Foot & Ankle Injuries & Disorders

It’s important to put “your best foot forward.” Be kind to your feet. Years of wear and tear can be hard on feet. So can disease, bad circulation, poorly trimmed toenails, and wearing shoes that don't fit right. Foot problems are sometimes the first sign of more serious medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and nerve or circulatory disorders.

Something’s Afoot: Common Problems

Fungal Infections, such as athlete's foot, happen because our feet are in shoes most of the time. Shoes are warm, dark, and moist - the perfect place for fungus to grow. A fungus can cause dry skin, redness, blisters, itching, and peeling. It can be hard to cure. Over-the-counter anti-fungal powders or creams can help. If your foot does not get better within 2-4 weeks, talk to your doctor.

To prevent infections:

  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Be sure to dry the area between your toes.
  • Change your shoes and socks or stockings often to help keep your feet dry.
  • Don’t buy tight shoes.
  • Try dusting your feet every day with foot powder.

Dry skin can cause itching and burning feet. Use mild soap in small amounts and a cream or lotion on your legs and feet every day. Be careful about adding oils to bath water since they can make your feet and bathtub very slippery.

Corns and calluses are caused by pressure when the bony parts of your feet rub against your shoes. Wearing shoes that fit better or using special pads may help. You may feel better if you use some over-the-counter medicines, but they do not treat the cause of the problem. See your doctor, especially if you have diabetes or circulation problems.

Warts are skin growths caused by viruses. They are sometimes painful and may spread if not treated. Over-the-counter products rarely cure warts, so you may need to see your doctor.

Bunions develop when the joints in your big toe no longer fit together. They become swollen and tender. Bunions tend to run in families. If a bunion is not too painful, wearing shoes cut wide at the toes and instep (middle part of the foot), taping the foot, or wearing pads that cushion the bunion may help. Physical therapy and shoe inserts can bring relief. See your doctor. Medicines can help with pain. Sometimes surgery is needed to relieve the pressure and repair the toe joint.

Ingrown toenails are caused by a piece of the nail breaking the skin. This can happen if you don't cut your toenails straight across so the corner of the nail can be seen above the skin. Use clippers made to cut toenails. Ingrown toenails are very common in the large toes. A doctor can remove the part of the nail that is cutting into the skin so the area can heal.

Hammertoe is caused by a shortening of the tendons that control toe movements. The toe knuckle grows and pulls the toe back. Over time, the joint gets bigger and stiffens as it rubs against shoes. This can affect your balance. More space in the shoe or stocking can help. In very serious cases, surgery may be needed.

Spurs are calcium bumps that grow on bones of your feet. They are caused by stress on the feet. Standing for long periods of time, wearing badly fitting shoes, or being overweight can make spurs worse. Sometimes spurs are painless. At other times, they can hurt. Treatments for spurs are foot supports, heel pads, and heel cups. Sometimes surgery is needed.

Swollen feet may be a sign of more serious health problems. If you continue to have swollen feet and ankles, see your doctor.

Stay on Your Toes

If you have diabetes or peripheral artery disease, good foot care is very important. Both diseases can cause poor blood flow to the feet. Scrapes or bruises can become infected. Make sure your doctor checks your feet

Don’t Get Off on the Wrong Foot

Good foot care and regular foot checks are an important part of your health care. Your doctor should look at your feet often. If you have foot problems, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Read more about foot care from The National Institute on Aging.

ballerina's legs and feet with tights and ballet slippers

New Jersey Resources