19121 W. Little York Road, Suite A, Katy, TX 77449, (281) 550-3668

(281) 550-3668

Most Frequently Asked Foot Questions


Can deformed looking nails be cured?

It depends upon the cause. The most common causes of deformed nails are trauma and a fungal infection. When a toe is stubbed or something falls on a toe, the nail is usually damaged. The nail grows from its base, so if anything traumatizes that area, the nail may grow in thick, discolored, or in the wrong direction. This type of deformity is often permanent, but treatment by a podiatrist can make the nail look much better.    

Deformity secondary to a fungal infection may be easier to cure. When an infection is suspected, the nail must be cultured (a small piece sent to a lab and analyzed) to confirm the diagnosis. Once the infection is confirmed, treatment can be either topical or systemic. If the infection is mild, a liquid medication can be applied daily in an attempt to kill the fungus. This usually works in mild to moderate cases. Keep in mind that it takes 10-12 months for a new toenail to grow in, so improvement will be seen gradually. Other products can also be applied to the nail to make it softer and let other medicines penetrate better.

For a severely infected fungal toenail, the best treatment option is taking a pill which affects the area under the skin where the nail grows from. The two most common pills must be taken by mouth for about 3 months, usually with blood tests to make sure there are no side effects.

There are other, less common causes of nail deformity such as psoriasis which can cause pitting and discoloration of nails. These systemic problems are best treated by a medical doctor who specializes in the cause; sometimes a podiatrist can perform ancillary treatments which may improve the appearance of the nail.

Why do my feet itch so much and how can I stop it?

There are several causes of itchy skin. The most common of these are dry skin or a fungal infection. A fungal infection causes circular scaling of the skin. It can also cause cracks in the skin, especially between the toes. Fungus likes to grow between the toes because it is a dark, moist environment. Fungal infections are best treated with antifungal creams or gels applied twice a day. There are many good creams that can eradicate a fungal skin infection. It is important to use powder to help treat the fungus, as it will dry out the area. Dry skin can also cause scaling and cracking of the skin with itching. Dry skin should be treated by an emollient once or twice a day. All emollients should be applied after a shower or bath to lock in the moisture. Dry skin accompanied by cracking requires special treatment, usually with a high potency keratolytic cream.

Why do I get so much heel pain?

Heel pain can have many causes. The most common causes are heel spurs, a bone bruise, or bursitis. A heel spur can become painful when a person increases their activity level suddenly, or walks or runs in poor shoe gear (insufficient padding). This activity can also cause a bone bruise. An x-ray should be taken to assess the heel bone. A stress fracture is sometimes seen on an x-ray, which can also result from the aforementioned activities. A less common but important cause of heel pain is systemic arthritis such as Reiter’s arthritis, Psoriatic arthritis, or Ankylosing Spondilitis. If your heel pain does not subside with the usual treatments of padding/orthotics, stretching, soaking/ice massage and injection therapy, a systemic cause of the pain should be considered.

Why are my heels cracking?

The most common cause of this is backless shoes. Other causes include severe dry skin (see question regarding dry skin) or systemic disorders such as diabetes and thyroid disease.

Why is my big toe starting to deviate?

The most common cause of the big toe deviating towards the other toes is tight shoe gear. Pointy shoes will force all the toes together, precipitating bunion and hammertoe deformities. Heredity is also a cause of this deformity, which is the beginning of a bunion. As the big toe falls to the side, the first metatarsal bone starts to deviate toward the midline, which causes redness, pain and swelling over the area. It is imperative to wear spacious shoe gear to avoid pressure on this area, and thereby reduce the pain. Sneakers are the best shoe gear, as they contain good support and cushion and usually have enough space for the toes. Bunion shields and cushions are available to cushion the area and decrease pain.

Why is my toe starting to curl?

Curling of the toe is known as a hammertoe. As mentioned previously, the most common causes are tight shoes and heredity. Less common causes include trauma, and arthritis.

As the toe curls, many times a joint within the toe starts to rub against the shoe which causes redness, swelling, and pain secondary to the inflammation (bursitis). The body then tries to protect itself by producing hard skin in the area (often called a “corn”), which often leads to increased pain.

What’s the best treatment for a corn on my toe?

Since corns are caused by tight shoes or sneakers, it is important to not wear that same tight shoe/sneaker or get the shoe stretched in that particular area. It is important to see a podiatrist and have it treated appropriately, which usually involves having the dead skin removed (which does not hurt) and having the area appropriately padded. There are many types of pads available to accommodate toe deformities and decrease pain. If conservative treatment fails, surgery can be done to straighten out the toe by removing a small piece of bone from the joint area.

What special considerations should I think about with my diabetes?

Diabetes and chronic high blood sugar can result in damage to the arteries and nerves of the feet. Therefore, it is important for your circulation and nerves to be evaluated at least 1 to 2 times per year by a physician. Circulation problems may present with pain or cramping in the feet or legs, as well as a feeling of coldness. Nerve problems may present with a burning or tingling pain, or may cause no pain when there is a problem such as a sore. This can be especially disastrous if a person can not see the effected area. Thus, it is important for everyone with diabetes to check their feet daily. Diabetes can also affect the skin and make it drier, so a moisturizer should be used daily.                                                                                        

Are pedicures a good idea?

No. Instruments used in a salon are sanitized at best, while a podiatrist’s instruments are sterilized. It is important to sterilize instruments to kill all bacteria, fungus, and yeast that grow on nails. Pedicures are one of the leading causes of a fungal nail infection, which is often difficult to eradicate. Anyone performing a pedicure is not permitted to use a sharp instrument such as a razor or scalpel to remove corns or calluses. (Podiatrists use sterile scalpels to treat these disorders.

Why should I pay so much money for custom made orthotics?

Custom made orthotics are comparable to prescription glasses for your eyes. Orthotics help your feet to function in a more biomechanically correct way, which usually leads to decreased pain. There are many indications for custom made orthotics; the most common are heel pain, arch pain, arthritis, neuromas, tendonitis, and pain under the balls of the feet. Custom made insoles are the best for your feet, as they are specially made for your feet and can contain special pads to accommodate for problems like calluses. Orthotics can be made to be accommodative or supportive, depending on your needs. It is not a good idea to buy insoles from TV or magazines ads, as they are usually too hard or too soft, and fit improperly.

Will orthotics correct the bony or biomechanical deformities of my feet?

In children, orthotics may be able to correct some problems; however in an adult the bones have already formed so the use of an orthotic is primarily to relieve the symptoms and pain.

How long will I have to wear the orthotics?

A. In some cases you will only have to wear them for awhile however, just like a pair of glasses, you may need to wear them for your lifetime.

Why does a podiatrist ask so many questions about my medical history to treat my feet?

This is important because it gives the doctor valuable information about your condition and will improve the success of your treatment.

What type of shoes should I buy?

A. When purchasing shoes, look for a shoe that laces, has a firm heel area, and is flexible in the ball area.

What are growing pains?

Growing pains are what aches in leg muscles in children are sometimes called. The term is often used because a “growing” child has seemingly unexplained leg pains that are casually attributed to growth. The thinking goes that if the bone is growing an              d the muscle lags behind it will ache resulting in a growing pain. Most of the time these pains have nothing to do with growth. Previously unexplained leg aches and pains are often the result of overuse of leg muscles in children with flat or pronated feet. The pronated foot, especially in an active child, leads to stress and strain on muscles in the foot and leg which may cause them to hurt. These pains occur most often at night or after heavy activity when the effects of overuse of muscles are likely to be greatest.

If your child complains of pains that may fit this description schedule an appointment for your child at the Foot Clinics where he or she can be evaluated to determine if abnormal foot positions and postures may be contributing to this problem.

Is it a problem if my child's feet and legs do not look alike?

Most of the time the appearance of a child’s foot and leg and the position of that foot and leg when walking should appear similar left and right. Although minor variations between the two limbs may be normal variations, more visible differences are often more significant. One of the clues that something may be abnormal or out of alignment is if the feet or legs appear different when you look at them or when you watch your child walk or run. Common reasons why your child’s feet or legs may look different from each other is an in-toe or out-toe deformity on one side or a foot or arch that is flatter on one side or the other. If you’ve noticed that there are differences between your child’s feet or legs it may be a sign that something isn’t quite right. If you think your child might fit this description schedule an appointment for your child and we can tell you what we think.

If I have bunion surgery will I be able to go to work the same day?

No, in most cases of bunion surgery the operation involves not only removing the bunion, but cutting and realigning the bone. This may require using crutches and staying off your feet.

I have a heel spur. Is surgery the best way to get rid of my pain?

No, heel spurs and heel spurs syndrome (plantar fascitis) are usually initially treated conservatively in most cases. Most patients respond to non-surgical treatment. Conservative treatments consist of orthotics, orthopedic strappings, antinflammatory medications, night splints and corticosteroid injections.

I was told that my hammer toe requires bone removal, is this the normal standard?

Yes, In most cases of hammer toe syndrome, the underlying bone is what causes the patient to have the painful keratosis (corn), hammer toe surgery can be complex and in most cases involves bone removal, release of tight soft tissue and use of pins to hold the toes.

Are foot x-rays safe?

Using modern x- ray equipment and limiting the exam to the smallest area possible keeps patient exposure to a minimum. The low energy x-ray units we use are safe and efficien

What is diagnostic ultrasound?

Diagnostic ultrasound uses sound waves, much like sonar, allowing us to visualize soft tissue structures such as cysts and tendons, which do not show up on X-ray. This is a safe, quick and painless way to help diagnosis many conditions.

What is densitometry?

Densitometry is a way to determine whether someone has normal bone density or whether he or she is osteoporotic. Postmenopausal woman is especially at risk for osteoporosis, a bone condition that can cause fractures and other problems. Early diagnosis through densitometry facilitates treatment of osteoporosis, which can prevent serious problem.