The middle joint of one or more toes bends due to an imbalance between the muscles and tendons that hold it straight, says William Fishco, an expert in podiatry from the US. Over time, the tendons tighten up and the toes become stuck in a bent position.
Prevent It: Make sure you have about a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and your shoe.
Fix It: Hammer toes can become painful and require surgery, but you may be able to avoid the scalpel if you keep the tendons loose with foot exercises. Lay a towel on the floor and pick it up using your toes. Then drop it and repeat.
A jagged or curved toenail edge punctures the underlying skin and grows downwards, says Dr Joel J. Heidelbaugh, a professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan in the US. This can lead to infection.
Prevent It: Cut your toenails in a straight line. File the sharp edges.
Fix It: Soak the foot in soapy water for 15 minutes a day to soften the nail, and apply an antibiotic ointment. If needed, have a doctor separate the nail from the skin.
If your big toe is misaligned (possibly from flat feet or a family history of bunions), it can swing toward the other toes, says Dr J. Kent Ellington, an orthopaedic surgeon from the US. As a result, the joint that holds your toe loses alignment and bulges out – resulting in a bump called a bunion.
Prevent It: Don’t cram your toes into pointed dress shoes; they should fit comfortably.
Fix It: If you notice that your big toe is angled or your joint is forming a bump, try toe spacers. And protect the bunion from chafes with the Scholl Bunion Protector ($4.45, available at at Watsons).
You can catch this fungus by going barefoot on an infected surface.
Prevent It: Dry your feet after swimming and wash them immediately after playing sports. Wear socks if someone at home is infected, and wear sandals in communal areas (such as showers), says Mahmoud Ghannoum, PhD, director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve University in the US.
Fix It: Ghannoum recommends applying a cream containing active antifungal ingredients such as the Scholl Athlete’s Foot Cream ($7.50, available at Watsons) every day for a week or two.