What Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Whole Health

Updated | Published
by Dr Georgianna Donadio Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health.

Healthy Feet are the foundation of a healthy body. Paying attention to what our feet are communicating to us about our health is vital.

What are your feet telling you?

What Your Feet Can Tell You About Your Whole Health

Whole Health is about having the information you need for your self-care and for preventing problems before they occur. One of the most overlooked sources of information about how our health is expressing itself through our body is the amazing communication our feet provide us. Often ignored as just having to do with the shoes we wear or with “standing on our feet” all day, the condition and communication from our feet is something we should all pay better attention to.

"You can detect everything from diabetes to nutritional deficiencies just by examining the feet," says Jane Andersen, DPM, president of the American Association of Women Podiatrists and a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Some facts about feet: Our two feet contain 25% of our body's bones, and each foot contains a total of 33 joints, over 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments; and countless nerves and blood vessels that connect or communicate with the heart, spine, and brain.

When we develop various foot discomfort we can experience unexpected health problems. When we have pain we often move less and begin to gain weight, or we can start structurally using our body in a way that leads to imbalances, increased falls and possibly breaking bones. Pain or discomfort in our feet is our body’s communication to us that we need to pay attention to our foot function and health.

The American Podiatric Medical Association reports that 20% of the population in the United States has one foot problem annually. Conditions such as flat feet, having a hammertoe, developing plantar fasciitis, painful bunions or other conditions, can cause a lot of pain and overcompensation in your feet and to the rest of the body. Healthy feet are the foundation of a healthy body. Our feet affect our whole body and here are some of the common ways that occurs.

Back and Joint Pain

With foot issues we often change the way are walking to avoid the pain and we are often not aware of that. Misaligned walking can lead to back pain, cause spinal malalignments and poor posture.

Flat feet - Imbalance and Posture Problems

If your feet are flat and causing structural imbalance and posture problems there are easy, inexpensive ways to address that. Foot exercises, orthotics, ankle and foot supports and stress taping can greatly reduce the outcomes from flat feet. When your feet aren’t properly aligned with the rest of your body, it’s easy to see that this can throw your overall balance off as well.

Leg Pain

As our feet have many tendons, and ligaments that connect to the rest of your body, foot pain can often travel into our legs because of the soft tissue connections. The lower legs are most commonly affected since our lower leg soft tissue is closely connected to our foot function. Calf pain, stiffness, soreness or leg muscle weakness can sometimes be the result of an unidentified foot problem.

Many of us don’t give our feet the care and attention they deserve. It’s incredibly important to check your feet often. Look for flattening of your feet (which does occur with age), hammertoes, bunions, ingrown nails, nail fungus, skin disorders, or any injuries. Use a mirror to check the bottom of your feet for cracks, peeling, or dry skin. This is especially important if you are diabetic to avoid infection or a wound that becomes difficult to heal.

Some Red Flags

  • Toenails with slightly sunken, spoon-shaped indentations can indicate anemia
  • Hairless feet or toes can indicate poor circulation, usually caused by vascular disease, can make hair disappear from the feet.
  • Frequent foot cramping (charley horses) -if it happens often, your diet may lack sufficient calcium, potassium, or magnesium.
  • Chronic Cold feet may indicate a thyroid issue or poor circulation
  • An enlarged, scary-looking big toe may likely indicate gout.
  • Sore toe joints – Rheumatoid arthritis can often be felt first in the smaller joints of the hands and feet.

There are many other foot symptoms that can be helpful in identifying what you may need to seek medical help with to insure the Whole Health of your body. It’s easy to see that your foot health really does impact your overall health! Always wear comfortable, supportive shoes, and possibly have custom-made insoles in order to avoid allowing your foot problems to dictate the health of the rest of your body!


APMA: Down At Their Heels Heel Pain Tops America’s List Of Persistent Foot Ailments

Georgianna Donadio, MSc, DC, PhD, is the Director of the National Institute of Whole Health, and a health care visionary who pioneered the integration of Whole Health and Whole Person Healthcare within medical and holistic health organizations. Georgianna is one of only six Florence Nightingale Scholars in the U.S., an MNA award-winning Nurse Advocate and widely published Integrative Health expert and healthcare provider. Named “Best Integrative Healthcare Practitioner” in Boston, for 20 years she hosted the nationally syndicated, regionally Emmy nominated women’s TV programming, Woman-to-Woman®. She is currently the host of iHeart radio’s Living above the Drama which is heard globally, and an Amazon #1 Bestselling award winning author. She has been a regular contributor/writer for the Huffington Post, Dr Oz’s Share Care, Daily Strength and other national blogs.

23 Articles   92 Posts

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10 Comment(s)


Specializes in Sm Bus Mgmt, Operations, Planning, HR, Coaching. Has 40 years experience. 2 Articles; 135 Posts

Thanks!  Shared this on my social media.  Helpful for all.

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health. 23 Articles; 92 Posts

Hello Julie,
So please this has been helpful!
Thanks for commenting.
Kind regards,



Specializes in Psyche Nursing, Med/Surg, LTAC. 33 Posts

Good article with much food for thought. Nurses sometimes take care of everyone but themselves. Thank you!

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health. 23 Articles; 92 Posts

Hello Nurse Scribe -
Yes, sadly that is true of nurses....and many women (especially mothers)!.
Taking care of our feet is an important very overlooked part of our Whole Heath!

Thanks for your comment.
Kind regards,



158 Posts

So glad I read this article.  I have had so many injuries, falls especially, turning ankles, feet numbness and swelling, back pain and etc.  I will get my feet checked out.  And take better care of my feet.  

lawandaluxnurse, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Dialysis. OR, cardiac tell, homecare case managem. Has 24 years experience. 174 Posts

Thanks for the information but what about bunions and hammertoes?

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health. 23 Articles; 92 Posts

Hello She244,
The theme of the Whole Health training I facilitate is 
"Everything is connected to everything else in the body"
and its really true. As our feet are the structural foundation of our bodily
function, they are important and deserve attention.

Thanks for your comment,
Kind regards,

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health. 23 Articles; 92 Posts



2 Posts

Talking of comfortable and supportive shoes.. my wife has tried couple of different pairs of nursing shoes, but model of nursing shoes called Mary Jane flats - was the best one, in comparison. She says it's pretty comfortable and insoles of it - provide excellent arch support. You can take a look at this post to get more information about it, and maybe to compare different models, with all the pros and cons. I love such informative nursing-related websites.

Dr Georgianna Donadio, PhD

Specializes in Whole Health and Behavioral Health. 23 Articles; 92 Posts

Hi Gregg,
Thanks for posting the link. The shoes look terrific!
Good to know someone is making shoes with nurses in mind?
Kind regards,