Winter Boots Spell Foot Trouble

As temperatures plummet and people reach for their trendy sheepskin boots and other warmth-generating footwear counterparts,  more and more people are dealing with some new problems in winter: foot fungus—such as athlete's foot-- and foot odor.

Most people don't think of having an athlete's foot infection in the middle of winter, but symptoms such as itching, burning, redness, blisters or cracking on the feet are symptoms to look out for especially if your feet are bundled up in heavy socks and warm shoes or boots.

Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection involving the skin of the foot. Fungus breeds abundantly in warm, dark and wet environments, and feet tend to sweat in fur and faux-fur lined boots, and once it gets into your toenails, it's difficult to get rid of. 

It's also highly contagious and can be picked up from wet surfaces contaminated with fungus such as gym showers and locker room floors. People with compromised immune systems or those with diabetes may be more at risk.

Once you have athlete's foot, your doctor may recommend treatments such as topical prescription anti-fungal medications including Terbinafine (Lamisil), Clotrimazole (Lotrimin) and Ketoconazole (Xolegel). Over-the-counter medications such as Miconazole that is applied to the affected area, are also used.

There are also alternative remedies that are common folk remedies for both athlete's foot and foot odor including tea tree oil, antibacterial soap, salt soaks or apple cider vinegar soaks, which create an acidic environment that kills fungus and prevents it from growing. Neem oil, which is believed to have antifungal and antibiotic properties, is also another option.

Foot odor is another pesky problem that's seen in the wintertime, caused primarily by bundled up feet.

Feet have hundreds of thousands of sweat glands which help regulate body temperature through perspiration. However, when it becomes excessive, particularly when you wear heavy socks and shoes, bromhidrosis is the result—in short—foot odor. In ordinary circumstances, feet produce an estimated pint of water through perspiration a day and excess foot moisture creates a perfect breeding ground for both bacteria and fungus.

To make matters worse, shoes are typically stored in dark closets and under beds, and unless they are fully dried out, bacteria and fungus can continue to grow in the shoes.

Preventing athlete's foot and foot odor in the first place is of course the best remedy.

One easy way to stave off foot fungus or bacterial growth that leads to foot odor, is to simply take your boots off, change their socks frequently and not wear the same boots every single day.

In addition, regular washing of the area and keeping feet as dry as possible, is best for prevention.  Socks that wick away moisture are another option. Cotton socks are a poor choice for winter weather because they absorb and hold moisture. Wool is naturally antibacterial and breathable. Certain synthetic socks help wick away moisture and keep athlete's foot and foot odor at bay.