How to Properly Moisturize Dry Feet

Updated on November 16, 2019
Image © Redberry Sky, 2012.
Image © Redberry Sky, 2012.

Feet love a little care and attention, but just a little! Feet are sturdy and carry us around all day, but they are also very delicate and complex. They have 26 bones, two hundred and fifty thousand sweat glands, and if feet could dream, they would be dreaming of warm, clean dry socks and a little daily moisturizing attention.

Overenthusiastic foot care is as bad as none at all and can cause ingrowing toenails, Athlete’s Foot, and myriad other problems. So how do you give your feet what they want, make them soft and supple, and care for dry or hard skin without making things even worse?

Important Things to Know About Washing and Moisturizing Feet

  • Don’t moisturize between your toes! And when you dry your feet after washing them, pay particular attention to this area, as moisture here creates the perfect conditions for Athlete’s Foot and other infections to breed. Moisturize the soles of your feet and your heels.
  • Don’t over-soak feet! Use warm water, rather than hot, so that you don’t strip away the natural oils. If you have Athlete’s Foot, use cool or cold water instead and don’t apply moisturizer, but use surgical spirit, or ask your pharmacist for a specialist anti-fungal ointment for feet.
  • Feet should be kept warm, dry, and comfortable. Don’t apply so much moisturizer that your feet are squelching in your slippers! A little foot moisturizer goes a long way, and if you do apply too much pat off the excess and try to let your feet dry out a little for a few minutes before putting socks or slippers on.
  • Feet need gentle love and attention! It can be tempting to snip-snip at toenails until they’re cut right down, but too much will lead to ingrowing nails, and it can be equally tempting to go to town with the pumice stone to get rid of hard skin, but this can cause soreness and broken skin, which leaves your feet open to infection, so if you do use a pumice stone, use it gently and regularly weekly or monthly, and if hard skin is a particular problem see a specialist chiropodist or podiatrist, speak to your GP, or see your pharmacist for advice.

Image © Redberry Sky, 2012
Image © Redberry Sky, 2012

Nightly Foot Care Routine

Try to spend a few minutes before bed every night taking care of your feet.

  1. Wash them in warm water first, using ordinary soap or a foot wash product.
  2. Pat them dry (especially between the toes), and apply some foot cream—these are thicker than other moisturizers and often have tea tree oil or peppermint as an ingredient, which has antiseptic qualities and can keep odour and infection at bay.
  3. Work the cream into the soles of your feet, but, as with any foot moisturizing routine, try to avoid putting moisturizer between the toes.

Alternatively, use moisturizer and moisturizing socks. Some special foot creams come with lightweight socks that you put on after applying the moisturizer. The socks keep your feet a little warmer, which means that the creams absorb better into dry areas. After applying moisturizer, put your feet up for a few minutes with the socks on, but just for a few minutes, and when you remove the socks pat any excess moisturizer away using a thick towel. Remember that ordinary socks won't do for this! The special socks are very thin and the material is smooth. Normal socks will just rub the moisturizer off before it has a chance to work.

Weekly Foot Care Routine

  1. Soak your feet in warm water. Having a long luxurious bath using bath oils or bubble bath can make this easy, but the UK’s Society for Chiropodists and Podiatrists warns against soaking feet too much as it strips away your natural foot oils, so save soaking for a weekly treat.
  2. While your feet are still wet, use a pumice stone and gently rub any hard skin away, or alternatively, wash them with a foot scrub product. Don’t scrub with a pumice stone, and if your feet feel sore or tender, stop using it straight away.
  3. Now is a good time to trim those nails, while they’re soft from soaking in the bath. Trim them in a straight line and don’t trim too close to the toes—digging in and cutting them too enthusiastically, especially at the corners, can cause ingrowing nails, which are very painful and in severe cases may need surgery to correct the problem.

Weekly Foot Moisturizing Massage

Here's a weekly treat for your feet. While your feet are still damp from bathing them, massage them with Baby Oil or another skin softener. Take your time and massage your feet and toes gently and thoroughly. When your feet are positively tingling with relaxation, pat off the excess oil. Since with a foot massage the oil will get everywhere, and because feet don’t like too much moisture, it can be a good idea to gently wash feet after a massage and apply just a little foot moisturizer to the soles after drying them with a warm, thick towel.

The most important thing about foot care is to do it regularly. Gently pumice (or better, use a foot scrub product that gently exfoliates feet) and massage your feet with baby oil once a week, and try to apply a little moisturiser to the soles of clean feet every night, or at least 2-3 nights a week.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      My calluses are rock hard, and if I don't grind them down weekly, they crack to the point where every step feels like they're going to split to the bone. I've used a bunch of different creams, but nothing slows it down. Just have to use a sander, and sand it down weekly. I was hoping for a solution from this page.

    • Redberry Sky profile imageAUTHOR

      Redberry Sky 

      7 years ago

      Cheers LA :) I didn't know either, a few years ago, and I definitely think I did more harm than good at one stage, overdoing things on the moisturizing front!

    • LA Elsen profile image

      LA Elsen 

      7 years ago from Chicago, IL

      My feet are victims of abuse. I didn't realize you could over moisturize! Eeek! Well I am glad you wrote this hub. I learned so much with this information. Great tips.

    • Redberry Sky profile imageAUTHOR

      Redberry Sky 

      7 years ago

      Hey Jackie - I'm with you, there's nothing so lovely as warm pampered feet when you go to bed :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      I have never had athlete's foot or anything so serious but if my feet aren't lotioned before bedtime I most times have to do it in the middle of the night to get back to sleep. The want that moisturizing regularly.

      Important info, thank you.

    • Redberry Sky profile imageAUTHOR

      Redberry Sky 

      7 years ago

      You're absolutely right, Alecia :) and well-pampered feet feel so much snugglier in nice warm thick winter socks in the colder months too :)

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Now that it's getting cooler outside, it's easier to neglect your feet since they aren't being shown as much. But I've realized that if you take care of your feet when it's cooler, you don't have to worry about trying to do a rush job when it's warmer.

      Great tips!


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