Five Foot Problems You Shouldn't Ignore

There's a reason we talk about "getting back on your feet" after an illness or staying "on your toes": healthy feet are necessary for an active life. Yet many doctors don't even look at a patient's feet during checkups, says Valley Stream, N.Y., podiatrist Andrew Shapiro, a spokesman for the American Podiatric Medical Association. That's a mistake, Shapiro argues, because foot problems rarely get better on their own. Feet tend to deteriorate with age, as the pad of fat on the sole slowly wears down and the effects of any structural problems--legs of unequal length, for example--accumulate. Untreated problems can alter a person's gait, bring on other ailments and make it painful to walk or exercise. And when things get bad enough that people limit their movements, inactivity becomes another threat to their health.

The feet also frequently provide the first warnings of diabetes and arteriosclerosis. So don't ignore your feet—they may be telling you something important. Here are five often-neglected foot problems that require attention.