Healthy You - Every Day

Got Funky Feet? Here’s What You Can Do

Itchy, stinky or hurting feet need TLC

What you can do about funky feet.

Those bony things down at the bottom of your legs are pretty important. They carry your weight as you walk, run and hop. And they even help keep the rest of your bones pain-free when they’re working well.

But, let’s be honest: Sometimes feet are … well, kind of gross. So if you find that your feet are getting funky, here are some steps to get back on the right foot with your health and hygiene.

What if my feet are smelly?

“Feet stink because the sweat that comes out of your pores combines with bacteria to make odor,” says nurse practitioner Tammy Merrifield, CRNP, DNP, with LVPG Internal Medicine–Carbon. Natural? Yes. Pleasant? Not so much.

If you’re trying to stave off the stink, try changing your socks in the middle of the day. You can also try applying foot powder or even antiperspirant to your foot skin.

What about toe fungi?

“Fungal nail infections usually aren’t painful, but that doesn’t make them harmless,” Merrifield says. “For one thing, the infection can spread to your other toenails, your fingernails and your skin.” And fungal nail infections can also create a bad odor, as well as toenails that turn a dark color or sport white marks.

Try some over-the-counter topical medicines. If the infection doesn’t clear up, consult your doctor or clinician. They might prescribe some stronger antifungal medications.

What do I do with my itchy athlete’s foot?

This fungus is not fun. “It can make your foot skin peel, create blisters and pester you with a persistent itch between your toes,” she says. 

To avoid athlete’s foot, don’t go barefoot in shared locker rooms or swimming pool environments. Try to keep your feet dry by changing your socks often or using powder. And give your feet some room to breathe by wearing light shoes or sandals when you can.

If the fungus still doesn’t clear up after you take these steps, talk with your doctor or clinician about antifungal creams or prescription oral medications.

And what about painful plantar warts?

A virus enters your skin through small cuts. Then it can grow into a tough, thick wart that hurts to step on. “This wart can spread and create other warts around it if it’s not treated, too,” Merrifield says.

The good news is that most plantar warts are harmless. The bad news is that they might resist treatment, and they often reoccur. And since nonmedical remedies won’t get rid of them, you may need to talk with your doctor or clinician. They can use topical acids, lasers or cryotherapy (freezing) to give your warts the boot.

Taking care of your tootsies is important. Practice good grooming and hygiene habits; show your feet some love with comfortable, properly fitting shoes; and talk with a doctor or clinician if you notice any problems popping up.

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