It isn’t hard to understand how your choice of footwear can affect your body. After all, whatever you strap onto your feet becomes the new foundation for your entire musculoskeletal system, so if they don’t support you well, or if they throw your balance out of whack, you can easily experience pain and other symptoms from your feet to your back.
In addition to body aches, joint pain, bunions, and blisters, ill-fitting shoes can also lead to toenail fungus. Although toenail fungus isn’t one of the most obvious consequences of poor shoe choices, it is one of the most common.
At Easton Dermatology, we see a lot of toenails wrecked by fungal infections, and most patients don’t realize their shoes are the culprits. If you live in or around Kent Island, Easton, or Salisbury, Maryland, our team of experts can help you identify the underlying cause of your toenail fungus and get rid of it for good.
Here, we take a closer look at how shoes factor into the toenail fungus equation.
Why do fungi target toenails?
It’s no secret that fungi love warm, wet environments — think locker rooms, saunas, hot tubs, showers, and bathtubs. They also thrive in less obvious spots, like a damp towel, bath mat, car seat, or underwear.
Knowing that fungi flourish in moist places, it isn’t a stretch to understand that shoes and socks provide an ideal atmosphere for fungal growth. For example, if you work out in the morning and then wear tight, sweaty socks and shoes all day, it’s an open invitation for fungi to develop, and they love to nestle into hidden places like your cuticle and underneath your nail bed.
Often, toenail fungus develops after you experience a fungal skin infection, such as athlete’s foot. Because your feet and toes have a weak blood supply, your immunity defenses in that area are no match for the invading fungi.
Without treatment, fungi bloom and multiply, causing all kinds of trouble, including thickened, discolored nails that tend to break, split, lift away, and crumble.
Shoe pressure and toenail fungus
Holding in moisture isn’t the only way your shoes facilitate fungus. Tight, narrow shoes also put pressure on your feet in all the wrong places. This often causes bunions, blisters, and calluses to develop, which taxes your immune system and leaves you more vulnerable to a fungal infection.
Ill-fitting shoes also put pressure on your toenails, which traumatizes them a little with every step you take. As your toenails ram up against the tip of your shoes and get pressed from above each time your shoe bends and creases, your toenails take a beating. Traumatized toenails are susceptible to fungal infection.
And if you get pedicures, it’s important to know how they sterilize their equipment. It’s common for tiny nicks and cuts to occur at nail salons, so if the water isn’t sanitary or the tools aren’t sterile, you’re at high risk for fungal and/or bacterial infections.
How to get rid of toenail fungus
If you've tried over-the-counter creams to get rid of your toenail fungus with no luck, there’s a good reason — they can’t penetrate your toenail.
Studies show that topical medications face an uphill battle when trying to fight toenail fungus. For a topical cream to reach the fungal infection, it has to penetrate 25 layers of tightly woven layers of dense, dead cell tissue composed mostly of proteins.
Depending on the physical properties of your infected nail, we may be able to prepare your nail so that the medication can penetrate more easily. Creating micropores or etching the surface may enhance permeability and allow the medication to seep down to the nail bed.
Often, a more effective approach is to attack the fungus from the inside out. Oral antifungal medication can help your immune system fight the pathogen and promote the growth of a new toenail free from fungus.
Toenail fungus is contagious, so don’t ignore it. If you notice the symptoms of an infected toenail, schedule an appointment at Easton Dermatology right away. Contact us at one of our three locations, and get started on treatment before it spreads to your other toenails.