Always keep your feet (and the rest of your body and gi) clean and your fingernails and toenails trimmed for your health and as a courtesy to your training partners. Bring sandals or flip-flops and wear them up until you step into dojo. Beyond this there is some additional care we need to take.
Your feet are exposed to a little more wear and tear in Aikido because you’re training barefoot and you tend to slide and turn on the mat a lot. It’s customary to train barefoot, but there are types of foot covering that are fine too. If you want to wear foot covering you can use either non-slip socks with little grips built into the bottom or you can wear tabi. Do not wear regular socks (you’ll slip too easily) and don’t wear any type of soled shoe (they can damage the mats). In general it is most accepted to train barefoot.
1. Wash Your Feet Twice A Day
Feet get dirtier and sweatier than other parts of your body. Wash them regularly. Don’t just depend on the water running over your feet in the shower. Take a washcloth and scrub them well. Wash your feet twice a day, at the beginning and the end of the day.
Use warm water, not too hot. Hot water can strip away the skin’s natural oils and dry your feet out. After washing, use a soft towel and dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes. Water between the toes can lead to fungal infection like athlete’s foot. After drying your feet put that towel in the laundry.
Take a moment to check your feet and toenails. Make sure they’re not showing signs of nail fungus, infection or other problems. If you notice anything unusual please check with the appropriate health care professional.
2. Exfoliate Twice A Week
The skin on your feet is thicker. Being barefoot will promote callus formation even more. So you have to remove dead skin regularly to keep them healthy. Dead skin cells and sweat on your feet create a feeding ground for fungus and other microbes. Regular exfoliation also helps reduce the risk of corns or calluses. If you have corns or calluses it’s best to get them treated by a doctor. If you’re diabetic or have other health conditions that might affect your feet then go to an appropriate medical professional.
To exfoliate, soak your feet in a bath or a basin to soften the skin. This also helps reduce foot odor, release stress and eliminate toxins. Epsom salts make a great foot soak. Add half-cup of Epsom salt to a tub of warm water (not too hot!). Add a few drops of lavender oil or other aromatic essential oil if you like. Soak your feet for about 10 minutes.
After you’ve soaked for about 10 minutes use a wet callus file or pumice stone to get rid of dead skin cells. I use a callus file which is basically like sandpaper with a coarse side and a fine side. Keep it wet and scrub the bottoms of your feet, heels and toes with a gentle sanding motion. Don’t rub too hard – you don’t want to damage yourself. Go easy! Spend a little extra time on areas of your feet that tend to build up calluses.
There are also foot scrubs that are like a gritty paste that you can exfoliate your feet with. Even after you use a foot scrub still use the pumice stone or the callus file.
When you’re done, rinse your feet off with cool water, pat them dry and apply a good quality moisturizing foot cream. If you’re doing this right before bed it’s nice to apply foot cream and then put on clean cotton socks to wear to bed. In the morning your feet will be nice and smooth. Don’t put too much foot cream between your toes.
3. Keep Your Feet Moisturized
Consider applying foot moisturizer cream every day before you put your socks on in the morning and then before bed after you shower. Apply moisturizer all over the top and bottom of your feet. If you have a few minutes you can give yourself a little foot massage. You can also roll your feet on a foam roller or an empty bottle on the floor for a little extra self care.
In addition to store bought products there are many natural things you can use to moisturize your feet like coconut oil, olive oil or cocoa butter. With coconut oil you may need to warm it up a little before you use it in order to help absorb quickly into the skin.
4. Trim Toenails Properly
At least every couple of weeks trim your toenails to keep them neat and healthy. Fingernails grow faster so you need to trim them more often. Use proper nail clippers. After you shower or soak your feet your nails are a bit softer and easier to trim. Don’t cut them too short. Cut straight across. Then smooth the corners with a nail file or emery board. Don’t cut don’t into the edges. This can lead to ingrown toenails which can be painful. If you do get an ingrown toenail get help from a professional.
Care for your cuticles with some cuticle oil to your toenails. Wait 5 minutes and then push the cuticle back with an orangewood stick. Be gentle.
7. Shoes and Socks (During your non-training life)
One of the many things we benefit from in aikido is the fact that we train barefoot. This stimulation to the foot is so healthy in so many ways that I could write a whole article just on that. But during the rest of your life, be sure to wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. You want your shoes to fit well without slipping around. You also don’t want your shoes to restrict the movement of your feet.
When Buying Shoes:
- Always try on both shoes and walk a bit to see if they’re comfortable.
- Choose quality materials that let your feet breathe and mold to the shape of your foot.
- Shop for shoes in the late afternoon or evening when you feet are naturally a little more swollen.
- When trying on shoes wear socks or hosiery like you’ll be wearing if you buy them.
- Avoid wearing flip-flops all the time, as they don’t provide enough support. They can also cause arch and heel pain and they really increase callus formation.
Our feet have a lot of sweat glands. Always wear cotton socks and change your socks daily. Avoid wearing socks made of synthetic fibers.
A couple more things…
You can also go get an occasional pedicure – yes, even us guys. It’s relaxing and they do the hard work for you. However, I do try to avoid salons that have that strong nail polish smell!
Consider sprinkling baby powder in your shoes before you put them on to help reduce sweaty odor.
We never wear our shoes in our house and neither should you (that’s for another article)! Take off your shoes when you get home and let your feet breathe! Women, also consider giving your nails a break from nail polish occasionally.
You might want to keep some hydrogen peroxide and tea tree oil on hand. Both of these can help with mild fungal issues. If you’ve got a more serious infection then you might need to get a stronger treatment or see a professional!
Take care when you’re at the beach. I’ve burned the tops of my feet more than a few times when I neglected to get enough sun screen on the tops of my feet. I don’t make that mistake any more!
Taking care of your feet can be something you enjoy and look forward to!