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Feeling the sand between your toes or wearing flip flops might seem like a distant memory right now. Though pedicure season is over, and you’re not sporting sandals everyday, your feet should still look and feel their best.

“It’s easy to neglect your feet if you’re just slipping socks on everyday during the colder months,” said John J. Tolli, D.P.M., a podiatrist at Geisinger Mountain Top. “But not paying attention to your feet can lead to a number of foot issues that you might not notice until it’s too late.”

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot isn’t just for athletes. It’s a fungus that grows in damp areas like locker rooms, showers and dressing rooms. You might have athlete’s foot if your skin is dry, itchy and scaly and if you find blisters or other inflammation.

An over-the-counter anti-fungal spray or cream will most likely help alleviate the itching and burning, but you should see your doctor for a proper diagnosis, just in case it’s something else.

To prevent it from happening in the future, make sure you dry your feet completely—especially the area between your toes—before putting shoes and socks on, and opt for flip flops or sandals in locker rooms or showers.

Toenail fungus

The same fungus that causes athlete’s foot may also affect your toenail. If your toenail is infected with fungus, it may become discolored, thicken, crack or split, and pull away from the nail bed. If left untreated, a toenail infected by fungus can be painful, spread to other nails or your skin, and cause permanent damage to your nail.

Toenail fungus may be treated with an over-the-counter anti-fungal nail polish. But sometimes, stubborn fungus needs a stronger treatment that your doctor can prescribe.

To prevent it in the first place, clean, dry and inspect your toes every day, and avoid wearing nail polish for long stretches of time that can obscure any problems.

Ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails can be painful, but are easily preventable with some good TLC. Ingrown toenails happen when a nail grows into the skin instead of over it. Most often, your big toenail can become ingrown and it might seem like a problem that remedies itself over time. This is usually the case; however, without some care, it could lead to an infection.

“Ingrown toenails are usually the result of not trimming them properly—to prevent infection, nails should be cut or trimmed straight across instead of on a curve,” said Dr. Tolli. People with diabetes should take special care to trim toenails evenly to prevent infection, because serious complications can arise.

Plantar fasciitis

If your shoes are worn down or don’t fit correctly, or you are on your feet a lot, you may be putting yourself at risk for plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament that connects your heel to your toes.

People suffering from plantar fasciitis often experience pain in their heel or the bottom of their foot when they take their first steps after getting out of bed, or when they climb the stairs. Sometimes, the pain increases as the day goes on.

To treat the condition, your doctor may recommend reducing activity, toe and foot stretches, icing the area and ibuprofen. The pain may decrease significantly in a short amount of time, but it may not go away completely for a few months or even a year.

Ankle sprains

Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that hold your bones together. If you land awkwardly on your foot or fall, you could twist a ligament too far, too fast, causing a painful ankle sprain.

Ankle sprains are characterized by pain, swelling and sometimes bruising on the ankle. You might have also heard a popping sound during the injury. To treat a sprain, your doctor may recommend staying off your ankle, icing it and using a brace or other type of compression. You may also take an over-the-counter pain reliever as it heals.

After your injury heals, you should try stretching and strengthening exercises and wear supportive shoes to prevent another sprain.

“Give your feet a once-over everyday to avoid common, preventable injuries, just like you would other parts of your body,” said Dr. Tolli.
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