Your feet are important. They are what make you mobile. While we may often take them for granted, when they are injured or causes us pain and discomfort, we notice them quickly and realize how important they are. It is important to take adequate care of your feet.

Like other medical exams, you can check out your feet at home yourself. In fact, those with diabetes are encouraged to regularly check their feet for swelling and discoloration. Even if you’re in great health and your feet feel fine, it is a good idea to check them occasionally.

What to Look For

The first part of a foot examination is a visual inspection of your legs, ankles, feet and toes. Look for abnormal swelling, blisters, skin and nail discoloration, excessive calluses and Getting Started: “While sitting in a chair examine your legs, ankles, feet and toes. Be sure to examine the soles of your feet and in between your toes as well. Things to look for include, swelling that is not normally there, discoloration of the skin or nails, blisters, excessive calluses or alterations in the shape of the feet.

Normal feet should have a slight pink color. If your feet are red, purple or blue, it can be an indication of an infection or poor blood flow. Also, the color of your toenails should return 2-5 seconds after being pushed on. If it takes longer than five seconds, there may be a circulation issue that may need to be checked out.

The second part of the foot examination involves testing the flexibility and functioning of the ankles and toes. A good test to do is picking up a marble or washcloth with the toes. If one isn’t able to pick up a washcloth or dish towel with the toes, it may be an indication of poor flexibility in the toes which can affect one’s balance. To test the flexibility of the ankles, try standing on a stair or small ledge with your heel hanging over the edge while you’re facing the stair or ledge. Slowly let your heel dip below the surface of the stair or ledge. If you can do this without pain, your ankle flexibility is great. If pain or tightness occur, stop the exercise and try some ankle strength training exercises and stretches.

Proper sensation is also an important element to look at. This makes up the third element of a foot self-examination. Find something like a soft brush, duster or even a pencil eraser or tip of a pin (the opposite side of where the ink is) and gently brush it all along the top, bottom and sides of your feet. The bottom of your feet should be more sensitive and the exercise should produce an itchy or tickling sensation. If you don’t have sensation on the bottom of your feet, it can be a sign of nerve damage or some other foot issue that should be checked out further by a professional.

The fourth step involves checking your balance. Your feet are structured the way they are to give you stability, traction and balance when you walk, run, hop, skip, jump and stand. Of course, one naturally loses balance when one ages. Those under 30 years of age should be able to balance on one foot with their eyes closed for nearly 20 seconds. Those in their 40s and 50s should be able to balance for 10 seconds and those older than 50 years should be able to balance for around seven seconds. If you’re not able to balance for the amount of time that is normal for your age group, there are many exercises you can do to build your balance.

Of course, if you notice any pain, whether it’s sudden, intense pain or its been a long-term, chronic pain that has affected your daily life, one should make an appointment with their podiatrist. There should be no pain in the normal, properly-functioning foot.

Don’t Forget to Check the Shoes

A common source of foot problems, pain and discomfort come from improperly fitting shoes or shoes with heels. Look to see if your shoes are excessively worn. Also, stand next to your shoes and notice if the shape of the shoes correspond with the shape of your feet. If they don’t, they may be the source of your foot blisters and calluses. Besides calluses and blisters, improperly sized and shaped shoes can cause other foot issues like ingrown toenails and can worsen foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis.

The feet should have a specific look and coloring. They should have sensation and flexibility. If you notice discoloration, abnormal growth or pain, contact your podiatrist to schedule an appointment.