The human foot has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. With such a complex structure, a lot can go wrong. While some foot problems are inherited, many occur because of years of wear and tear.
Signs of foot trouble include pain, excessively dry skin, thickened or discolored nails, swelling, redness, and unusual sensations. "Consumers should know that these symptoms are not normal," says Joshua Kaye, D.P.M, a podiatrist in Los Angeles. "Whatever the problem is, don't bury it in your shoe and hope it will go away."
Pain in the feet can trigger pain in the legs, hips, and back. Some foot problems can even signal a larger disease, which is why the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) suggests that people take their socks off when they go to their primary care physician for a regular checkup. In a recent APMA survey of more than 600 people, 73 percent said their feet were not routinely inspected at doctor visits.
Toenails that are rounded inward instead of outward could signal iron deficiency anemia. Kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and circulatory problems can cause the feet to swell. Tingling or numbness in the feet and slow-healing wounds could be signs of diabetes or other serious diseases, according to the APMA. Chronic stiffness in the toes could be a sign of arthritis.
"Changes in the structural appearance of the foot can also be signs of abnormalities such as tendon rupture, rheumatoid or osteoarthritis, or neuropathic disease," says Barbara Buch, M.D., acting clinical deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration's Division of General, Neurological and Restorative Devices.