Get out your swimsuits – it’s time to go swimming! Indoor and outdoor swimming pools just reopened today in Toronto! Given that we are also in the warmth of summer, family pools are open and beaches and lakes are being swarmed by eager swimmers (and sun worshippers).
Swimming is not only a great family activity; it is also fantastic exercise – especially for people with joint and foot pain. It is one of the lowest impact forms of physical activity, which makes it accessible and suitable for people of all ages. Whether you’re doing an aqua-fit class or laps around the pool, swimming is a fun and low-risk way to strengthen your joints and muscles, which is the best way to treat common foot conditions and foot pain, like arthritis, metatarsalgia and Morton’s neuroma. And best of all, you can do it while enjoying the beautiful summer weather.
However, keeping your feet healthy when you go swimming, particularly in public pools, has many considerations. We are at a higher risk of contracting Plantar Warts, Athlete’s Foot, and other fungal infections in public spaces. (Also consider chlorine’s drying and irritating effects on your skin.) Keeping your hygiene practices is therefore crucial for healthy feet when swimming.
Below, we will give you the lowdown on common foot conditions that can affect you when you go swimming, and how you can treat and prevent them. We’ll also give you some tips for good foot hygiene when you go swimming.
A plantar wart is a common viral skin infection. It presents as a small, rough growth on sole of the foot, and looks like a solid blister or small callus. They are usually caused by HPV, a virus carried by 2% of the population. The virus thrives in warm, moist environments, so a public pool is ideal for a plantar wart to grow – especially those wet puddles on deck and in the locker room. To protect yourself from getting plantar warts, it is wise to wear flip-flops or some other kind of footwear when you are in the locker room, on deck and in the showers (you don’t need to wear them in the pool). If you already have plantar warts, wearing footwear in these places will also help prevent spreading the virus to other people.
Plantar warts usually affect children and teenagers more because they do more activities in high-risk places. However, healthy adults can contract them as well. Anyone immunocompromised is also more at risk.
If you do get plantar warts, our Chiropodists at Feet First Clinic can help you. We facilitate different treatments depending on the severity of the situation.
Athlete’s Foot & Other Fungal Infections
Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection caused by dermatophytes. Sweaty feet from activity cultivates the growth of athlete’s foot (hence the name). Fungal infections like athlete’s foot thrive and reproduce in warm, moist environments. Thus they are very commonly found in public places like locker rooms or the pool deck, where there are lots of people walking around with sweaty, wet feet. If you or other visitors develop athlete’s foot and go barefoot in these places, you risk transmitting it to others. In fact, fungal infections are much more contagious and difficult to treat than plantar warts.
To prevent or combat foot fungus, you need to enlist proper hygiene tactics. For starters, make sure you thoroughly wash your feet, ideally before and after swimming (between the toes too!). This will make your feet a less friendly environment for bacteria and fungal growth, and can help eliminate any newly acquired bacteria or fungus before it sets up shop on your feet.
It is also advisable to wear flip-flops or some other kind of lightweight footwear in locker rooms, showers and on the decks of public swimming pools. One idea would be to invest in a pair of swimming shoes. You can take these from the pool to the lake. They are also great if you are combing around rocky shores.
If you do acquire a fungal infection in your foot, you can visit our clinic and store to find the right anti-fungal treatment.
Foot Hygiene for Swimmers
Proper hygiene for your feet is the best way to deal with the threat of plantar warts or athlete’s foot. You want to enjoy summer, and spend your time swimming, not dealing with foot issues.
The drying and irritating effects of chlorine on your skin is also something to consider. Dry feet can break up the skin in our feet and around our toenails. This provides a point of entry for fungal infections.
But don’t worry; this is an easy fix. Below are our top tips for good foot hygiene when you go swimming:
- Cleanse your feet regularly, and before and after swimming. Make sure you also get between the toes, where moisture can easily get trapped, and dry your feet thoroughly afterwards.
- Use an anti-bacterial foot powder or medicated foot cream afterwards. We recommend Gehwol’s Foot Powder: It has zinc-oxide, which has antimicrobial and skin protecting properties, as well as clotrimazole, which is proven to prevent fungal infections. You can dust some of this powder directly on your feet, in your socks, or in your shoes.
- Moisturize your feet regularly, and especially after swimming. Our skin’s natural protective properties are weakened when they’re wet. Moisturizing strengthens them. For a one-size-fits all solution, try Gerlachs Gehwol Extra Universal Foot Cream. It thoroughly moisturizes and disinfects your feet. It can also help you with corns, calluses, and blisters.
- Tend to your toenails and cuticles. The space on the sides of our toenails are a favoured entry point for fungal infections, so keeping it in tact is essential. We recommend Gehwol Fusskraft Soft Nail and Skin Protection Spray. It preserves the skin and nail’s natural protective properties, and strengthens them. It also contains bisabolol and clotrimazole to help protect the skin and nails against fungal infection. It’s so effective that the chiropodists use it in our clinic during treatments.
- Treat yourself to a foot bath. After a day in the water, a foot bath intensely cleanses your feet (it also feels super nice!). For a refreshing foot bath that will also help fight foot odour and foot sweat, we recommend Gehwol Fusskraft Herbal Bath.
Keep Healthy Feet When Swimming
At Feet First, we love summer, and we are big fans of swimming. Public pools and their communities offer many opportunities for exercise and socialization for people of all ages and mobilities. By keeping your feet hygiene up and visiting us if you encounter any issues with plantar warts or foot fungus, we are here to help get you back in the pool! Call us today and book your appointment or learn more about the products we carry at 416.769.3338 (FEET.)