Footcare for Older People, Tips for Healthy Living

Our feet work hard and are vital to our health, comfort and balance.  Here you will find information on how best to look after your feet.

How to take care of your feet
Common foot problems
Foot care for diabetics
HSE chiropody service


How to take care of your feet
During a lifetime, your feet may walk the equivalent of four times around the world, so it is essential that you take good care of them. When buying new footwear, it is important to remember that:

  • It is a good idea to buy shoes in the afternoon as your feet may swell during the day
  • The size and shape of your feet may change as you get older, so it is important to get your feet measured when you buy new shoes
  • There should be a half inch gap between the tip of your toes and the ends of your shoes
  • The widest part of your foot should rest in the widest part of the shoe
  • Always try on shoes before buying them
  • Footwear with rubber soles and soft leather uppers will be most comfortable and safe.


Socks, tights and stockings

  • Avoid garters as they reduce the circulation of blood to the feet and ankles
  • Cotton socks are best as they allow the feet to breathe
  • Always wear socks or stockings that fit properly
  • Change your socks or stockings each day.


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Foot Hygiene
Where possible:

  • Wash your feet daily in warm (not hot) soapy water, rinse them well and dry with a soft towel
  • Make sure your feet are completely dry (particularly the area between your toes) before putting on socks and shoes
  • Trim your toenails regularly using nail clippers. Always cut straight across to avoid in-growing toenails
  • If you have dry skin on your feet you should apply moisturising cream (except between your toes)
  • Massage your feet gently upward from the toes towards the knees to get the blood flowing freely.

If you cannot manage to do this on your own ask someone for help, e.g. family or friends.


Exercise can help to keep your feet healthy by toning up muscles, strengthening arches and stimulating circulation. Walking is one of the easiest and best forms of exercise. When sitting, move your foot up and down to keep blood flowing and strengthen your muscles.

Common foot problems
Always treat your feet gently and with care. A small cut or sore can take a long time to heal.


Corns and calluses- are a build up of hard dead skin caused by pressure when bony parts of the feet rub against the shoes. Wearing shoes that fit better or using special pads may solve the problem. If corns or calluses become painful, visit the chiropodist (a specialist who treats foot problems) or doctor. Avoid using corn plaster preparations as they may contain acid.  Do not treat them yourself.


Bunions– develop when the joints of the big toe no longer fit together.  This causes a painful swelling which makes walking difficult.  Wearing shoes made of soft leather or fabric uppers, or bunion shields which are available from the chemist, may help to ease the discomfort.  Your chiropodist or doctor will advise on how to treat the condition.


Athlete’s Foot – is a fungal infection and is very contagious.  It causes dry skin, an itchy rash, splitting of the skin between the toes and blisters on the skin under the toes.  To prevent infection, keep your feet – especially the area between your toes – clean and dry.  Change your shoes, socks, tights or stockings often.  Regular use of anti-fungal foot powders or creams, available from the chemist, can treat athlete’s foot.  If the condition does not get better within two weeks, visit your chiropodist or doctor.


In-growing toenails – can be very painful and are usually caused by cutting the toenail too short or by wearing shoes that are too tight.  Your chiropodist or doctor will advise on how to treat the condition.  Never attempt to treat in-growing toenails yourself.

Foot care for diabetics
People suffering from diabetes can often experience loss of sensation in their feet.  Even the smallest injury can lead to infection, which if not treated quickly can lead to problems. If you are diabetic, you should:

  • Check your shoes before putting them on, for small pebbles, rough seams, loose stitching or anything that could rub against your foot
  • Keep your feet clean and moisturised – don’t moisturise between your toes
  • Examine your feet each day for cracks, bleeding or any signs of infection
  • Get your feet checked regularly by your chiropodist or doctor
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit well.

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HSE chiropody service
The HSE can provide certain chiropody services to Medical Card holders. The doctor or public health nurse refers patients to the service.  For further information on the chiropody service in your area, contact your local health centre or community services office.  There are also private chiropodists throughout the country who can be contacted directly to arrange an appointment, your public health nurse may have contact details for chiropodists.


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Other useful articles or links:

Citizen’s Information – Chiropody Services in Ireland



Click here for HSE Local Health Offices

Click here for HSE Health Centres


HSE National Information Line
Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850

Citizen’s Information Centres
LoCall: 1890 777 121

Free and confidential service

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