Understanding Healthy Feet: What They Look and Feel Like

As feet are crucial to our mobility and well-being, understanding what constitutes a healthy foot is essential. In this blog article, we’ll explore the characteristics that define healthy feet, both in how they feel and how they look with a few extra little tips in between. Some of the information listed below is what us podiatrists look for when performing our standard clinical assessments.

Healthy feet are not only functional but also the aesthetics do need to be considered. Here’s what healthy feet look like:

 

What a podiatrist assesses as healthy skin on the foot
  • The colour of the skin is the same or very similar colour to the skin on your thighs or belly. It is not reddish or bluish, this could indicate circulation problems.
  • The skin between your toes is clean and doesn’t have peeling or moist, white skin. Fungus loves moist skin.
  • The skin underneath the foot is well hydrated. It isn’t dry, flaky or cracking. Cracks are painful and an entry point for infectious skin diseases.
  • The skin is free of infectious skin diseases, such as tinea (athlete’s foot) and warts.
  • The skin colour on your toes and joints in the same as the surrounding skin colour. Redness on the toe joints means there is excess pressure from footwear, your sleeping position or the ground when walking.
  • Some callus is okay. Thick callus and deep corns are not, and mean there is excessive pressure.
  • If you used to have hair grow on your toes and tops of foot and now you don’t, this could be a sign that you aren’t getting as much blood to your feet and you should see a podiatrist.

Overall the integrity of healthy feet should be intact. Examples of poor skin integrity include cracks, deep calluses, or blisters. The skin should be free from any signs of irritation or inflammation. Treat your feet with moisturising creams in particular urea-based ointments to hydrate the skin and provide a barrier for infections. Additionally, maintaining adequate foot hygiene is important for healthy feet, that includes washing and drying thoroughly in between the toes to also minimise risk of infections.

Lastly, when you get your skin cancer checks done by your doctor, make sure they are checking under your feet, in between your toes and your toenails i.e. don’t wear toenail polish when you go for your skin checks.

 

What a podiatrist assesses as healthy toenails
  • The toenails are free of infectious diseases, such fungal toenails and infected ingrown toenails.
  • The toenails aren’t too thick or thin i.e. they can be trimmed with nail clippers without easily breaking.
  • Your toenails are smooth and the same colour as your fingernails. If all your toenails have little pits in them, or are club shaped, spoon shaped, entirely yellow or white, this can indicate an underlying health condition.
  • The toenails have been trimmed, not picked and peeled. Regular ingrown toenails warrant an appointment with a podiatrist.

What a podiatrist assesses as a healthy shape 
  • The size of your feet is similar in the morning to the evening. Healthy feet exhibit no signs of swelling or puffiness, especially around the ankles or in the toes. Swelling may indicate underlying issues such as venous incompetency, lymphatic issues, autoimmune or potential cardiovascular pathologies. Basic tips for managing swelling include keeping the feet elevated, staying physically active such as walking to activate that calf muscle pump to allow for venous return, medical grade compression stockings or garments or pharmacological management through a general practitioner if indicated.
  • Proper alignment: when viewed from the top, the toes should be symmetrical, straight, not overlapping or crossing over each other. Proper alignment contributes to overall foot health and reduces the risk of developing foot deformities, which can lead to a risk of falls and other foot complaints. Unfortunately for some people, there may be genetic components which makes them more susceptible for developing these deformities such as bunions, however being able to accommodate these deformities with wearing adequate and well fitted footwear, performing exercises and treatments such as mobilisation can slow down the progression. Doing the above can still constitute as having healthy feet despite having a deformity. Consult a podiatrist to understand more about the management side.
  • New lumps and bumps should also be checked by a podiatrist.

Healthy feet not only look good but should also feel comfortable and pain-free. Here’s how healthy feet should feel:

 

  1. Perhaps the most obvious sign of a healthy foot is the absence of pain or discomfort during weight-bearing activities such as walking, standing, or running. While mild fatigue or soreness after prolonged activity is normal, persistent or severe pain should be evaluated by a podiatrist to rule out underlying issues.
  2. Healthy feet have normal sensation, with no numbness, tingling, or pins and needles sensations. Proper nerve function is essential for foot health. A podiatrist can assess the integrity of different nerve fibre testing in a consult to assess for any potential nerve damage. To learn more about neuropathy, the information is in our previous blogs here and here
  3. Good circulation is essential for healthy feet, as it ensures the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and promotes healing. Healthy feet typically exhibit warm skin with normal colouration. A non-graduated temperature gradient such as suddenly cold or ‘icy-cold’ at the extremities may indicate poor circulation and should be evaluated by a podiatrist.
  4. Healthy feet possess adequate flexibility and range of motion, allowing for smooth and pain-free movement. Joints in the feet should move freely without stiffness or discomfort. A lack of flexibility or restricted range of motion can contribute to foot pain, instability, and increased risk of injury.
  5. Healthy feet provide a sturdy foundation for your body, allowing you to stand tall and steady. Think of your feet as trusty anchors, keeping you grounded and balanced no matter the terrain.
  6. Healthy feet are finely attuned to their surroundings, able to sense changes in texture, temperature, and pressure. Consider your feet as your body’s loyal scouts, alerting you to potential hazards and guiding you safely along your path.
Conclusion:

Understanding what constitutes a healthy foot is crucial for maintaining overall foot health and well-being. By paying attention to both the appearance and feel of your feet, you can identify any potential issues early and take steps to address them. Remember to practice good foot hygiene, wear appropriate footwear, and seek professional care if you experience any persistent pain or discomfort. Your feet play a vital role in your daily life, so treat them with the care and attention they deserve.

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