Reader question: toe irritation in pitchers

My daughter is a 12 yr old pitcher. She has recurring problems with her right big toe in the nail bed on the outside. It gets a “yeast” infection and she becomes unable to pitch. It gets very red and irritated and she has prescription cream for it. Someone told me that some pitchers get a recurring issue like “turf toe”…and that pitching shoes are made that can help alleviate the issue. Do you have knowledge on this matter? Thanks.

I’m betting your daughter isn’t the only one with this problem! I don’t have a medical background and you should definitely follow your doctor’s directions, but I do have some tips that may be helpful.

Firstly, turf toe is a sprain of the ligaments around the big toe joint, which is different from a fungal infection. it is caused by the repeated trauma of a “pushing off” motion, and therefore it’s certainly possible for pitchers to experience this condition, especially if they have poor drive through mechanics. But since it sounds like your doctor has diagnosed your daughter’s problem as an infection, I’m going to focus on that first.

It’s unlikely that this would be caused by pitching, but once it flares up it can certainly be irritated and sustained by pitching. My first recommendation would be to rest until the toe is completely healed, to avoid irritating it during the healing process. This may be long and frustrating, but it may help prevent it from becoming a truly chronic problem.

Once it’s doing better, the next step is to minimize the possibility of irritation. Make sure the cleats are dry and as clean as possible. If there are any holes where a lot of dirt might get in, that could be a problem. You can disinfect shoes by spraying the inside with rubbing alcohol or diluted bleach and letting them dry VERY thoroughly. Putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight will also kill bacteria.

If wrapping or taping the toe does not cause discomfort inside the shoe, that may help keep it clean and protected.

If your daughter is right handed, this is a problem occurring in her push and drive foot. I would recommend browsing our drive through posts and making sure her mechanics are good.

Finally, for both this condition AND anyone experiencing turf toe, it’s important to make sure the cleats are a good fit. I know it can be quite an expense to get good cleats, and this doesn’t seem like a good investment for a fast-growing child. However, if your daughter is experiencing chronic toe problems of any kind, it’s important. If the foot moves around too much inside the shoe, or if the shoe is too tight, the impact between the toe and the front of the shoe could be damaging. I recommend getting a doctor’s opinion on what would benefit your child’s particular foot structure. I like Ringor cleats a lot because I think they have the most protective toe guard out there, but they still have to be a good fit or they may do more harm than good.

About the author


Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. She has coached teams at every level from 10U to NCAA. She also designed and built fastpitchpower.com. Please feel free to leave questions and site feedback in the comments or via our contact page!

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