As kids enter their teenage years, they are experiencing many changes. They are often self concious and not always taught the right thing to do. Of course, we can't get them a date for the dance. Or stop the onslaught of social media messages.
But we can offer this comfort. Keep your teen's feet healthy, can help them avoid some embarrassing and uncomfortable problems. (These include ingrown toenails, athlete's foot, toenail fungus, and foot odor.)
So, in this way, we could spare your kiddo at least a few hours of teenage angst. Which is why we suggest you read and share these tips with your own children. Or with other parents whose teenagers may be struggling.
1. Wash Your Feet Daily With Soap and Water
It is important for teens to keep their feet clean. (Really, they should focus on full-body cleansing. But we can only talk about their feet with expertise.)
I know, that washing your feet well with soap and water seems like common sense. But so many teens assume that standing in the shower water is enough. And that's just not true: it needs to be an extra step.
Why is that the case? Falling water doesn't do much. But washing feet well with soap and water will remove the germs and grime. (And boy do they build up when teens go barefoot or wear open shoes often.)
You may also need to provide some careful guidance for how to wash those feet. Tell your teens, be sure to wash between your toes! And remind them to proceed right to our next step, immediately after washing.
2. Dry Your Feet Well
It's great to get your feet wet and clean. But they shouldn't stay that way for long. Why? Fungus, bacteria, and viruses all grow in a dark, moist, warm environment.
Add to that the almost year-round heat and humidity of Houston! And suddenly, you're looking at the perfect storm of infections. (Think athlete's foot infections, fungal toenail infections, and plantar warts.)
So, how can your teen (or you) stay safe? After you shower, and carefully scrub your feet, dry them thoroughly. Be sure to dry well between your toes, since moisture lingers there. If your feet perspire a lot, wear running socks which pull the moisture away from your feet. (More on this in a minute.) And, if your feet do sweat a lot, try to change your socks during the day. (Toweling off wet spots before putting on a new pair.)
3. Trim Your Toenails Properly
So many teens I see in my Houston podiatry practice are trying to win an award for the longest toenails. That's really gross, as teens can be. But it's not the only problem with this lazy habit.
Untrimmed toenails are worse than a messy room. Why? Toenails that are too long will not only tear apart your socks, but will also harbor bacteria. For that reason, regular trimming is important. But you have to do it the right way. And here's how.
Using toenail clippers, trim your toenails back so they are just at the edge of your toe. I know you might think you need to trim toenails straight across. That's not the case: it is okay to have them slightly curved. Most importantly, trim your toenails with a clipper...DO NOT PICK AND TEAR THEM! (Check out our full guide to safe toenail trimming here.)
4. Wear Properly Fitted Shoes
Even if you trim your toenails properly, your risk for ingrown nails isn't over. Because, when you wear shoes that don't fit well, your nails can bang against the hard edge. And that trauma can change the direction of nail growth.
How to avoid this risk? It's pretty easy: just wear shoes that fit. Except, with plenty of kids, doing so becomes complicated.
After all, teens love their shoes and become very attached to them. This is why I often see them in my office with shoes that are too big and flopping around because they looked cool and were the last pair.
And that's not the only danger with shoes. Wearing them too long can hurt teens feet too. What happens when you wear a pair that's essentially dead, with holes in the sole? These shoes provide no support whatsoever. So, if they don't fit properly or are unsupportive, they can cause foot pain and injury.
5. Match the Shoes to the Activity
Teens today get involved in so many different sports. That's why it's not enough to just pick the right shoe fit for them. Because they also need to match their shoes to the specific activity.
What does that look like? If you've got a soccer, football or baseball player, look for cleats to prevent slips and falls. But again, be very careful with fit and toenail trimming here. Because cleats are very hard and inflexible. So if a long toneail hits the edge of a cleat, trauma is almost inevitable.
Got a budding track star? Look for supportive running shoes. (And think about adding a custom orthotic. Especially if your athlete has flat feet or high arches.)
Not sure which shoe is best for your teen? Come in for a consultation. I can look at teens' gaits, talk about activities, and make informed recommendations.
6. Choose the Right Socks, Too
One of my most famous lines is, "It all begins with the socks." Now, I've already told you that sweat wicking socks help prevent athlete's foot. But sport specific socks can also keep away annoying problems like blisters.
For teens who run a lot, I like low cut socks that won't rub at their ankles. And i don't hate pairs that come with padding in the heels. (They protect against running and provide extra shock absorption.)
Got a teen who loves hitting the trails? Choose a mid-calf or even knee sock. This height protects against scratches from branches. And it also avoids rubbing from high-top hiking boots. It may even help stabilize the ankle to prevent ankle sprains. (By the way, the same rules apply for basketball players in high tops.)
At the end of the day, I don't want to limit teenagers in their activities because of foot problems. Take good care of your feet and they will take great care of you. And if you notice anything that isn't looking or feeling just right? Contact our Houston podiatry office for an appointment with Dr. Andrew Schneider.