Top 6 common foot myths heard in my Kansas City podiatry practice

After more than 25 years in podiatry, I have concluded that there are more myths and misconceptions regarding foot problems and foot care than for any other body part.

It seems like every day a patient walks in absolutely sure that putting Listerine on their toenails will cure their fungal nails.  (Spoiler:  it doesn’t).


I’ve compiled a list of the 6 most common misconceptions regarding foot problems.  My goal in dispelling these myths is to provide you with the correct information, so you can make the right decision regarding your foot health.  (No, Mrs. Jones, your toes are not curled up because you wore high heels when you were younger.  Your hammertoes are hereditary.  It’s not your fault.)

Myth #1:  Ingrown nails are caused by improper cutting.  Its extremely rare that someone caused their own ingrown nail by poor trimming. More likely, the nail was already so curved-in and digging into the skin that they HAD to cut the corner back in order to create some semblance of relief.  The nail is most likely excessively curved because the growth center, or nail matrix beneath the cuticle, is excessively curved. The nail will then grow with that same excessively curved shape, causing the ingrown. And, no, cutting a “V” at the end of your nail doesn’t work. Ingrown nails are almost always hereditary. Thank your parents.

Myth #2:  Bunions are caused by wearing tight or high-heeled shoes.  Nope.  Tight shoes will cause bunions to be painful, but are not the reason you have a bunion to begin with. Bunions develop over many years because of instability in the way your feet function. If your feet are unstable, as we see with excessive flattening of the arch, then a life-long muscle imbalance slowly pulls the big toe toward your second toe and the bone behind it moves the other way, causing the bone to be prominent.  Your foot function and instability is hereditary. Don’t blame your shoes.

Myth #3:  Heel pain will go away on its own. Sure, it might go away for awhile, as it can come and go. But it WILL come back.  If it went away quickly on its own and stayed away, heel pain wouldn’t be the #1 complaint seen in most podiatry offices.  I routinely see patients who have been living with heel pain for years. YEARS!  Most heel pain is plantar fasciitis, or inflammation of a ligament on the bottom of your foot. It’s caused by the same instability that leads to the hammertoes and bunions discussed above.  But there’s no reason to live in pain. We can get you comfortable quickly by eliminating the inflammation and keep you pain-free by providing your feet with proper support, stability and improved foot function.

Myth #4:  Toenail fungus is only a cosmetic issue.  Toenail fungus is an infection.  Fungus gets in between the layers of the nail and spreads the layers apart, causing the nail to thicken and discolor, and in some cases, become painful. If you ever wondered why your athlete’s foot won’t go away, or keeps coming back, it’s because athlete’s foot is caused by the same fungus that’s in your nails. It can start in the nails and spread to your skin, or vice versa. Get it treated by a podiatrist once and for all.

Myth #5:  Bunion surgery is the most painful surgery ever devised.  I hear this a lot. Fortunately for those of us with painful bunions, it’s not true.  First of all, just because you have a bunion, doesn’t mean you need surgery. If your bunion is painful and is getting in the way of your active lifestyle, there’s no need to live with it.  How do you keep post-operative discomfort to a minimum?  Start with finding the right surgeon; podiatrists have years of surgical training in the foot and ankle and focus on nothing else.  We’ve developed techniques and procedures to help keep you as comfortable as possible. Also, do your part to keep any post-operative swelling under control. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, and watch as you disprove this common foot myth.

Myth #6:  There’s nothing that can be done about a broken toe. Really?  There’s nothing that can be done about a broken toe?  I had to say that again because that thought process baffles me. Any toe injury should be evaluated by a foot specialist with an examination and X-rays.  It may not be broken, but how would you know without proper evaluation?  Sometimes, all we need to do is splint the broken toe and give it time to heal. But if the bone fragments are separated or not aligned very well, they may need to be put back into a better position so the toe heals correctly.  Without proper treatment, it may heal in a bad position, cause lifelong arthritis, or may not even heal at all.

So before you hang garlic around your neck in an effort to get rid of whatever it is you think you have on your foot, give us a call at Kansas City Foot and Ankle so that we can evaluate your condition, treat you appropriately, and get you back to your active lifestyle, quickly and comfortably.