Some Common Foot Conditions Explained

Images from Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists - SCPOD

The Foot

Don't panic! The picture is not one of our clients; it's just a plastic model. There are 26 bones in the foot connected by a complex arrangement of muscles and ligaments and covered in fatty padding and tough yet supple flesh. This design makes the human body the best all-terrain vehicle on the planet. Humans have literally walked to the ends of the Earth and climbed onto its roof.

The feet are in constant demand throughout the waking day and it is, perhaps, not surprising that they sometimes need some help. In this section of the website you will find some brief explanations of common problems that the podiatrist can help you to overcome.

Find more information at the College of Podiatry.


The verruca (plural verrucae) is simply a wart. Most verrucae occur on the soles of the feet but they can also grow around the toes. The young verruca looks like a small dark puncture mark but later turns grey or brown. It's possible for verrucae to clear up without help but they can spread easily.

Sweaty Feet

You may already know that sweaty smells (including smelly feet) are caused by bacteria that enjoy warm, moist conditions. Feet have more sweat glands than anywhere else because the moisture is needed to keep the flesh supple; so feet will continue to sweat even when they aren't hot! Rigorous hygiene is the best prevention and cure. If you can avoid wearing the same shoes all day every day, you will give them a chance to dry out. Leather shoes are naturally breathable and lace ups don't have to be such a tight fit as slip-ons so may allow better air circulation

Callus and Corns

When walking or standing, weight is taken on the heel and ball of the foot where the skin grows thick to withstand the pressure. The skin may thicken anywhere where there is excessive pressure as a protective response. Sometimes this thickening develops into an uncomfortable corn or callus. Most calluses indicate an underlying problem such as a bony deformity or inappropriate footwear. Some people have skin that hardens up more easily and elderly people are also prone to corns and calluses because they tend to have less fatty padding tissue.

A callus can become painful, 'like walking on stones'. The podiatrist can remove the callus to give rapid pain relief, 'like walking on air'. You should also expect preventive advice and treatment, for example padding to redistribute weight.

Ingrowing Toenail

An ingrowing toenail is one which has started to pierce the flesh of the toe. It sounds painful, and is! Pain like a splinter is an early sign. An ingrowing toenail can cause bleeding and infection and the sooner it is treated, the quicker and less painful the treatment.

Causes include the way you stand (posture), the way you walk (gait) and some people's toenails just have a natural tendency to curl inwards. One of the most common causes, however, is not cutting toenails properly (the risk of an ingrowing toenail is a good reason not to pick your nails.)

Fungal Infections (Athlete's Foot)

Athlete's Foot is a fungal infection. You can pick up fungus anywhere where you walk barefoot but especially communal areas such as changing rooms, showers and pool-sides. Once a foot has been contaminated, the warm sweaty shoe or trainer creates ideal growing conditions. Some fungi species also like it if summer sandals allow feet to dry out too much and lose their natural protective oils.

Your pharmacist should be able to recommend a treatment that may avoid the need to visit the podiatrist, and you can do lots to protect yourself.

Wear flip-flops in the shower and changing rooms. Keep your feet clean, and dry them thoroughly before putting on socks and shoes. Don't wear the same shoes every day. Choose socks and shoes that let your feet 'breathe'.