What is Toe Jam?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2018
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Toe jam is a slang reference to the dead skin cells, sock fluff, surface dirt, sweat, skin oils and bacteria which tend to collect between a person's toes throughout the day. Poor hygienic practices or certain feet-related medical conditions such as athlete's foot can make the appearance and odor of foot jam even more noticeable.

There's really no practical way to avoid some accumulation of dead skin cells, skin oils or bacteria between one's toes, since all of these are organic in nature. In the same way that sweat, bacteria and skin oils can build up in the underarm area and cause body odor, a similar combination can cause toe jam to form between toes. Daily washing and scrubbing can reduce the severity and recurrence of buildup, but it would be impossible to stop dead skin cells or sweat from collecting between the toes.

Some have compared the odor of toe jam to a pungent form of cheese, which may be the result of gases released by the odor-causing bacteria. Sock lint can also be attracted to the skin oils and sweat which build up whenever the foot is contained in a shoe for hours at a time. Dirt contained in shoes or deposited on shower floors can also become trapped between the toes. As long as a shoe or sock covers the foot, the generated body odor is relatively contained, but exposure of toe jam to the outside world can be unpleasant.


Toe jam itself is not considered a medical condition, although it could be indicative of other serious foot-related ailments such as athlete's foot and other fungal infections. It is generally addressed by foot baths, professional pedicures, foot deodorants or medicated foot sprays. Wearing clean cotton socks and well-ventilated shoes should also help reduce the hostile foot environment which contributes to the build up. Wearing clean shower shoes or flip-flops in communal showers should also help minimize odors and potential infections.


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Post 18

I would like to propose another definition of toe jam football, perhaps an intentional pun by the Beatles. Recall, that the fab four were from England, and therefore, football in their language is soccer in the U.S. In soccer, a toe jam is when you kick the ball with tip of your toe. This gives much less ball control than kicking with the laces or side of foot and usually stubs or jams your toe.

A "toe jam" in soccer is considered a derogatory term for someone who does not know the game and thus kicks the ball incorrectly.

Post 13

Having sweaty feet, I wear white wool socks and change them every day for fresh ones and wear only shoes that will breathe. Otherwise I quickly develop that malodorous conditions Zappa wrote a song about called "Stink-foot". I also have to get rid of my toe-jam usually after I shower. --mudshark12

Post 12

Also wearing breatheable shoes--that is, natural leather or suede, instead of imitation--helps with foot odor in general.

Post 11

thanks so much for the explanations. WiseGeek readers are the best!

Post 10

Toe-jam football is the disgusting ellipsoid, that forms between the toes when you rub it with your fingers.

Post 9

Toe jam is used as a term -- a quite gross term. When someone knows your "toe jam" -- and knows the deepest darkest secrets of you -- and their secrets are safe, you could say they know your toe jam. you feel that much trust, which is a rare thing. it's still gross. EV

Post 8

When I was a kid way back in the 20's we used to kid around and tell other kids you got toe jam. After all these years that's the first time I have heard a definition of it.

Post 7

Toe jam football is when you ball up all the lint, etc. and throw it. Yuck!

Post 6

Okay, got all that, but what is toe-jam football?

Post 5

the term "toe jam" is well-explained here, but can someone tell me what is "toe jam football"? :-|

The Beatles were hearthrobs, but I missed that one altogether, being a lady fan. :-)

Post 4

Cotton socks. But the question was What Is, not What to Do About...

Post 2

Mostly? Because the bacteria which make feet smell, are the same species as those which make cheese--and are probably where the cheese making bacteria originate.

Post 1

Woolen socks seem to help with the odor too. Of course good hygiene comes first, followed by woolen socks.

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