Common Foot Problems: Over-the-Counter Treatments and Home Care

Blair A Becker, Marc A Childress
American Family Physician 2018 September 1, 98 (5): 298-303
Most foot disorders do not require podiatry referral or complex interventions. After the clinical diagnosis is made, these conditions can typically be managed with over-the-counter (OTC) and home remedies, with guidance from the primary care physician. Stretching and strengthening exercises, along with the use of heel cups, resolve most plantar fasciitis cases and are at least as effective as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or steroid injections. Hallux rigidus is best managed with a hard-soled shoe or rigid insert that relieves pain by restricting motion across the metatarsophalangeal joint. Hallux valgus responds to use of wide toe box shoes, and surgery is not clearly beneficial beyond one year. Plantar warts can be treated effectively at home with OTC salicylic acid and cryotherapy topical agents, which have equal effectiveness to liquid nitrogen. In patients with corns and calluses, OTC topical salicylic acid has short-term benefits, and pads and inserts that more evenly redistribute contact forces have long-term benefits. Inserts are commonly recommended to redistribute forefoot pressure and relieve pain. Several OTC preparations are available for the treatment of tinea pedis, with topical allylamines being the most effective. Although OTC topical treatments have been widely used for onychomycosis, they have poor long-term cure rates compared with prescription oral medications.

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