Can you get sick from wet feet?

As a child, when I played outside during the winter, my mother always used to tell me to come inside if my feet and hands got wet as she was concerned I would catch a cold. This common, parental advice, might have you wonder if you can you get sick from wet feet. Although colds are caused by viruses, not cold, wet feet, my mother was right to make me come inside to dry off. Today, as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist, I advise my patients to do the same.
When water seeps through your footwear, your skin absorbs the water causing your feet to become waterlogged and wrinkly. The longer your feet are wet, the greater the damage to your skin, including tears and the formation of blisters and deep painful cracks. Depending on where they are located on the foot, these injuries can be painful and may limit your mobility. If you are living with diabetes the injuries can be life changing as they may lead to serious ulcers that become infected and take many months to heal.
Here are some tips to help keep your feet dry and healthy this winter:

  • Your winter boots are critical – a good quality pair of lined, properly-fitted winter boots is essential for winter in Canada. If you are using the same pair as last winter, inspect them closely to make sure there are no rips or cracks that could allow water to permeate through to your feet.
  • Weatherproof your everyday shoes – snow and sleet are unpredictable, and we’ve all been caught at the office without our boots when a storm hits. Water and salt can quickly destroy a good pair of leather shoes and damage your feet, so weatherproof your office shoes with a qood quality spray or cream before the winter sets in. Just remember, weatherproofing is not fool proof – it will offer some protection in a pinch but won’t hold up for repeated wearing in wet weather.
  • Stuff wet shoes to dry – if your shoes do get wet, don’t leave them on a radiator or use a hair dryer to dry them as the heat will cause the leather to crack and shrink. Instead, pat the outside of the shoes dry and stuff them with newspaper or paper towels. Be sure to change the stuffing frequently.
  • Wear wool or moisture wicking socks – Socks provide an important layer of protection, particularly during the winter. Avoid cotton or synthetic blends as they trap water against your skin. Opt instead for merino wool or moisture wicking materials.

Canadian winters are tough on feet so take the time to protect yours. Most importantly, if you notice a wound that does not heal, particularly if you are living with diabetes, book an appointment with your Canadian Certified Pedorthist or family doctor right away. Early intervention is critical to preventing a serious injury that could have long term implications.
By Brandon Wittig C. Ped (C) Kitchener, Ontario