The feet are probably among the most neglected parts of the body, yet it offers so much. From literally carrying your weight to taking you places, they are considered workhorses of the body.
But despite completing an average of 5,000 steps (or about 2.5 miles) a day, these complex body parts comprising a quarter of all your bones, 18 per cent of joints, and six per cent muscles get the least attention and care.
This needs to change.
Here, you will learn about the things your feet can reveal about your health from a general medicine standpoint and what you can do to keep them in good shape.
7 Things Your Feet Reveal About Your Health
Although they may be farthest from your heart and other internal organs, your feet can tell you many things about your health.
Below are seven conditions you may observe in your feet that could mean something else entirely:
1. Cold feet
This is often used as an expression to reflect one’s (emotional) nerves, but did you know that actual cold feet can mean nerve damage because of diabetes?
This condition, called diabetic peripheral neuropathy, causes all sorts of symptoms, including loss of sensation, numbness, and pain. Sometimes, it can also cause your feet to feel warm to the touch but cold to you.
Besides complications related to diabetes, cold feet are also associated with the following medical conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
Of course, it is also possible that you just have cold feet. Still, it would be best to seek professional advice if this keeps recurring.
2. Loss of foot hair
Hairy toes are the norm for both men and women. What’s not normal is the lack of hair – even very fine ones – on the feet. In fact, it could be a sign of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Based on an article from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, PAD entails blood flow restriction in the legs’ arteries. It can also signal a more widespread ailment, which could increase your risk of heart disease.
3. Thick and yellowish toenails
Notice one or more of your toenails thickening, separating from the skin, or changing in colour? This may signal fungal infection or a more serious underlying condition.
Anyone can have a fungal infection, but people with autoimmune diseases (especially those taking anti-rejection medication) have a higher risk. This is based on a report from the Laboratory of Taxonomy.
A few other drugs, like corticosteroids, also have the same effect, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
4. Big toe enlargement
Swelling of the big toe is often the first sign of gout caused by too much uric acid in the body. This type of arthritis can be quite painful, so you may need to seek medical help immediately.
5. Foot pain
People experience foot pain all the time and, in most cases, blame their shoes for it. This is to be expected, considering the footwear many people (most of whom are women) wear today.
But if you’re wondering why you’re experiencing foot pain even with a good pair of shoes and excellent-fitting sports socks, you need to ponder the cause of your aching feet more.
If it’s not because of ultra-high heels, potential reasons for foot pain include stress due to fracture or a bone crack – both of which could be because of intense workout routines and high-impact sports (e.g., distance running or basketball).
Weakened bones from osteoporosis could also increase your risk of foot pain.
6. Colourful toes
If your toes change in colour even without you using nail polish, you may want to visit your doctor as this might be because of a certain medical condition: Raynaud’s disease.
This condition causes some parts of the body – particularly the fingers and toes – to feel cold and numb when exposed to cold temperatures or stress. When this happens, the smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin become narrower than normal, causing vasospasm (limited blood flow) to the affected areas.
Women and people living in colder climates are more prone to this ailment, though anyone can experience it given the right circumstances. Doctors still have yet to discover what causes it, though observation reveals that it involves an overreaction of the limbs to stress or cold. As such, potential triggers include:
- Putting or taking something in the freezer
- Being outside during cold weather
- Putting hands or feet in cold water
- Emotional distress
7. Sunken toenails
Sunken toenails or the presence of indentations in the shape of a spoon could be a sign that you’re suffering from chronic iron deficiency, also known as anaemia. Concave toenails or “koilonychia” can be a potential result of trauma, high altitude, or exposure to petroleum products.
To be sure, consult your doctor for potential iron deficiency should you find indentations on your nails.
3 Bonus Care Tips to Keep Your Feet Healthy
Besides serving as clues about your general health, your feet do many things for you. It’s time to return the favour with these three tips in foot care:
1. Choose the right footwear.
Though this may seem simple enough, the sheer number of choices makes deciding on a good pair of footwear a daunting task. However, the key is to pick shoes that don’t hurt when you put them on, even for extended periods.
Flip-flops and flats don’t provide enough support, so it would be best to skip them. You should also avoid tight-fitting footwear.
2. Give your feet a good clean.
Wash your feet with warm water, but be careful not to soak them as it could lead to dryness.
You can also use moisturising products like cream, lotion, or petroleum jelly. Just remember to avoid putting them in between the toes to prevent infection.
3. Inspect them regularly.
Check your feet daily, paying close attention to sores, any swelling, cuts, and infected toenails. Taking note of these early on will help you avoid serious complications.
Your Body and Sole
Your feet do more than just carry the weight of your body; they also reflect your overall wellbeing. So ensure holistic care for your body by caring for your feet, too.