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Anyone who has experienced foot pain knows only too well how debilitating it can be. We've talked to Mike O'Neill, Consultant Podiatrist and spokesperson for the College of Podiatry, who's given us some tips on how to help some of the most common foot problems.


Corns are the small, hard areas of dry skin that most commonly appear on the tops of the toes. Pressure from footwear causes a callus to form, and the central portion then grows rapidly into the skin, putting pressure on the underlying nerves and joints.

Mike O'Neill's advice

'Corns can be very painful, so it’s better to go and see a podiatrist than try to manage them yourself,' says Mike. 'Corn pads contain an acid that can irritate the surrounding skin, but a podiatrist will reduce the hard skin and advise you on the correct footwear to help minimise the pressure.'

Cracked heels

Mike O'Neill's advice

'This often affects women who wear sandals in the summer,' he says Mike O'Neill. 'If the skin in this area becomes dry and leathery it loses flexibility and cracks can develop. These are as sore as paper cuts and can easily get infected if you don’t wear socks or closed shoes.

'In most cases heel balm - which you can buy in the chemist - will fix the problem. It contains lactic acid to remove some of the dry skin, and a rich emollient to nourish your feet. However, if you are diabetic, if more cracks develop or if there is any sign of infection, see a podiatrist.'


A bunion is a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe, which often results in the toe pointing inwards, towards the other toes.

It’s not known exactly what causes them, but wearing badly-fitting shoes is thought to make the problem worse. Women are more likely to be affected than men, and research suggests that they may run in families.

Mike O'Neill's advice

'Other conditions, including arthritis and gout, are associated with bunions, so it’s important to talk to your GP or podiatrist if you notice any pain, tenderness or swelling at the base of your big toe. There are a range of treatment options available, including surgery.'

Hammer toe

A hammer toe is a common deformity of the second, third or fourth toe, which makes it look as if it is permanently bent. This can be present from birth, but often develops over time as a result of injury, rheumatoid arthritis or badly-fitting shoes.

Mike O'Neill's advice

'If the joint sticks out, you’re more likely to have problems with shoes rubbing and may also develop corns and calluses. Corrective insoles can help but severe cases may require surgery.'

Ingrown toenail

This occurs when the sides of the toenail grow into the surrounding skin, making it red and sore. The big toe is the most commonly-affected and they are a particular problem for older people as the nails naturally get thicker with age.

Mike O'Neill's advice

'Badly-cut toenails and tight shoes are the most likely causes but you can prevent problems by cutting your nails straight across, wearing comfortable shoes, washing your feet regularly and gently pushing the skin away from the nail using a cotton bud.

'If it doesn’t improve, a podiatrist may suggest removing part or all of your toenail to prevent further problems.

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Further information

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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