How To Take Care of Your Winter Feet

After living in Canada for a year and a half, I have had to re-learn how to do foot care. I gave up on foot care after I left ballet. It wasn’t important to take care of my feet regularly in sunny California or rainy, humid London because the climate didn’t require it. After my first winter in Calgary, I thought, “Yay!! No more foot care for at least 3 months!!” I was dead wrong. I still had to take care of my feet in the summer. It should have been a clue when I heard the following quote.

“Canada is not for the cold of heart or the cold of feet.” – Pierre Trudeau

Before I Share My Foot Care Advice, A Few Things:

Disclaimer: I HATE feet!!

I used to be a ballet dancer, so of course, I hate feet.

Don’t worry. I won’t be sharing any pictures of my dancer’s feet!

I have Small Foot Syndrome because everyone I knew was surprised I had small feet, even for a dancer. Still, I am happy I knew about foot care before I moved to Canada, even though I have a strong case of foot care fatigue. Winter foot care applies to the summer too. Don’t think you can’t get problems by walking a lot in sandals. I only call it winter foot care because winter is the dominant season here.

Prevention is Better than Cure:

That is extremely true for feet! When you get new winter boots or even any type of shoe, you learn where the rub points are. The best thing you can do is put Band-Aids or Moleskin on the areas before going outside! When I was in ballet, I would tape my toes prior to putting my pointe shoes on. That drastically reduced the number of blisters I got! The same thing is true for putting Band-Aids on areas where your shoes rub before you go outside. If your feet are blister-free, try to keep it that way! I used microporous tape and made sure it was good quality. Bad quality tape does NOT prevent blisters! At all. Band-Aids work well for wrapping my toes in shoes though.

Additionally, be mindful of how you put your shoes or boots on and take them off. I’m serious. That can determine whether you get blisters. Last winter, I kept my boots laced and slid my feet into them. It didn’t matter that I had Band-Aids on my heel. It still dug into my heel. Sliding my feet into my boots moved my socks into the wrong position too, even though I didn’t know it. Once I loosened the laces before putting my boots on and made sure my socks were in the right position, no more blisters on my heel!

When I lived in Colorado, I learned how to ice-skate and enjoyed that sport for three years! I found the lessons I learned in not letting my socks wrinkle and not sliding my feet in my boots are similar to putting on ice skates.

A Note About Boots and Sub-Zero Temperatures:

Too many layers of socks can give you blisters too. Blister prevention is critical in sub-zero temperatures because frostbite is a danger once the temperature drops to -20 C or below. Have you ever seen Scott of the Antarctic starring Sir John Mills? Well, it shows how damaged skin leads to frostbite. Know how many layers you need inside your boots and make sure they don’t wrinkle as well! Last winter, I walked a total of 20 blocks when it was -30 C with a windchill of almost -40 C. It was my first time doing something like that. Before I left, I inspected my hands and feet for damaged skin. When I left, I automatically knew that if I hadn’t checked for damaged skin, I would have turned back. When it’s too cold to be outside with damaged skin, no amount of layering makes it feel better. IYKYK.

Blister Cures:

If after all the prevention, blisters still happen, here’s what I do. Have you ever had a painful bubble of skin and wondered whether to pop it or leave it? Here’s my answer: Pop it. Plus, if you follow my steps below, it will feel a lot better, and faster.

  1. Soak your feet in warm/hot water with unscented Epsom salts. Scented ones irritate your skin. Move your feet around because it helps the blister stop hurting sooner.
  2. When your feet get wrinkly, or when the blister stops hurting, take a sterilized implement (I use nail scissors or a nail clipper) and burst it. Or get someone to burst it for you. Note: if waiting for your feet to get wrinkly isn’t an option for you due to nerve damage, wait until the blister stops hurting to pop it.
  3. Keep your feet in the warm water until the pain goes away.
  4. Wrap it snugly in a Band-Aid (it needs pressure). You can put something to moisturize the skin too if you want.
  5. Put on some socks that you love and put your feet up later (I will explain in a minute what my recommendations for that are).

You’ll be amazed at how much faster your blisters heal!

Cracked Skin:

When I was a ballet dancer, putting lotion on my feet was VERBOTEN after starting to dance en pointe! I basically went 8 years without moisturizing my feet while I was in ballet, and then it was another 10 years of never needing to do it. When I moved to Calgary, it felt brand new to me to start moisturizing my feet.

I found some foot masks at Dollarama which are great for moisturizing or exfoliating. I use them once a month during winter. Additionally, I use a cream that is dermatologically approved. In terms of cream, I like to use a balance between ones that are dermatologically approved and ones that are environmentally friendly. My favourite brands are both Burt’s Bees (for environmentally friendly) and Cerave (for dermatologically approved). It’s a shame that so far, I haven’t found anything that has both qualities. I’ll bide my time though. Here’s what I do: I keep an organic, environmentally friendly cream with honey in my bag. I apply it before I go outside in subzero temperatures and reapply while outside as needed. I also use organic, environmentally friendly face cream. When I need something to moisturize deeper into my skin, I use dermatologically approved cream.

When I was living in London, there was this solution that I bought called Surgical Spirit. I know, kind of a creepy name right? It was an alcohol solution that contained castor oil to prevent your skin from cracking. It toughens your skin without drying it out. I used it every night after my bath when I was in ballet. If liquids were still allowed on planes, I would go to the UK and fill up a suitcase with Surgical Spirit! But, since I can’t do that, Mum figured out how to make it! With her chemistry background and my ballet background, we make a good team!

Recipe for Surgical Spirit Substitute:

  • 1 cup Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
  • 1/4 cup Listerine
    • Note: It must be Listerine! It has the required amount of methylated spirits.
  • 1 tbsp Castor Oil

Mix together well.

The reason this works so well is the alcohol breaks up the dense fat molecules in the castor oil. Give this a try and let me know if you see a difference in how tough your skin is!

Calluses, Corns and Plantar Warts:

I keep a steady supply of callus removers and corn removers. Plus, if anyone gets a plantar wart, god forbid, we have home treatment supplies for that. I’m currently treating this plantar wart that I have had for years without knowing it, and doing it aggressively! Summer is the time to treat plantar warts because I’m not shoving my feet into winter boots! One thing I have not tried yet, but will likely try next year is getting a medical pedicure after putting my winter boots away. That way, my feet will be all refreshed for summer. I’ll let you know how that goes!

My Mum knows that if she sends me to the pharmacy to get one thing for our feet, I will come back with things to replenish our supply of what we currently have! She’s fine with it because that’s the ballet dancer in me! We joke that we should buy stock in Life Brand, Dr. Scholls and Compound W!

Footbaths:

Remember the post I did about the best material possessions I got since moving here? There’s a reason why some of those items have to do with feet! A proper footbath is an investment here, not a luxury! During the winter, I use it once a week to get rid of dead skin. A buildup of dead skin is a bad thing when you have months of winter ahead of you!

I deliberately got a footbath that runs for an hour. Twenty minutes in a footbath is not enough to get rid of dead skin! Originally, I bought a footbath with a 20-minute limit, but the motor started to smell after 10 minutes, even when I used it the first time. A strong motor is imperative! I also use a pumice stone and scraper on my feet when my footbath is done but the water is cooling down. I change the pumice stone and scraper every 6-12 months.

Nice Socks and Leg Pillows!:

After I have had a rough day on my feet (or not), there’s nothing I love more than wearing nice socks and raising my feet on a leg pillow! In the post I referenced in the previous section, I talked about the leg pillow and reading socks that I got. I personally love leg pillows that are adjustable. Mine can be used in four different ways! It benefits circulation to raise your feet to your heart level on a regular basis. But there are some other benefits. Sometimes, my skin gets this burning feeling when I wear shoes too long. Putting my feet up relieves it, but also wearing special socks.

I wear different socks depending on what I need. If my feet are too hot, I just go barefoot. Sometimes, I need something super soft against my feet because the skin feels tender, so I wear my reading socks. I can’t believe I didn’t discover toe socks until my mid-20s! They would have been a lifesaver in ballet! I have moments where the joints feel bad and putting on toe socks relieves the joints because it spreads my toes a bit to relieve the inflammation. As a former dancer, I absolutely LOVE good-quality socks! You would have thought I had a major sock fetish if you knew me when I was in ballet!

I have some other hacks for footcare and winter self-care, but that’s another post! Hope you liked what I had to say about the subject from a dancer’s perspective. What do you do for foot care? Let me know in the comments!

Weird Winter in Calgary so far. Um, what? Normal, hey? πŸ€”

I wonder if this post will bust some stereotypes about Canadian winters. So, here goes!

Before I Moved:

Okay. I admit it. I fell for certain stereotypes about Canadian winters. Living in California for seven years after living in London didn’t help me to challenge those stereotypes. When I did tutor training, I watched this TED talk called The Danger of the Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I watched it again after I moved because I knew I was going to have experiences that challenged my preconceptions about Canada. What really resonates with me is how honest she is about the times she has fallen for the Single Story. She also talks about how she has been treated because other people had a Single Story in their minds. Here’s the video of The Danger of the Single Story below if you’re interested.

What I initially thought about Canadian Winters:

Okay, a disclaimer before I show these photos! It doesn’t help stereotypes to always have snow in memes when you’re talking about Canada!

Expectation:

Expectation of Canadian Winter
Source: Facebook

Cold right? It’s also funny!

Reality:

Source: Buzzfeed

Okay. 5 degrees isn’t exactly shorts and sandals for me personally. I can go out wearing a down jacket and carrying a sweater with me just in case it gets colder. There was no need to layer up though. I was rather proud of myself for taking the garbage out in my hoodie at -10 degree weather during my quarantine period and I wasn’t even cold! My friends in California balked when I told them! I did think that winter was going to be constant sub-zero temperatures. My imagination told me I would need to layer up every time I go out, and that there would always be thick layers of snow. Boy, was I wrong! 😱 One good thing is that I have friends in Calgary who did tell me a bit about the winter before I moved. They didn’t tell me everything though, which I appreciated because I wanted to discover some things on my own. I knew about the need to layer up when it was subzero though. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on the subject. My friends talked about chinooks too but didn’t say too much about them. I learned more after moving. Read on to find out what I have learned so far this weird winter!

October Weather:

As many of you know, I arrived in Canada in mid-October. You can read my first impressions of Canadian winter in my following posts:

Flying Internationally and Locally during COVID-19

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 1

Calgary Quarantine Diaries: Week 2

First Month Theme: Is This A Thing?

After I arrived, it snowed for 3 days straight! I was just pissed off that I couldn’t go out for a walk to enjoy it because I was in my mandatory quarantine period! I figured there would be more big snowfalls later on, BUT so far, there haven’t been any other snowfalls as big as that! If you have questions about driving in the snow, I can’t answer them right now. I made the decision to not drive this winter. First of all, I have to figure out the process of getting a driver’s license. It’s dependent on your immigration status. Second of all, the only time I drove in the snow was when I spent a Christmas at Yosemite. My plan is to get used to driving in Canada in the “summer” (such as it is)πŸ˜‚. That should give me time to learn about things I need to do before winter hits again.

November Weather:

After my Mum and I were done with quarantine, we had to pick something up at Best Buy. The guy who helped us noticed we had US government I.D. He welcomed us, asked where we moved from, and then asked how we liked the weather. I said it was beautiful! He said, “You like our weather? Wait 20 minutes.” Now I know that’s a common thing to say in Calgary. He ended up talking our ears off about the weather and climate in Calgary and Alberta! The main points were that he has seen it snow in July, and people sunbathing in November. This was the first time we found out that chinooks can give you migraines because of the sudden change in barometric pressure. I got him talking about the weather in Alberta when I told him about this reel I found on Instagram!

He said Lake Louise gets much deeper snow than Banff. I am hoping I can experience all of that and more in the winter soon! The snow that fell during my quarantine stayed for a long time, and we did get a bit more snow in the second week of November. Here are some more snowy November photos, but they weren’t taken all at once.

My favourite time was when I was taking a morning walk and the trees were covered in hoarfrost!

What I really love about Calgary is it’s sunny! I wasn’t expecting that as much because Calgary is 51 degrees North. It’s the same latitude as London and I would describe that city as anything but sunny. If the temperature is low, it doesn’t really have an effect on melting the snow. I was at the Co-op once and I saw this bit of clever advertising from Cal & Gary’s. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Later in the month, I was kind of curious why we weren’t getting as much snow as I thought we would. My Mum and I went through a rough time in late November. It would have been super nice to have had some snow to make things beautiful!

December Weather:

The month changed and I was still incredulous about the weather. Were we going to get snow soon? I felt like Calvin and Hobbes when Calvin is simply desperate for snow! I read this article about speedskaters practicing on a lake in Alberta, and I thought, “What?” There was no sign of it snowing in Calgary, much less the river freezing!

Then, I remembered that Calgary has its own microclimate that has actually been significant in its history. The Blackfoot and the MΓ©tis would hold gatherings where the Bow and Elbow rivers intersect. If you think about the rest of Alberta’s climate, you begin to understand why they chose this nice little microclimate!

In the first week of December, we had a chinook! I’m not kidding. I used to think they happened in the spring, but apparently, there were some warm temperatures around Canada that week. The temperature broke an 81-year old record. I heard that in general, Calgary gets 2 or 3 chinooks in a winter. Last year, I heard they got about six chinooks. I feel sorry for the people who get migraines! I personally don’t get migraines, but my Mum does. I get ear pressure though, which is pretty painful! During the chinook, I popped my ears and got a nosebleed. I kid you not, AccuWeather has a migraine monitor. I find it useful to look at even if I don’t get migraines because I can plan for ear pressure too. It did eventually snow, but it wasn’t a long snow shower. The overall temperature is colder now though.

Final Thoughts:

A friend of mine told me there are four seasons in Calgary: Almost Winter, Winter, After Winter and Roadworks. I would say after December’s chinook that we went from Almost Winter to Winter. There is a standing joke here about only being able to tell what the weather is going to be by looking out the window. Okay, I don’t really get it right now, so bear with me, please!

I got some weird questions about life in Canada during the winter after I moved. I never miss a chance to nicely tease my California friends for asking me those questions though! 😏 One of my theories for this weird winter is that I brought some California weather with me to hold us for a while! To my fellow Calgarians, you’re welcome!

I have learned not to say anything about future weather predictions, particularly for snow. No jinxing for me! Any time someone says we’re expecting some kind of weather, I say, “What are you talking about? What… (fill in the blank with either chinook or snowfall)?”

A Word on Canada Geese:

I thought when I moved here that the geese would have migrated and I would miss seeing them. Not true. There are still some geese here who haven’t flown south yet. Don’t believe me? The photos below were taken this month! The reason why I thought they would be gone was that in the movie Fly Away Home, they go south with the geese in late October.

I often take walks along the Elbow River, so I see geese congregating there before they fly south. What’s really strange is I hear them going south when it’s dark out, and I’ve only ever known them to be diurnal.

I love seeing the city wildlife here! I’m actually doing an Instagram series of photos and videos of what I see. Follow me @winteroseca or follow my hashtagΒ #discoveringcalgarywildlife you can see them!

So, there you have my weird and wonderful Calgarian winter! What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!