There’s an old song many of us learned as children that teaches, “the foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone, the ankle bone’s connected to the leg bone, the leg bone’s connected to the knee bone …” and on it goes. (https://youtu.be/dtjYAKeb9XI if you need to hear it again). With 206 bones in the body, it may have way oversimplified human anatomy, but the point — other than teaching children their body parts — was that everything is connected. It’s exactly the same with the rest of the body systems, and even among the systems themselves.
That’s why you can look at your feet and infer a great deal about your heart specifically, and your health in general. The poets may swoon about the eyes being the window to the soul, but the feet have a more practical message. It’s a good thing, too, in that our feet are obviously much easier to see and inspect than our internal organs. So it can really pay off to pay attention.
Here are some things your feet may be trying to tell you:
- Swelling in your feet or ankles may indicate high blood pressure or the existence of severe illness such as congestive heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, lung disease or even Crohn’s disease.
- Cold feet may indicate a circulation issue or thyroid problem. Cold feet are usually more common in women than in men, because women naturally have a lower core body temperature. If you are over 40 and your feet are regularly cold, you may want to have your thyroid checked.
- White or numb toes are symptomatic of Raynaud’s disease which causes the blood vessels to overreact. Often people who have this condition feel like their hands and feet are on fire but to the touch they feel like ice. This can be triggered in colder climates and by stress. Best to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
- Sores or wounds that won’t heal may be related to diabetes. While walking, it’s easy to get bruises or blisters, or stub or scrape our toes. Typically these minor injuries hurt initially, then heal. But when the sore or wound doesn’t heal, it is a concern. Sores that do not heal on the feet may indicate elevated blood sugar levels, which can be caused by diabetes and/or a kidney dysfunction issue. So don’t ignore what your feet may be saying. Have it checked out.
- Numbness or tingling may indicate diabetes (but not always). The pins and needles sensation is a sign of peripheral neuropathy, or damage to your nervous system. That means it’s having trouble transmitting information from your extremities through the spinal cord to the brain. This too, is an issue that may seem minor, but should be checked out to rule out, prevent or treat a more serious issue.
- Hair loss, patchy spots or changes in nail or skin color may indicate poor circulation.
A weak pulse in your feet may be a sign of an arteriosclerosis condition in progress.
- Cramps or spasms in your feet may signal dietary deficiencies, overwork, or something more serious. Your diet may lack calcium, potassium, or magnesium, or it may be a sign that you have exercised too much, leaving you slightly dehydrated and stripped of vital electrolytes. Your feet could be signaling a brain or nerve condition, and is best checked by your doctor if rehydrating doesn’t help.
- Sore toe joints may be indicative of arthritis conditions such as Rheumatoid, Osteo, or Psoriatic. These are the most common affecting the feet. Women are four times more likely to suffer arthritic conditions than men.
- Dry, flaky itchy skin is a sign of athlete’s foot and indicates you may have picked up athlete’s foot fungus. The dry flaky irritated skin that usually starts between the toes can progress to inflammation and blisters and become imbedded in the nails and skin making it difficult to eliminate, so you’ll want to treat it right away. Psoriasis may look and feel similar but is a different condition.
- Foot pain may be telling you to lose weight or signaling the onset of a stress fracture. The more weight that we carry, the more pressure we put on our feet, and aside from making them work harder, this can cause biomechanical inefficiencies throughout your body. Stress fractures in the foot can make walking extremely painful. Other reasons for foot pain can include osteopenia, which is low bone density, and can also be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. Inappropriately selected and incorrectly sized footwear can also be the source of fracture trouble and pain.
- Pale, sunken, or spoon-shaped toenails may indicate anemia, which is caused by a lack of hemoglobin in the blood. If your nails look like this and you are tired, irritable, short of breath and have problems concentrating, a blood test may be called for.
If you think your feet are “talking” to you, don’t wait. Have them, or the conditions they may be indicating, checked out. Pain in particular, should never be ignored. At the WalkEZstore, you can receive a comprehensive foot evaluation to determine any issues, and we can fabricate custom orthotics for your foot needs. You’ll also find a full shoe selection and assistance with fitting, which can help you start the healing process … walking you in the right direction. Remember to always pay attention to your feet and treat them well. Listen when they have something to say. At the WalkEZstore we like to say – your feet tell us what they need and what you need!