Word on Health

Word on Foot Health

Our grateful thanks to Tony Gavin from Podsfixfeet for his contribution to our radio feature that you can hear again via the audio player further down this page. We are also thankful to NHS Inform for the use of some of the support information below.

Hear this report and a selection of our recent features together with an eclectic mix of iconic music via the new Word on Health radio stream click here to listen

The human foot is a complex and intricate structure comprising 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments – Did you know there are over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot.  On an average day a person takes 8,000 to 10,000 steps, walking around 115,000 miles in a lifetime – more than four times the circumference of the globe.

It has been estimated that between 75% and 80% of the adult population have some form of foot problem that many of us put up with rather than seek medical intervention for. Footwear is cited as one the biggest causes of foot problems in the UK and its said that 60% of people have one foot larger than the other, A survey undertaken on behalf of the Royal College of Podiatry, found that people are nearly twice as likely to buy shoes that are too small as to too big.

Looking after your feet (foot care) and treating common foot problems – such as corns, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails – can help to prevent problems that make you unsteady on your feet and at risk of a fall.

You should check, and care for, your feet regularly – including cutting and filing your toenails if needed. Schedule a regular time, 10 minutes at least once a week.

If you have impaired circulation or diabetes (medium or high risk), it's recommended that you check your feet every day. People with diabetes are at risk of developing numbness in the feet, which prevents them from sensing where their foot is on the floor. If you have diabetes, you should have your feet screened as part of your annual diabetes review to look for, and monitor, any changes.

Wearing footwear that's safe, appropriate and in good repair can also help to prevent falls.

Foot care


  • hygene - keeping your feet clean and drying properly – especially between your toes
  • Get to know your feet well and know what's normal
  • filing dry or hard skin using a foot file or pumice stone
  • moisturisers can help - but its always best to check with a podiatrist or the local pharmacist on whats right for you 


As well as caring for your feet, you should pay some attention to your footwear as this can also affect your walking and balance.

A good shoe should support and protect your foot and allow natural movement during walking. Poorly fitting shoes can cause foot problems – such as corns, calluses, bunions and ingrown toenails.

When replacing your shoes, look for:


  • an upper made of leather or breathable natural or synthetic materials with seam-free linings
  • a deep and roomy toe-box at the front of the shoe to prevent pressure on the toes and joints on the side of the foot
  • a cushioned and flexible light rubber sole with good grip
  • a heel no more than 3 centimetres (one and a half inches) high and broad enough to provide stability
  • laces, buckles or Velcro strap fastenings that hold the shoe comfortably and securely on the foot. Avoid slip on shoes


And avoid:


  • shoes that are too big or small, or with squashed backs
  • smooth leather or plastic soles, and thick rubber soles that extend over the toe
  • lace up shoes that are untied or without laces
  • high heeled or backless shoes


Insoles. If you wear insoles or splints that haven't been checked in a while, speak to the podiatrist or the hospital department where you got them from to check that they're still right for you.

Socks and tights.  Socks should contain a high proportion of natural materials – such as cotton or wool – as this allows sweat to evaporate from the skin. As a rule, wear wool in winter for warmth and cotton to keep you cool during the summer.

When dressing, make sure your socks and tights aren't too tight, or pulled up too high that they cut into the skin or restrict the circulation. You should also avoid walking on slippery surfaces – such as polished floors or tiles – in socks or tights.

Slippers You should replace your slippers regularly as they become worn and loose over time.

When replacing your slippers, try to avoid slippers:


  • without straps, laces or backs
  • with high or narrow heels


Slippers should only be worn for short periods, and shouldn't be worn all day as regular footwear.

Finding a local podiatrist - Podsfixfeet offers a search mechanic on their website as does the Royal College of Podiatry.


Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.