Back to Living Better

5 unusual things your feet say about you

Feet go through many changes. Sometimes they sweat. Sometimes they stink. Sometimes they can become irritated and peel.

So how do you know if you are experiencing normal wear-and-tear or suffering from a condition that requires medical attention?  Marie-Christine Bergeron, DPM, a podiatrist at Piedmont, answers five common questions to help you “heel” your feet.

1. Why are my feet so sweaty?

“There are a couple of conditions that can cause sweaty feet,” says Dr. Bergeron. “One condition is called hyperhidrosis, which occurs when sweat glands are hyperactive. It usually affects the feet, hands, armpits, and other parts of the body. Other medical conditions that can cause sweaty feet include diabetes, hyperthyroidism, obesity, menopause and more.”

If your feet start sweating profusely for an unknown reason, you may want to consult your doctor. If sweaty feet are normal for you, you may need to change your socks.

“A lot of people just wear their shoes without socks, and that increases sweat production,” Dr. Bergeron says.  “It’s important to wear good cotton socks every day and to change your socks in the middle of the day if you are someone who sweats a lot.

Dr. Bergeron also recommends over-the-counter products to help with the condition.

“Pharmacies sell over-the-counter powder that you put in your shoes and in your socks to keep everything dry,” she says. “There are also creams that have aluminum chloride in them to stop the sweating.”

2. My feet are itching and burning. What does it mean?

“Usually the burning, peeling, and itchiness are from a fungal infection, like athlete's foot,” says Dr. Bergeron. “Athlete's foot is a fungus that loves dark, moist environments, like your shoes.”

Burning and itchiness can also be a reaction to a material in your socks.

“If you buy new socks and didn't wash them before wearing them, you may have an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the socks,” she says.

Dr. Bergeron recommends using an antifungal cream to treat athlete’s foot. She says it is also important to put powder in your shoes to control the sweating and spray the insides of your shoes with Lysol at night to kill all of the bacteria and fungus living in your shoes.  

3. What causes crooked toes?

Hammertoe and bunions cause crooked toes.

“These conditions are usually genetic, but you can also get them if you wear shoes that don’t fit very well,” Dr. Bergeron says. “For example, a lot of people have a longer second toe. And they don't buy shoes that fit them well, so their second toe has been bent and tight for so long in their shoes that it will become crooked, and at some point rigid.”

To prevent your toes from becoming crooked, wear shoes that provide good arch support. If your toes are already crooked and you still have pain or difficulty moving your toes when wearing an orthotic shoe, you may need surgery.

4. Are smelly feet normal?

“Everyone probably has had smelly feet once in a while,” says Dr. Bergeron. “But if it's something that's really awful and excruciating even after you take a shower, you may have an infection in your skin that needs to be treated, and you should consult a doctor.”

If it only happens occasionally after you wear shoes all day, it’s not something to be worried about,she adds.

5. Why do I have heel pain?

Heel pain is very common, Dr. Bergeron says.

“It's usually caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis,” she explains. “It usually happens when the arch of your foot collapses. That can be caused by weight gain, playing sports, an active lifestyle or by wearing inappropriate shoes. When the arch collapses, the ligament under the foot pulls on its insertion on your heel and causes inflammation.”

After getting a diagnosis, the best way to treat plantar fasciitis is to wear a good supportive tennis shoe with arch support. 

Dr. Bergeron also recommends using ice and anti-inflammatories to treat the inflammation, incorporating stretching exercises into your morning routine and possibly getting steroid injections to treat the condition. 

If you have issues related to your foot health, schedule an appointment with a podiatrist near you.


Related Stories