If you're grossed out by what you find when you take off your socks at the end of the day, you're not alone. It's most likely toe jam (aka the build-up of residue you get from dead skin cells, sweat, and your sock fluff), although there could be other factors involved that make matters worse. According to Miguel Cunha, DPT, a podiatrist and founder of Gotham Footcare, most cases are just a lack of focus on cleaning the foot area in full. "Toe jam develops from lack of proper foot hygiene, which includes not only daily washing between your toes with soap and water and drying your feet thoroughly, but also changing your socks daily," he says.
To make sure you can avoid the funky mess from happening, it's likely time to take the loofah between your toes, especially if you frequently wear socks (which he says can also play a part in trapping sweat and dead skin between your phalanges) or you have feet that are sweaty in general. Dr. Cunha says that while the soapy water dripping down your legs can help, you should really be scrubbing between each toe to nix toe jam every time you shower. As for other tips: Dr. Cunha suggests changing your socks more frequently throughout the day (like right after an at-home workout) and not putting on the same pair of socks twice in a row, which (I know) can be tempting.
If you think you're all set with your foot hygiene practices, but still have issues, what should you do? "If symptoms continue to persist, it is advisable to seek the expert opinion of a foot specialist who can determine if there are other underlying medical conditions that are present and may be contributing to and complicating the issue," says Dr. Cunha. Likely, the problem is dermatitis or a bacterial or fungal infection that could need a prescription to help clear it up. Otherwise, follow the doc's orders to up your feet washing, change your socks, and keep the area clean and dry.
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