Are your feet set for a sticky summer?

Are your plates of meat ready for the long, hot days to come? All set for exposure and scrutiny at the beach or pool? Are they buffed and neatened, with blemishes erased? Perhaps most importantly, are they sweet-smelling and infection-free?

Mine are now, thankfully, but in the nation's capital recently I was given a glimpse of how horrible things could be.

The highlight of any trip to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra is the exhibit where you pretend to be on the Western Front in 1916. The worst part of that experience isn't the thought of the mustard gas or the rats or the mud or the bullets, but the bit where you stick your foot in a hole and get a look at what 'trench foot' would look like. Scaly and rotten, red raw, blue with cold, and covered in blisters, sores and fungal infections. It's horrible.

According to Dr Wikipedia, trench foot is caused by a "prolonged exposure of the feet to damp and unsanitary condition". These days few of us, thankfully, spend much time with our feet in standing water; but many of us, says mobile beauty therapist Georgie Cooper, also don't keep them as dry as they should be.

"The worst foot problem for men is tinea, and the reason they get it is because they can't reach their feet to dry them," she says.

"It's quite a way down for some of them to get to. But still, they maybe all need to try a bit harder with the drying, especially between the toes."

Tinea (aka athlete's foot) is a fungal infection that "tends to spread to areas of skin that are kept hot and moist", says Wikipedia - such as sweaty feet. It's itchy, unsightly and infectious, and best avoided.

The best tips for men who want to look after their feet, Cooper says, are drying them after a shower (try bending over), wearing properly-fitting shoes, and, most importantly, changing socks.

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"Your feet can sit in the same pair of socks all day and if you've got a long walk to work, or you ride a bike, then your hot, damp feet are going to end up with Tinea, or some other nasty," Cooper says. "And as the weather heats up, the problem is only going to get worse."

The solution? "If your feet get sweaty and smelly, maybe you should change your socks at lunchtime, or when you get home."

(Strong hint: if you are planning on switching socks at work you might want to take yourself somewhere discreet first.)

Cooper should know - she runs  which brings manicures, pedicures and massages into the home. And she sees lots of feet, including mine.  

She gave me a fantastic pedicure - toenails cut; cuticles dealt with; rough skin buffed away and a great foot massage. And then was on her way.

If you don't want to get a pedicure from a professional you could do it yourself at home. There are some great products out there to help keep your feet in tip-top condition.

I've tried, and enjoyed Guinot's Longue Vie Pieds foot cream ($45), the maker of which claims more men "are insisting on caring for their feet as a key part of their overall skincare maintenance regime".

Tweezerman makes a range of grooming gear including special toenail clippers ($24.95). Bigger and more heavy duty than dainty fingernail clippers, they've got a no-slip grip for use after you've soaked the nails in a bath or shower.

And if you can't persuade anyone to give you a massage, Scholl has introduced a simple, cheap ($24.95) and portable substitute, the Crazy Feet Vibrating Foot Massager. According to Scholl, you can even use it at your desk during work.

Oh, and talking of feet, don't get me started on veruccas. I once went on holiday to a Grecian isle with my best mate and a couple of nurses. All was going swimmingly until one afternoon, as we lounged by the pool sipping long, iced  drinks, chatting  and laughing, I casually mentioned the verucca on my foot.

Nurse #2 ran off, screeching something about infection and thoughtlessness and I don't think I saw her again until my mate married nurse #1.

(Strong hint: if you're hanging round the pool this summer, or sharing a shower, wear a pair of thongs. And if you have a verucca (they look like a little cauliflower on your sole) go and see a pharmacist. Today.)

Are your feet all set for summer? What are the most heinous foot-related offences you're observed?  

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