Everyone grows toe hair, but some people’s toes tend to look more Bigfoot than human. And if your toes are a touch more wooly than the average person’s, it may make you feel self-conscious. But, according to experts, you shouldn’t be. Having hairy toes is actually a sign of good health.
“Having hair on your toes is a good sign because it means that you have good circulation. You can’t produce hair on your toes without having a blood supply,” says Jeremy Ousey, a podiatrist based in the United Kingdom.
If you smoke or have other chronic health conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol, it can cause your blood vessels to harden or become blocked, which reduces blood flow and makes it difficult for hair to grow. “The further you get away from the heart, the poorer the circulation is going to be,” says Ousey. That means it’s most difficult to get blood to your toes, and if you’re growing five bushes on each foot, your blood is probably pumping correctly.
But what if your toes are really hairy — we’re talking Hobbit level here. Could that be a sign of health problems?
For the most part, no. But in some very rare cases, cancer of the feet and toes can impact hair growth.
“Some cancers might cause excess hair growth locally, but this is super rare. Less than 5% of cancers occur in the feet,” says Ousey. “However, if hair was to develop really rapidly and there were other signs of ill health, then I might query this as a diagnosis.”
Genetic hypertrichosis is another condition that can cause excess hair growth on the toes, or anywhere else on the body. It’s thought to be caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation that can be passed down from parents to their children.
You might also have hairy toes if you’ve had a skin graft after an accident or burn. If you move skin from a hairy part of the body to a part that’s not, it may become hairier.
If you don’t have hair on your toes, don’t panic about your circulation. Ill-fitting footwear and rubbing can cause the hair to come off the toes. Additionally, genetics and ethnicity play a role in the amount of hair you can grow on your toes. And if you have lighter hair, it will be more difficult to notice.
If your toe hair bothers you, shaving your toes or having the hair removed by electrolysis (laser hair removal) are safe options. However, you shouldn’t shave your toe hair if you’re about to get surgery on your feet, because shaving can cause small cuts in the skin that could allow bacteria to get into the body during surgery.
But, according to Ousey, for the most part you should be proud of your toe hair. It shows that you’re fit and healthy. “It’s a sign of good health that I’m always pleased to see.”