Do you ever experience foot problems? How often should you check your feet? If you’re an average walker, you take about 10,000 steps per day, which add up to more than 3 million steps per year. You’re also carrying approximately four to six times your body weight across the ankle joint when you climb stairs. This amounts to a lot of stress and strain on the feet and ankles. To make sure yours stay healthy, orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists recommend you examine your feet at least weekly.
Follow these five steps for your next foot self-exam:
1. Appearance: Look for things like swelling, discoloration of the skin or nails, blisters, excessive calluses and changes to the shape of your foot. Examine your soles and the spaces between your toes. If you’re not physically able to closely look at your feet, have a family member or friend help you. If you find anything unusual, especially since your last self-exam, see your primary doctor or contact a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon near you.
2. Blood Flow: Press down on the nail of your big toe until the color blanches. Let go and allow the blood flow to return to your toe. The return of normal color should take two to five seconds in a person with average circulation.
3. Function: Try to pick up a marble or a small dish towel with just your toes to test their flexibility. To test your ankle flexibility, hang your heel over the edge of a stair while standing facing up the staircase. Now let the heel go below the level of the stair. If this causes pain, stop the test. If your heel goes below the level of the stair without causing strain in your calf, that is excellent. If there is some strain, this can be improved with flexibility exercises
4. Sensation: Take a pencil eraser and lightly run it on the top, bottom and both sides of your feet. The sensation should feel equal in all quadrants. It may tickle on the bottom of the feet. That is normal
5. Pain: If you have pain, feel parts of your foot for the location. There should be no pain in the average, uninjured foot.
After you’ve checked your feet, try a balance test. Stand on one foot with your arms out to the side and your eyes closed. If you are less than 30 years old, you should be able to balance for 15 seconds; 30 to 40 years old, for 12 seconds; 40 to 50 years old, for 10 seconds; and over 50 years old, for seven seconds. Balance can be improved with exercises.
For more information on foot health and typical foot problems, visit FootCareMD.org, the patient education site of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS). The site also includes a physician finder that makes it easy to find a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.