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What is a Toe Jam & How To Get Rid Of It?

What is Toe Jam?

Toe jam is a term used for the smelly gunk that accumulates in between the toes. It is more likely to occur when the feet are sweaty and not washed.

Toe jam is caused by the build-up of dead skin, skin oil, dirt or debris, bacterial infections, fungal infections, eczema, lint, or fabric fibers.

Toe jam is not a serious condition and responds well to lifestyle changes. In a few cases, it would signal a serious medical complaint that might require medical attention.

Some people are more prone to suffer from toe jam than others.

What Causes A Toe Jam?

Toe jam has many causes that include dry skin and improper hygiene.

The causes include:

Lint from Socks: Socks when new shed fibers that can combine with sweat or body oil and become smelly. If not cleaned properly, it can lead to toe jam.

Dirt: Walking barefoot can lead to the deposit of soil and dirt in between the toe and increase the chances of toe jam.

Dry Skin Flakes: There are certain skin conditions that can lead to flaking of the skin in between the toes. These flakes, when combining with sweat and body oil, can lead to toe jam.

Softened Corns And Calluses: Thickened corns or callus can form in between the toes. These might get softened with sweat and heat and shed dead skin cells. This can cause smelly toe jam.

Fungal Infections: Fungal infections such as Tinea Pedia can occur in toes and feet and cause toe jam. This infection can occur from public showers, swimming pools, and steam rooms.

Bacteria: Bacterial infection can occur in the open or cracked skin, which if left untreated can infect toes and feet and cause toe jam. It can even spread up to the leg. People with a compromised immune system need to be more careful about such infection.

Scabies: It is a highly contagious mite infection(1). The mites lay eggs underneath the skin. There is itching, and scabies can lead to skin crusts. This can cause odor and in rare cases can lead to a toe jam.

Athletes, people with poor vision, people who do not maintain hygiene, those who sweat excessively or those who wear poor-fitting shoes, are more at risk of getting toe jam.

Who Is More Prone To Complications?

There are a few people with certain conditions who are prone to toe jam.

People with Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetes can lead to nerve damage. This is known as neuropathy. It can lead to numbness and increased sensitivity to touch(2). This makes it hard to clean the feet. In such cases, diabetic ulcers that bleed get infected.

Also, diabetic neuropathy can also lead to vision problem making it difficult to see the dirt between the toes.

People Undergoing Chemotherapy

The immune system weakens while taking chemotherapy and makes a person more susceptible to fungal infections(3).

People With A Skin Condition

Those suffering from eczema or psoriasis, have dead skin that can accumulate between the toes, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

The chances of infection are more in those with sweaty skin.

How To Get Rid Of Toe Jam?

The treatment of toe jam involves addressing the root cause. If you feel some residue is collecting between the toes, you need to clean it.

Accumulation of dead skin can occur due to dry and flaky skin or due to rubbing of the corn or calluses. Therefore it needs to be cleaned.

Following, are the tips that can help treat as well as prevent toe jam.

  • Wash feet with soap and water, at least twice in a day. This would prevent the toe jam from accumulating. If washing is not possible, you can use the wipes.
  • Make sure you change socks after exercising. If your feet are soaked in sweat move them out of the sneakers.
  • Keep feet dry. Talcum powder and corn starch can help keep the feet dry. There are certain medicated talcs that can also solve the purpose.
  • If corns or callus are present treat them by soaking in warm water. You can then file them gently with a pumice stone or any pedicure tool.
  • If you have an ingrown toenail, file it down or cut it.

There are also some home remedies such as soaking feet in Epsom bath salt that can help with toe jam. Over the counter antifungal medication can help prevent infection and itching in the foot.

Make sure you wear the footwear of your size and if you sweat buy a size that is a bit large.

Treating the underlying condition causing a toe jam can solve the problem. You can consult a doctor, if, even after taking precautions the condition does not improve.

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 4, 2020

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