Toe Jam

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"Toe jam" is not a medical term but slang for the debris that accumulates between your toes. Although it may sound edible, it's not. Toe jam consists of lint, dirt, and potentially bacteria and fungus.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment of toe jam.

A healthcare worker putting warm socks on a patient

Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

Symptoms of Toe Jam

If you have toe jam, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Lint or other debris stuck between one or more toes
  • Dry, flaking skin between your toes
  • Redness when you remove debris
  • Crusting between toes
  • Smelly toes

Sometimes people notice toe jam when they remove their socks. That's because toe jam commonly consists of sock fibers that get stuck between your toes. But walking around barefoot or in flip-flops may also result in dirt and sand accumulating between your toes.

Causes of Toe Jam

Accumulating lint, dirt, sweat, and dead skin cells cause toe jam. These accumulations are more common when:

Dry skin or skin conditions can lead to excessive flaking of the skin, which can accumulate between your toes. Also, other foot conditions, like corns, may cause your toes to push against one another, which doesn't allow debris accumulating there to escape.

Fungal infections and toe jam thrive in moist, dark places like feet, which is why they often co-occur. Chemotherapy suppresses the immune system, increasing the risk of fungal infections on the feet and making toe jam more likely. Likewise, diabetes can lead to foot sores and infections, increasing the likelihood of developing toe jam.

While toe jam sounds gross, don't worry, it's extremely common. Nearly everyone experiences it at some point or another.

How to Treat Toe Jam

Toe jam is easy to treat and can often be prevented with good hygiene. To treat and avoid toe jam, try the following:

  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Change your socks regularly, especially if they get moist.
  • Wear breathable shoes.
  • Sprinkle a drying agent, like corn starch, between your toes.
  • Use a pumice stone to keep corns and calluses smooth.

Making cleaning between your toes part of your shower routine is an easy way to address toe jam and prevent it from recurring. After you shower, be sure to dry completely, especially between all your toes. Debris is less likely to harbor in clean, dry spaces.

The more your feet squirm around in the same socks, the more likely your socks will release lint that can get stuck between your toes. Change your socks often, at least once a day and more often if they get wet or sweaty.

Open-toed shoes and sandals allow your feet to breathe. Wearing these shoes when possible makes toe fungus and toe jam less likely. Another suggestion is to rotate shoes with other pairs so they can completely air out between wearings.

Corn starch or an over-the-counter (OTC) foot powder are other great ways to keep your feet dry. A pumice stone for corns and calluses can keep them smooth and limit flakiness.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Toe jam is usually a mild, annoying condition easily treated at home. However, certain situations may require medical attention.

The main thing to watch out for with toe jam is infection. Infections of the feet may be bacterial or fungal. If you have a bacterial skin infection, you may exhibit the following signs:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Skin that is warm to the touch

Signs of a fungal infection include:

  • Redness
  • Peeling
  • Itching between the toes
  • Blistering

If you have symptoms of foot infection or an underlying health condition like diabetes, eczema, or psoriasis, or are immunocompromised, talk to a healthcare provider.

Podiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in treating conditions of the feet. They are well-equipped to address complications of toe fungus, but a primary healthcare provider can also be a great place to start.


Toe jam is not a medical term but slang for the gunk that accumulates between your toes. Toe jam consists of lint, dead skin, dirt, and other debris. It is usually harmless and preventable with good personal hygiene. However, people with certain health conditions, like eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, and weakened immune systems, and anyone exhibiting signs of infection should contact a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. What is toe jam?.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hygiene-related diseases.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cellulitis: All you need to know.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of ringworm infections.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.