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28 Things Your Podiatrist Won’t Tell You

Here's what your foot doctor wants you to know about smelly feet, avoiding foot pain, preventing infections and ingrown toenails, and keeping your feet healthy and pain free in general.

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Senior woman talks with doctor about foot x-raySDI Productions/Getty Images

Talking about feet

From ingrown toenails and bunions to sprains, strains, and broken bones in the foot and ankle, there are lots of reasons you might visit a podiatrist. Your foot doctor will no doubt give you all the information you need to help with your condition, but they can cover only so much ground during an office visit.

So there’s so much more they’d like you to know about avoiding foot pain, preventing infections, and keeping your feet and toenails healthy. Read up on all the things they want you to keep in mind to avoid common feet problems.

Shoemaker measuring customer's feet, close upMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

When you go into a shoe store, your salesperson should measure your feet

Have your feet professionally measured every time you shop for shoes. Natural aging and changes in your health can cause the size of your feet to change. Measure both feet—late in the day—and shop for the larger foot.—Lori Weisenfeld, DPM, a sports podiatrist in New York City

close-up of man's bare feetyacobchuk/Getty Images

Your change of habits during the pandemic is causing foot problems

Namely, walking barefoot around the house all day. It’s leading to things like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and other types of tendinitis.—Jane Andersen, DPM, a podiatrist at Chapel Hill Foot & Ankle Specialists in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Check out the best shoes for plantar fasciitis to make sure you’re getting the support you need.)

Close-up of woman having a footbathWestend61/Getty Images

You don’t have to spend big bucks on foot therapies

This DIY foot soak will help clear up foot and toenail fungus, brighten nails, and soften skin: Combine 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 cups warm water, and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Soak for 20 minutes a few times a week.—Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, board certified doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery in New York City

spraying shoeskrit mahawat/Shutterstock

Your feet don’t need to smell

You use antiperspirant on your armpits to keep them from getting stinky, right? Well, the same stuff works on your feet. Try a spray and alternate your shoes so they have a chance to dry completely. Wear socks, as well, otherwise, the sweat will promote the growth of bacteria that stay in your shoes.—Dr. Andersen

Man having hydrotherapy water footbath in spa settingKzenon/Shutterstock

Infections from nail salons keep us in business

If you want to avoid scary pedicure dangers, book the first appointment of the day, when the equipment is cleaner. Those footbaths can be especially germy. Even if technicians spray the basin between customers, many of the tubs have drains and filters that don’t get cleaned.—Dr. Sutera

Manicure equipmentCoprid/Getty Images

Bring your own pedicure utensils to the salon

Why? Because bacteria and fungus can move easily from one person to the next if the salon doesn’t use proper sterilization techniques.—Dr. Weisenfeld

toe separators on woman's feet getting a manicureVoyagerix/Shutterstock

Toe separators, bunion splints, and “yoga toes” may help you feel better…

…but they aren’t going to get rid of hammertoes and bunions. You have to visit a podiatrist for that. If you have a structural problem, a $6 device like a toe separator isn’t going to reverse anything.—Dr. Sutera. (Here’s what you need to know about using YogaToes for foot pain relief.)

woman tying her shoesvystekimages/Shutterstock

Buy shoes at a specialty running store, even if you just walk for exercise

A well-trained staff at an athletic shoe store will help you get the right shoe for your exercise of choice. They will typically analyze your foot and gait, offering the best sneakers to fit your needs.—Dr. Sutera (Here’s what else can cause pain on the top of your foot.)

wrapping foot with bandagewavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

I’ve seen all sorts of things, including people who have shot their feet

You really shouldn’t clean your loaded gun after you’ve had a couple of beers. Another dumb move: mowing the lawn in flip-flops. The first weekend of every spring, doctors see a lot of injuries.—Marlene Reid, DPM, podiatric physician and surgeon and owner of Family Podiatry Center in Naperville, Illinois

Cracked heel on woman's footFecundap stock/Shutterstock

If you have dry, cracked feet, try this moisturizer

AmLactin is just an over-the-counter lotion, but it’s like a miracle. Put it on a couple of times a week, and the calluses will just slough off.—Dr. Sutera

bunion on footdkpatana/Shutterstock

Sometimes if a bunion is really bad, a patient will ask me to amputate her second toe

That doesn’t mean podiatrists will do it, though, because it won’t fix the problem. It’s best to get bunions taken care of at a young age. If you wait until they get really bad, they’re much harder to fix.—Dr. Reid

doctor examining patient's footKatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Not all bunions need surgery

A candidate for bunion surgery is someone who has difficulty wearing shoes and foot pain is starting to slow them down physically. Someone who says, for example, “I used to love going for long walks and now I can’t because my feet hurt.” People with mild to moderate bunions often can get relief from wider shoes, massage, stretching, orthotics, and some padding.—Dr. Sutera

woman shaving legsVladimir Sazonov/Shutterstock

I don’t have a problem with people getting pedicures, but please don’t shave right before you go

You might be embarrassed by your stubble, but it will be worse when bacteria and fungus enter the microscopic nicks on your skin and lead to an infection.—Dr. Andersen

Fresh coconuts and a jar of coconut oil on a wooden tableMagone/Getty Images

Coconut oil is something of a cure-all

Coconut oil is known to have anti-fungal properties.  Use it to moisturize cuticles, as well as skin—especially cracked and calloused areas.—Dr. Sutera

doctor with anatomical foot model and patient's footwavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

A lot of you hurt your foot or ankle exercising and head straight to an orthopedic surgeon

But unless he or she is specifically trained in the foot and ankle, going to a podiatrist is a better bet.—Dr. Reid

measuring tapenoicherrybeans/Shutterstock

Fit your shoe to your longest toe

That might not be your great toe—a lot of people’s second toe is longer.—Dr. Weisenfeld

various shoes on shelfahirao_photo/Getty Images

Your athletic shoes shouldn’t be the same size as your regular shoes

There should be one thumb’s width between the end of your longest toe and the tip of the shoe.—Dr. Weisenfeld

footprint in the sandiMoved Studio/Shutterstock

Barefoot running? Great idea—if you can stay on sand or earth

Barefoot running on concrete can mean you’ll end up with stress fractures and some very bad inflammation.—Dr. Sutera

hands holding footspukkato/Getty Images

There’s no such thing as a “minor” foot infection

An infection in your foot that’s left unchecked can lead to a bone infection. Even a seemingly minor infection from a pedicure can become much more serious if it travels to the bone. Address these early and consistently.—Dr. Andersen

cup of tea with spoonAnastasios71/Shutterstock

Here’s a home remedy to cure your stinky feet

Make some really strong black tea, then soak your stinky feet in it two or three times a week for 20 minutes. The tannic acid has been shown to temporarily shrink sweat ducts so they don’t work as hard.—Dr. Andersen

Podiatrist treating feet during procedureInside Creative House/Getty Images

There’s an easy new way to get rid of ingrown toenails

Onyfix treats ingrown toenails without surgery or an injection. It works by gently changing the shape of your nail as it grows.—Dr. Reid. Here’s how to manage and prevent ingrown toenails altogether.


I wear flip-flops too…

But if you wear them every day, all day, you will end up in a podiatrist’s office eventually. Thong shoes are designed for the beach and pool, not for walking all over the place.—Dr. Reid

A pumice stoneImage Source/Getty Images

If you use a pumice stone, file in one direction

Don’t scrub back and forth (like you would a dirty pot or pan!). This roughs up the skin even more. You can also opt for a battery-powered foot file, which rotates in a circular motion. But be careful: Use lightly once a week, instead of going at it deeply once a month.—Dr. Sutera

man's hands tying shoesJacob Lund/Shutterstock

I have people who tell me that I changed their life

Sometimes all a podiatrist has to do is tell a patient to wear a bigger-size shoe. We’ll think, Did that really change your life? But if you had a lot of foot pain, it’s a big deal.—Dr. Andersen

lots of different socksEVGENIYA68/Shutterstock

Socks that are too small can cause blisters

Yes, just like a shoe can. Go with what feels comfortable.—Dr. Andersen

close-up of shoes on shelfO_Lypa/Getty Images

Replace your sneakers every six to 12 months

Mark the date of purchase on the inside of your shoes with a permanent marker so you’ll know when it’s time for a new pair.—Dr. Weisenfeld

hands pulling up socks in shoesMaridav/Shutterstock

The best socks are not 100 percent cotton

Look for materials that promise to wick moisture away.—Dr. Andersen

doctor examining patient's feetYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/Shutterstock

A lot of women are embarrassed to show me their feet

Many women say they feel as if they’re going to a gynecologist when they have to take off their shoes!—Dr. Reid