Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Foot care

4-minute read

There’s more to looking after your feet than wearing shoes and cutting your toenails. Foot conditions and injuries are common, and many health conditions affecting other parts of your body can also impact your feet.

What are the types of foot problems?

Common foot injuries

Ligament sprains (for example, ankle sprain) happen when joint ligaments stretch and tear causing pain and swelling, and limit walking. Mild sprains heal with rest, ice and elevation (keeping them off the ground). Severe sprains need medical attention.

Broken bones in the feet can be caused by trauma from a fall or sports injury.

Common foot conditions

  • heel pain (for example, plantar fasciitis) caused by poor shoes, flat feet or walking on hard surfaces
  • bunions that occur because your toes and feet change shape, causing skin damage and pain while walking and wearing shoes
  • warts on the sole, heel or toes, which appear as a white area of skin with tiny black dots in the centre
  • tinea (also known as athlete's foot), an infection of the skin characterised by a red, itchy rash or peeling of the skin, especially between the toes
  • corns and calluses due to pressure from footwear or walking, often found on the tops of the toes, balls of the feet and heels
  • ingrown toenails on any toe, but most commonly the big toe

There are many other skin conditions and toenail problems (including fungal or thickened toenails) that need regular foot care and advice from a health professional (see ‘Foot care specialists’, below).

What illnesses can affect the feet?

Some illnesses that affect the whole body can cause particular changes in your feet.

Diabetes can damage the nerves in your feet, reduce blood flow and increase the risk of infection. In extreme cases, this might lead to foot ulcers, and possibly amputation if the ulcers and infection don’t heal.

Poor blood flow to the feet can cause skin changes, coldness, brittle toenails and pain when walking or resting. Circulation problems in the legs and feet might also indicate a risk of heart disease and stroke.

Arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout, can damage the joints of the feet, causing deformity and pain in affected areas.

How does ageing affect the feet?

As you get older, the fatty cushioning under the heels and balls of your feet gets thinner, and your skin loses its elasticity and strength. Toenails become thicker and tougher, making them harder to cut.

Bone deformities, such as bunions and arthritis, can lead to foot health issues like pain, corns and calluses, and they might increase your risk of falls.

Foot care specialists

Podiatrists are university-trained health professionals who treat medical conditions of the feet and lower legs. They work in private clinics, community health services or public hospitals.

Other health professionals, such as orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists, can help with problems of the muscles and bones of your feet and ankles. You may need a referral from your GP to see these specialists.

Caring for your feet

A good daily foot health routine includes:

  • washing and drying your feet
  • checking for redness, swelling, cuts, pus, splinters or blisters
  • moisturising skin

Cut toenails straight across, filing sharp edges. Avoid over-the-counter corn cures and tight socks or stockings.

If you notice a change or problem with your feet, seek help. If you can’t see clearly, ask a family member or carer to check your feet for you.

Make sure your shoes fit and suit the activity you are doing. Shoes should be the right length (1.5cm longer than your longest toe), width and depth.

Where to go for more help

To find a podiatrist, physiotherapist or orthopaedic surgeon near you, use the healthdirect service finder, or ask your GP.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

If you have symptoms and are not sure what to do, use the healthdirect Symptom Checker.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2021

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Foot Care

Limbs 4 Life is the recognized that amputees needed an organisation that provided up-to-date information and formalized peer support.

Read more on Limbs 4 Life website

Foot care -

Common foot care problems include fungal foot infections, e.g. athlete's foot and fungal nail infections, and warts, corns and calluses. Find out what products are available for foot care.

Read more on myDr website

Diabetic conditions affecting the legs and feet -

The feet and legs are common sites for complications in people with diabetes, and for this reason good foot care is very important.

Read more on myDr website

Feet: checklist for foot health -

Foot problems such as smelly feet, athlete's foot, plantar warts, corns and infected toenails can all be alleviated through good foot care. Use this checklist of quick questions to check the health of your feet. 

Read more on myDr website

Foot health

Read more on Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute website

Diabetes Self management

Read more on Diabetes Victoria website

Diabetes and your feet | Diabetes Australia

When you have diabetes, you need to take care of your feet every day. Diabetes can damage the nerves in your feet, leading to poor ...

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Children's feet

Caring for your child's feet is important for their development. Learn how to look after your child's feet, choose footwear, and spot foot problems.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Foot health and ageing -

The condition of our feet often provides early indications of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or circulatory disease. For this reason, the human foot is sometimes called the mirror of health.

Read more on myDr website

Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disorder - Brain Foundation

Description Charcot-Marie-Tooth, or CMT, is a common inherited neurological disorder, found world-wide in all races and ethnic groups

Read more on Brain Foundation website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.