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23 Brutally Honest Confessions From A Foot Doctor

Will you please wash your GOD DAMN feet before coming to see us.

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1. Let's start by getting one very important misconception out of the way: WE DO NOT HAVE A FOOT FETISH.

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No offence to people who do, but that's just not why we go into podiatry. We like to help fix feet, that's it. Not to mention the fact that the job is interesting, varied, and pays pretty well. If we did have a foot fetish, we'd probably be struck off.

2. Although having said that, we don't really understand why so many people think feet are gross.

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Feet are anatomically complex and incredibly fascinating. These tiny feet will end up walking around 10,000 steps a day, which works out at four trips around the world over a lifetime. They contain 26 bones, 33 joints, over 100 tendons, and 8,000 nerves. Without them we really wouldn't have got very far as a species.

3. And we do develop a habit of staring at people's feet.

Pixabay / @brownleelynn / Twitter / Via Twitter: @brownleelynn

But only because we want to help them with their gait problems, and we can't help wondering what problems are lurking beneath their fancy shoes.

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4. You can get nasty infections from pedicures.

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A lot of the tools used in a nail salon (like emery boards) can't be sanitised. You can reduce the risk by taking your own tools with you, or by booking the first appointment of the day, when equipment is cleaner. And fight the urge to shave your legs, ankles (or toes) just before a visit: If you nick or scratch yourself, bacteria could enter the wound.

5. We don't just deal with feet.

As the old saying goes, the knee bone's connected to the ankle bone, which is connected to the foot. We often have to look at the whole lower leg when dealing with a foot problem, especially one related to overpronation (when your weight is distributed incorrectly, meaning an unnatural angle forms between the foot and ankle).

6. One of the most common issues people come to us with are ingrown toenails.

They hurt like hell, but you can avoid them by cutting straight across when you trim your nails, refining the ends with an emery board to lessen the sharp points, or to gently lift the ends of the nail and place a small ball of cotton under them to help the nail stay flat and prevent it curving downwards. For more info see here.

7. But, and this is important, DO NOT try to treat an ingrown toenail yourself. Ever.

@TartanSamurai / Twitter / Via Twitter: @TartanSamurai

Far too many people rock up at our clinics with horrible infections and injuries because they've tried to lever out an ingrown toenail with a sharp object. This is rarely successful. You might end up with a festering splinter, or cause a fleshy growth to form called a granuloma in response to the injury. Just come see us.

8. Please wash your feet before you come to see us.

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You'd be surprised how many people show up with grunge-y feet. We're used to foot smell (you kind of get resigned to it over the years) but you could do us a favour and moderate it a bit. Oh, and please change your socks before a visit too — we can tell if you've been wearing them for days.

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9. A lot of people, women in particular, are really embarrassed about showing us their feet.

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If they have corns, hammer toes, or bunions, they've probably got used to hiding their feet inside fancy shoes. Many women tell us that they'd rather visit a gynaecologist rather than take off their socks and show us what's underneath.

10. Stinky feet can be a sign of an underlying issue.

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Sweat doesn't actually smell, it's the bacteria feeding on the sweat and skin cells that causes the pong. If you have very sweaty, smelly feet, it could be due to hyperhidrosis (overactive sweat glands), and fungal infections can lead to dry, flaky, soft skin that bacteria love to hang out in. We can help, though. Don't be shy.

11. And we sometimes diagnose serious illnesses.

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Feet can tell us a lot about our overall health. A foot sore that won't heal could be a sign of diabetes. Spoon-shaped nails can signify anaemia, while clubbed, swollen toes might be a sign of heart disease. Cancerous melanoma can also occur in your toenails or feet: the cancerous cells can look like purple, brown, or black bruises, so if you see something like this, head to your doctor or podiatrist.

12. No, we can't "just take a quick look at" your spouse's/other four children's/aging mother's feet.

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If they need to see a podiatrist, book a separate appointment. We're usually pretty busy, and we're not in the habit of rushing consultations anyway. We need time to do a good, thorough job and run all of our tests.

13. Diabetes plays utter havoc with feet. Like, for real.

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Many people know that diabetes can affect the lower extremities (it reduces blood flow to the feet), but the reality is often far worse than you can imagine. We see feet that are barely recognisable: covered in ulcers, malformed, blackened, and mushy, often with toes missing. TL;DR: If you are diabetic, work closely with your doctors and ensure your sugar and blood pressure levels are monitored.

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14. In many countries, podiatrists perform amputations.

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So bear that in mind the next time you're tempted to say, "Oh, you're a foot doctor? Does that mean you just cut toenails, LOL." We're highly trained medical professionals who just happen to specialise in feet. So there.

15. Your shoe size actually changes over time.

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People tend to think that their shoe size won't change when they reach adulthood, but that's not true. Your foot size can increase as tendons and ligaments become looser, and your arch height decreases. So get measured regularly.

16. And you should be particularly careful to make sure high heels are the correct size.

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When you wear heels, your weight gets shifted to the ball of your foot. They misalign your skeleton and put pressure on your toes, pushing them forward, leading to "hammer toes" (where the toe is bent downward permanently) or bunions (a swollen bump on the side of your big toe). If the high heels are the wrong size, the effects are even worse.

17. Sorry, but we can't recommend ballet flats either.

They might look cute, but they usually have absolutely no arch support whatsoever, and you end up with your toes crammed into them, because if you wear a bigger size they'll just fall right off. That tightness can, in turn, cause ingrown toenails, corns, calluses, and blisters. In short, we hate them.

18. And flip-flops are even worse.

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The nice, plump, cushiony pads on the ball and heel of our foot aren't going to be that fat forever. As we get older, the pads wear down and become thinner. Walking around in crappy flip-flops can speed that process up, as they don't provide any real support, and also leave your feet open to injury and sun damage.

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19. Walking barefoot on hard floors is a no, too.

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If you spend most of your time at home barefoot, you might want to rethink that. Stomping around on wooden, stone, or tile floors can deteriorate your foot pads even quicker than wearing flip-flops. Wear slippers with an arch support instead.

20. Toe nails can get insanely gnarly.

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Toenails are made from the same substance as fingernails, but they tend to be around three times thicker, and they get thicker still as we get older. Bad shoes and stubbing your toe can speed up the thickening process, and fungal infections like onychomycosis can make them even thicker and tougher.

21. Which means things can get a bit grim when we're cutting them, or trimming foot calluses.

Thisisbossi / Wikimedia Commons / @KeeJones5 / Twitter / Via Twitter: @KeeJones5

The hard bits tend to ping everywhere. If you haven't ended up with a bit of toenail in your mouth, are you even a podiatrist?

22. But at the end of the day, nothing beats the feeling of helping someone to finally walk without pain.

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Especially older people who haven't been able to care for their feet themselves. It's amazing to see the bounce in their step as they leave the clinic.

23. And when people say thank you it makes it all worthwhile.

We would simply love it if you could put on clean socks though. Thanks.

This post was put together with the help of a Glasgow-based podiatrist with over 11 years experience in the field.

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