cleaning foot

Post updated May 11, 2016

Cleaning your feet may seem like a no-brainer, but are you really doing a good job?

Toe jam, that gunk located between your toes, can result if you’re not properly cleaning feet and toes.  Like ear wax, mucus, and many other bodily residues, toe jam has an ick factor that most of us would rather not think about. But the issue can have several different causes—some of them more serious than others — so it pays to give your feet special attention.

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What Is Toe Jam?

So-called toe jam isn’t just one substance. In fact, it can have multiple sources, from the benign to the worrisome. Here’s what to know about what could be lurking between your toes.

  1. Lint from your socks. A common and harmless cause of toe jam is simply sock lint, fuzzy bits of material that rub off between your toes. Wash new socks before wearing them to cut back on loose lint.
  2. Dry skin. Eczema, psoriasis, and other conditions can result in flakes of dry skin that can combine with sweat, resulting in gunk between your toes. Treating a skin condition may help reduce toe jam.
  3. Foot problems. Corns — thickened layers of skin due to pressure — can form between toes. When corns become softened through contact with sweat or other sources moisture, they may contribute to toe jam.
  4. Athlete’s foot. Fungal infections such as those caused by athlete’s foot thrive in warm, moist environments like shoes and are a common source of toe gunk. Keeping feet clean and dry and using antifungal products can help treat athlete’s foot and, in turn, toe jam.
  5. Scabies. This highly contagious infection occurs when tiny mites burrow in the skin, including that between the toes. Rarely, it can cause toe jam. If you have scabies, your physician can prescribe an effective treatment to eliminate it.

RELATED: 4 W’s of Winter Skin Care

How to Prevent Toe Jam

You can cut back on toe jam by addressing the sources mentioned above. In addition, good foot hygiene can go a long way to preventing the problem.

  • Wash your feet — including between all of your toes — often with soap and water and dry them thoroughly.
  • Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch between toes to help keep them dry and prevent infection.
  • Keep corns and calluses smooth by using a pumice stone.
  • See your physician if you think you have an infection.

About Urgent Care

Sometimes you need care right away, with no time to wait for an appointment. That’s where UPMC Urgent Care comes in. We offer prompt treatment for illnesses and injuries 12 hours a day, seven days a week. With several western Pennsylvania locations, plus more throughout the state, you can find immediate care close to you. Our services include treatment for minor injuries and illnesses, physicals, prescription filling, and flu shots and immunizations. Wait times are usually shorter than the emergency room for minor injuries and illnesses, and we accept most major insurance.