Do you ever experience foot problems? Most of us take our feet for granted until we experience foot pain. But inspecting our feet on a weekly basis is an important part of total-body health and wellness. Too many people forego this important routine on the assumption that if they aren’t in pain, their feet are fine. The best way to ensure continued foot health is to complete regular foot self-examinations.
Examine all parts of each foot for anything unusual. Pay attention to the balls of your feet between your toes and arch since this is where pressure is placed while walking.
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 your feet stay healthy, orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists recommend you examine your feet at least weekly. And what should you look for? Here are some tips from FootCareMD.org, the patient education site of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS).
Follow these five steps for your next foot self-exam:
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.
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
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
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 those with diabetes, a foot self-exam should be performed every day to ensure you stay in good health. Diabetic foot is defined as infection, ulceration or destruction of tissues of the foot associated with neuropathy and/or peripheral arterial disease in people with diabetes mellitus. Up to 50% of diabetic patients may have asymptomatic peripheral neuropathy and 15% may develop Diabetic Foot Ulcers. Foot care is an important part of diabetic care to prevent the development of these foot complications.
Take care of your feet, you need them both for a healthy active life.