, use a nail clipper with straight blades, not curved ones.
  • Keep your nails short but avoid cutting them too close.
  • Wear shoes that don’t squash your toes.

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