It’s barefoot season, don’t let these unsightly problems keep you in shoes.

Hammertoe

WHAT HAPPENS

The middle joint of one or more toes bends due to an imbalance between the muscles and tendons that hold it straight, says podiatrist Dr William Fishco. Over time the tendons tighten up and the toes become stuck in a bent position.

PREVENT IT

Make sure you have about a thumb’s width of space between your longest toe and your shoe.

FIX IT

Hammertoes can become painful and require surgery, but you may be able to avoid the scalpel if you keep the tendons loose with foot exercises. Lay a towel on the floor and pick it up using your toes. Then drop it and repeat.

Ingrown toenail

WHAT HAPPENS

A jagged or curved toenail edge punctures the underlying skin and grows downward, says Dr Joel J. Heidelbaugh, a professor of family medicine. This can lead to infection.

PREVENT IT

Cut your toenails in a straight line. File the sharp edges.

FIX IT

Soak the foot in soapy water for 15 minutes a day to soften the nail, and apply an antibiotic ointment. If needed, have a doctor separate the nail from the skin.

Bunion

WHAT HAPPENS

If your big toe is misaligned (possibly from flat feet or a family history of bunions), it can swing toward the other toes, says Dr J. Kent Ellington, an orthopedic surgeon. As a result, the joint that holds your toe loses alignment and bulges out – resulting in a bump called a bunion.

PREVENT IT

Don’t cram your toes into pointed dress shoes; they should fit comfortably.

FIX IT

If you notice that your big toe is angled or your joint is forming a bump, try toe spacers to keep your big toe pointing straight.

Plantar wart

WHAT HAPPENS

The human papillomavirus invades, causing an inward-growing wart. Warning signs: (1) black specks, (2) pain when you press from side to side, and (3) a disruption of the fingerprint-like lines across your sole, says podiatric surgeon Dr George F. Wallace.

PREVENT IT

Viruses thrive on moist, warm surfaces, such as swimming pool decks. Dr Wallace suggests wearing slops until the minute you step in for a dip, and then putting them back on as soon as you step out.

FIX IT

Start with an over-the-counter product containing salicylic acid.

Athlete’s foot

WHAT HAPPENS

You can catch this fungus by going barefoot on an infected surface.

PREVENT IT

Dry your feet after swimming and wash them immediately after playing sports. Wear socks if someone at home is infected, and wear slops in communal areas (such as showers), says Dr Mahmoud Ghannoum, director of the center for medical mycology at Case Western Reserve University.

FIX IT

Dr Ghannoum recommends applying a cream containing an anti-fungal such as terbinafine (Lamisil AT) every day for a week or two.