Anyone who’s seen their father’s—or grandfather’s—thick, yellow toenails knows just how disgusting a man’s feet can be. But why is it that men almost always have grosser feet than women? The brutally honest answer, according to podiatrist Dr. Krista Archer, is that guys simply don’t pay enough attention to their feet.
First off, men aren’t very good at addressing their fungi problem. The culprit behind both athlete’s foot and your dad’s gross-looking toenails are superficial (that is, affecting the outer layers of the skin or nail) fungi called dermatophytes. “Men tend to pick these up from the gym because they don’t wear flip flops in the shower, or they wear the same pair of sweaty gym shoes every single day,” Archer explains. “Usually when guys seek treatment—whether it be over-the-counter medication or professional treatment—they continually re-infect themselves by putting those fungi-infested shoes right back on.” If you prefer to sterilize your shoes rather than throw them away, check out our guide to fresher-smelling feet.
Then there’s the fact that guys are less likely to use a pumice stone (or other exfoliating devices) on a regular basis. “If you moisturize the dry skin that’s accumulating on the bottom of the feet or the back of the heel without manually scraping it away, you’re really just moisturizing dead crap,” Archer explains. Naturally, this isn’t doing your feet any good. Archer suggest using an abrasive pumice stone, which you can pick up at your local drugstore, to remove the dead skin from the bottoms of your feet—which is also fungi fodder.
The most effective way to use a pumice stone is during a hot shower, when the calloused skin is soft and moist. Make sure to wet the stone before using it, which will help it glide more easily across the skin. Then, gently rub the stone against the calloused area until you’ve completely removed the dead skin—let the surface of the stone do the work for you. After you’re done, moisturize: Since the feet have a high skin cell turnover rate, the top layers of skin dry out more frequently than they would on other areas of the body.
To help you get in the routine of taking care of your feet, Archer suggests reminding yourself every time you brush your teeth before bed: “Take a look at your feet every single day, and do something—whether that be exfoliating, moisturizing or applying anti-fungal cream if necessary—to keep them looking their best.”
If not for yourself, do it to prove that men around the world can (and will) have feet worth worshiping—or, at the very least, that aren’t vomit-inducing.