From the October 2015 issue

Fixing Your Teen's Funky Feet Issues

Monsters aren’t the only creatures running around with wicked toenails. Lurking beneath shoelaces, kids harbor warts, athlete’s foot and maladies that creep between toes and along soles. But luckily, these issues are treatable and, often, preventable. Brian Kissel, a podiatrist with NorthPointe Foot & Ankle in Berkley, offers tips.

Puberty turning point

When parents think foot fungus and pain, they often think about years of improper care. Essentially, their first thoughts aren’t of their teen hygiene – but they should be. “(Prior) to puberty, parents are helping with bathing and hygiene,” Kissel says, and teens often don’t approach their bodies with the same care.

Trim back toenails

For instance, does your child know there’s an art to toenail trimming? “You want to cut it straight across – a slight curve is OK, but don’t dig into the corners. That can make you more prone to getting an ingrown toenail” and causing infection.

Keep fungus at bay

But the main issue is athlete’s foot – a scaly rash that starts between toes, Mayo Clinic notes, and can itch, burn and sting.

“Generally, the moisture attracts the fungus, so the more sweat you’re creating or the damper the area, the higher the risk,” Kissel says. Athletes, swimmers and those who don’t thoroughly dry their toes are susceptible. “If you’re playing soccer and your cleats get all wet, get them out of the bag to air them out – no matter how bad they smell.”

In the shower, scrub between toes with soap to combat funk and fungal infection, Kissel says. Over-the-counter shoe deodorizers or sanitizers, like Lysol spray, help, too.

Warts are caused by a common, shareable virus, he adds, so don’t share towels.

Resize shoes often

“Typically, kids grow a lot … and feet can grow faster than the rest of the body,” Kissel says. He recommends teens get their feet remeasured every time they visit the shoe store.

Shop for a shoe that breathes – made of mesh vs. plastics or leathers that don’t absorb or release sweat. Reevaluate if your kid gets blisters, or consider moleskin inserts for extra-absorptive padding. Limit flip-flops and high heels, Kissel says; they don’t provide support and can foster chronic foot pain.

Know when to tap out

Deodorizing powders and changing your socks before/after athletic events can help deter fungus, Kissel says. For extra insurance, buy topical creams and powders, like Tinactin or Lamisil, at drug and grocery stores.

“The problem arises when (infections) go undiagnosed,” Kissel says, “and they become more of a recurring problem.” In these cases, contact a local podiatrist for solutions.

Illustration by Mary Kinsora

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