Did you know your feet can reveal almost anything you want to know about your overall health?
In fact, there is an entire therapy based on this premise called reflexology.
Poor feet health can be a signal that other, bigger health problems may be looming.
So next time you kick off your shoes, take a look at your feet—they are likely telling you a lot more than you bargained for.
1. Cold Feet
Consistently cold feet can be an indication of a thyroid issue. Since the thyroid gland regulates temperature and metabolism, large variances in temperatures can be a sign that your thyroid is underactive. Chronic cold feet can also be a sign of poor circulation.
2. Numb or Tingling Feet
We’ve all experienced what it’s like to have our feet “fall asleep” at some point in our lives, but when they’re chronically numb, it can be a symptom of damage to your peripheral nervous system— peripheral neuropathy.
This is something you should get checked immediately as chronic numbness can be serious and caused by several things including diabetes and alcohol abuse.
3. Red, White or Blue Toes and/or Feet
While these colors may be suitable for flags or tablecloths, when it comes to your feet, the red, white and blue are not a good thing—it can indicate Raynaud’s disease (a rare disorder of the blood vessels, usually in the fingers and toes.)
If you do see a variance in your feet and toes, contact your physician to make sure there isn’t anything serious.
The odd foot cramp is nothing serious. But if you find your feet cramping regularly there may be several reasons, such as being dehydrated or you have been working out too hard.
Cramping feet may also be an indication of a deficiency in potassium, calcium, or magnesium. If that is the case, you can try stretching your feet before going to bed and adding more calcium and magnesium rich foods to your diet.
You can also add more potassium by eating more bananas. If the situation doesn’t improve, you should consult a physician.
5. Dry, Scaly Skin
Excessively dry skin on your feet, may be a sign of a fungal infection known as Athlete’s foot. While we all get a little dry skin on our feet now and then, especially in the dry, cold winter months, Athlete’s foot may start out as dry, itchy skin but the skin will eventually become inflamed and blister.
You will need to get an anti-fungal medication, whether it is something more natural like tea tree oil or grapefruit-seed extract (GSE) or a prescription from your doctor.
In the interim, try to allow your feet to air out as much as possible, but also be aware that it is infectious so never walk barefooted in public until you are sure the infection is cured.
6. Thick, Yellow Toenails
Thickening toenails that also change color and separate from the skin are a sure sign of a fungal infection. It is also worth noting that this type of infection is also common in people with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other immune deficiencies, so it is always a good idea to speak to your doctor.
7. Pitted Nails
Little pits or puncture-like depressions on the surface of your toenails can be caused by a disruption of the growth of your nail at the “nail plate.” Typically half of all people with psoriasis will have this.
8. Your Big Toe is Getting Bigger
Gout is a form of arthritis caused by excessive uric acid. This surplus uric acid forms in cooler temperatures, so in the body, that is your big toe.
If you suddenly notice that your big toe is getting bigger, there is a chance you may have gout, in which case, you should speak with your doctor as it can become serious.
9. Sore Toe Joints
We don’t often think about the joints in our toes, until they become sore, of course. But if this pain is happening more consistently, it may be a sign of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Typically RA starts in the smaller joints like your finger, wrist and toes, causing frequent aching and swelling that feels warm to the touch.
10. Cuts or Sores That Don’t Heal
This can actually be a very serious situation that should be discussed with your doctor immediately. Open wounds on your feet that will not heal are a common sign of diabetes.
For people with diabetes, elevated blood glucose levels over time can result in significant nerve damage in your feet. This nerve damage can cause your feet to be less sensitive so you may not notice an ulceration or wound on the bottom of your foot until it becomes infected, at which point it is a very serious matter.
This is why many diabetics end up with amputations, so be vigilant about any open wounds that do not heal.
11. Spoon-Shaped Toenails
Concave toenails typically result from a condition called Koilonychias. It can also signify anemia, so it is best to have it checked.
12. Sharp Heel Pain
Sharp pain in your heel can indicate “plantar fasciitis,” which is an inflammation of a thick band of tissue that connects your heel bone to your toes’ connective tissue along the bottom of your foot (often called jogger’s heel.)
Typically, you will find the pain is localized to your heel and may worsen during the day. More than 3 million people in the US suffer from this condition at some point.
It can be helped by resting your foot as much as possible, regular icing and using a topical anti-inflammatory for the pain.
You can also limit the damage by wearing padded shoes and walking on soft surfaces where possible. Your doctor may also suggest simple exercises such as daily toe and calf stretches. This condition should improve over time.