The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Marathons Don’t Have to Mean Mangled Toes: Cosmetic Foot Care for Athletes

Posted by on Monday, March 18th, 2013


Most of the time, we talk about anatomical foot problems that affect basic function. We’re concerned with getting you all healed up so you can work all day on your feet, run your races, climb those mountains, and just generally live your lives. But foot issues aren’t all structural and don’t all require podiatric care. Many of them are mild infections or aesthetic concerns, the results of an active take no prisoners lifestyle. We all have these problems from time to time: dry feet, cracked skin, yellowed toenails (beware the fungus!), or large unsightly calluses. These are the problems that get ignored because mild cases don’t typically affect basic foot function. A few yellow nails aren’t going to stop you from running that marathon, after all. Still, with summer coming, keeping your feet pretty may start to feel like more of a priority. Here are some tips for dealing with common cosmetic foot problems safely.

Dry Skin

Dry skin on the feet is extremely common. While you might moisturize the rest of your body, those poor feet experience a lot of neglect. My problem is that they’re always hidden under my socks. Out of sight out of mind, right? But when those socks come off, like the first time I want to wear my cute new (sensible, supportive) peep-toe flats, that peeling flesh really gives me heartburn. Fortunately, this is an extremely easy problem to treat. Some heavy, creamy moisturizer, like shea butter, applied every day after a shower or before bed (or both, in severe cases) will clear up the problem quite quickly. It’s important to treat dry skin, since cracks can become irritated or infected if they get too deep.

Yellow Toenails

Yellow toenails may seem like nothing, but they’re probably an indicator of a fungal infection. While these infections can sit in your nail for years causing little trouble, they can also bloom, infecting surrounding nails and tissues, causing pain and itching. I had a persistent toenail fungus for years that I ignored (I’m pretty sure I got it during a pedicure – if only I’d gone to a reputable spa!) But when a case of pneumonia severely depressed my immune system, that infection exploded. I ended up with ten infected toes, each surrounded by ugly flaking skin, each itching and hurting like crazy. Don’t be me! Treating fungal infections early is the best way to get rid of them quickly. You can use any over-the-counter treatment and, if that doesn’t work, ask your doctor about an oral anti-fugal drug.


While mild calluses are nothing to worry about, thick or painful calluses may be a sign of a deeper problem. Many people remove calluses at home with a pumice stone or chemical callus remover, and this can be safe if the calluses are minor and superficial. But if you’ve got a large, thick callus, you shouldn’t try to treat it yourself. Visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine for an evaluation. It may be nothing major, just thickened skin (often a consequence of age), or it may reflect a problem with the bone, like a bone spur.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.