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reviewed 9/19/2018

Keep your feet neat!

Prevent, spot and treat common foot problems.

Give your feet a hand! They bear the brunt of 1.5 times your body weight with every step you take. And by the time you're 50 years old, those feet may have walked nearly 75,000 miles! Help keep your feet in shape and learn the common health problems that can affect them.

Athlete's Foot:

A fungal infection that typically appears between the toes but can be widespread. The fungi that cause it thrive in humid conditions, like those in showers, locker rooms, socks and shoes.

Prevent:

Change your socks often. After bathing, dry your feet and toes well. Wear flip-flops in public showers and locker rooms.

Spot:

Dry, blistered or cracked skin. Itching, burning, and redness.

Treat: Use antifungal sprays, powders or creams.

Bunion:

A hard, painful bump at the base of the big toe. It's often caused by tight shoes that force the toe to bend inward.

Prevent:

Wear shoes with a wide, deep toe box. Avoid heels higher than 2 inches.

Spot:

Pain, swelling and tenderness near the joint that worsens as the bump grows. Overlapping toes.

Treat:

Cover the bump with a nonmedicated bunion pad. Use ice packs to reduce swelling.

Corns and Calluses:

Thickened areas of skin often caused by ill-fitted shoes. Calluses often appear on the balls of the feet where high heels increase pressure. Corns are calluses that occur on the top of the feet. They usually develop when toes rub against too-tight or too-loose shoes.

Prevent:

Wear shoes with a wide, deep toe box. Avoid heels higher than 2 inches. Gel inserts can decrease friction.

Spot:

Rough, dull areas of skin. Sometimes raised or round, resembling warts.

Treat:

Use nonmedicated corn pads to ease pressure. A podiatrist can shave off layers of dead skin.

Hammertoe:

Occurs when a toe bends downward at the joint. It usually occurs in the center toes. Could be caused by an abnormal balance of the toe muscles; trauma; or narrow, pointed shoes.

Prevent:

Wear supportive shoes with a wide, deep toe box.

Spot:

Corns on top of the bent joint. Redness, swelling and pain.

Treat:

Wear shoes with roomy toe boxes—no heels. Use ice packs. Apply a nonmedicated hammertoe pad for cushioning. Use custom shoe inserts. Talk to your doctor about surgery options.

Ingrown Toenail:

Occurs when the sides of the nail dig into the skin. The usual cause is trimming your nail to a toe-shaped curve. Tight shoes can also be a factor.

Prevent:

Trim your toenails straight across and no shorter than the top of the toes. Avoid picking at or tearing toenails. Wear shoes with a wide toe box.

Spot:

Swelling and tenderness. Redness, pus and other signs of infection.

Treat:

Soak your foot in warm, soapy water, followed by gentle lifting at the nail's edges. Treatment may include antibiotics and removal of part of the nail.

Plantar Fasciitis:

Inflammation of the ligament that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes. Caused by straining the tissue over time. Risk factors include being overweight, having a job that requires walking or standing on hard surface, and performing high-impact exercises like running.

Prevent:

Wear shoes with shock-absorbent soles and strong heel support. Warm up before exercising. Lose weight if needed.

Spot:

Pain in the bottom of the foot near the heel that occurs most often in the morning or after long periods of sitting.

Treat:

Do stretching exercises. Use ice packs and arch supports.

Toenail Fungus:

A common fungal infection under the surface of the nail. The fungi that cause it thrive in humid areas like showers, locker rooms and pools. 

Prevent:

Change shoes and socks regularly. Keep feet dry. Wear flip-flops in public showers. Get pedicures only at licensed salons that use sanitary practices.

Spot:

Yellow, thick nails, sometimes with brittle and jagged edges. Built-up debris under the nail. White marks in top of the nail.

Treat:

Clean nails regularly. Use over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication. Removal may be necessary.

Warts:

Caused by a virus that thrives in humid areas like showers and locker rooms. Warts can show up anywhere on the foot, especially in the sole, where they are called plantar warts. They can multiply into clusters.

Prevent:

Change shoes and socks regularly. Keep feet dry. Wear flip-flops in public showers and locker rooms.

Spot:

Hard and flat warts on the bottom of the foot, often with a tiny black center. Raised and fleshy warts elsewhere on the foot. Pain when warts are pressed.

Treat:

It's best to seek a doctor's advice. He or she can make sure it is not actually a cancerous growth. Removal options include laser and topical treatments and surgery.

Next steps:

Don't let foot problems get out of hand!

Call your doctor if your foot condition doesn't improve or is painful or infected. He or she can help determine the best course of action and refer you to a specialist if needed.

If you have diabetes, call or see your doctor about any foot problems before trying to treat them yourself.

Sources: American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Foundation; American Podiatric Medical Association

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