As a podiatrist, I enjoy (and sometimes worry) hearing about my patients creative at-home remedies and 'cures' for foot conditions. Let me tell you, I've heard some strange ones (urinating on your foot as a cure for athletes foot?! Do not try this at home!). These crafty tips have often been passed down through the family, but usually cause more harm than good.

I've compiled a list of the most common myths podiatrists come across in private practice to separate fact from fiction.

  1. My shoes have caused my bunions

Bunions are almost always caused by an underlying genetic predisposition (thanks Mum and Dad). I often have ladies blame their high heels, or men who grew up with just one pair of shoes explain this as the cause of their bunions. It is true that certain shoe features such as a narrow toe box (front part of your shoe) or flimsy support can contribute to secondary symptoms (like nerve compression or bursas), but unless your toes were braced in this position and you never took your shoes off, shoes are almost certainly not the cause. You can point the finger elsewhere!

2. Listerine, vinegar soaks or Vicks VapoRub will cure toenail fungus

The idea is that the pH level of these concoctions will kill the fungal spores and save money; topical antifungals from the chemist can get expensive. Unfortunately, these chemicals cannot effectively penetrate underneath the nail where the nail fungus is located and may cause irritation, peeling skin or ingrown nails. Nail fungus should be diagnosed and treated properly by a podiatrist... So you may want to put those back in the cupboard.

3. Ibuprofen and paracetamol are good treatments for plantar fasciitis (heel pain).

Taking simple over the counter analgesics or anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or paracetamol is proven to help with heel pain. However, these medications provide only temporary pain relief and do not treat the underlying cause of the condition. This can often delay a trip to the podiatrist, and with a condition best treated sooner rather than later this can lead to slower recovery and more damage.

4.  Cutting a notch (a “V”) in a toenail will relieve the pain of ingrown toenails.

When a toenail is ingrown, the nail curves downward and grows into the skin, often piercing it. Cutting a “V” in the toenail does not affect its growth, the nail will continue to curve in this way unless it is trained to grow. Cutting a “V” may actually cause more problems and is painful in many cases. Furthermore, I’ve seen many an infected ingrown from those attempting to fix it themselves.

5. If you can move your foot or ankle, it’s not broken

There is a widespread idea that a foot or ankle isn’t broken if you can move it. This myth prevents many people from seeking the medical treatment they need for fractures. There are different types of fractures that people can walk on, including a toe fracture, small “chip” fractures of the foot and ankle bones, and breaks of the thinner of the two leg bones. Always get it checked!

6. Corns have roots

Corns don’t have roots, so don’t try to cut them off, file them down, or dig out their non-existent roots. This can cause pain, infection, and lead to further problems. Corns are a build-up of skin caused by pressure or friction. Have a podiatrist safely evaluate and treat corns as well as determine their underlying cause.

7.Vinegar can cure foot odor.

A vinegar-water soak has often been touted by patients as a treatment for foot odour. The acetic acid in this can indirectly limit foot odour however the most effective proven way is actually by applying antiperspirants. Yes that’s right- your deodorant! This reduces sweating which is how bacteria (the scent culprits) developed in the first place. Kill the root at the cause, in an equally as affordable and far more effective way.

The take home message being to have your condition properly diagnosed and managed by your podiatrist, it could be something more sinister or you could make matters worse. Most importantly, we need to address the underlying cause of the problem in the first place. Happy feet!

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This advice is intended as an educational tool only, and should not replace your medical practitioners or podiatrists advice. This is the intellectual property of Claire Westra and cannot be reproduced without permission.

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