Facts about the Foot

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Facts & Statistics about the foot


  1. The 52 bones in your feet make up about one quarter of all the bones in your body.
  2. The foot is an intricate structure containing 26 bones. Thirty-three joints, 107 ligaments,
    19 muscles, and tendons hold the structure together and allow it to move in a variety of ways.
  1. Seventy-five percent of Americans will experience foot health problems of varying
    degrees of severity at one time or another in their lives.
  1. Women have about four times as many foot problems as men; lifelong patterns of
    wearing high heels often are the culprit.
  1. The American Podiatric Medical Association says the average person takes 8,000 to
    10,000 steps a day. Those cover several miles, and they all add up to about 115,000
    miles in a lifetime — more than four times the circumference of the globe.
  1. There are times when you’re walking that the pressure on your feet exceeds your body
    weight, and when you’re running, it can be three or four times your weight.
  1. Shopping for shoes is best done in the afternoon, says the American Podiatric Medical
    Association. Your feet tend to swell a little during the day, and it’s best to buy shoes to fit
    them then. Have your feet measured every time you purchase shoes, and do it while
    you’re standing. When you try on shoes, try them on both feet; many people have one
    foot larger than the other, and it’s best to fit the larger one.
  1. Trim your toenails straight across with clippers specially designed for the purpose. Leave
    them slightly longer than the tips of your toes.
  1. Walking is the best exercise for your feet. It also contributes to your general health by
    improving circulation, contributing to weight control. and promoting all-around well being.

10. Your feet mirror your general health. Such conditions as arthritis, diabetes, nerve and

circulatory disorders can show their initial symptoms in the feet — so foot ailments can be

your first sign of more serious medical problems.

11. The podiatric physician (doctor of podiatric medicine, or DPM) is the health care

professional trained in the care of your feet. He or she receives conventional medical

training, plus special training on the foot, ankle, and lower leg. All 50 states, the District of

Columbia, and Puerto Rico require that they pass rigorous state board examinations

before they are licensed, and most require continuing education programs for regular

license renewal.

12. There are about 13,320 doctors of podiatric medicine actively in practice in the United

States, and they receive more than 60 million visits a year from people with any number

of foot ailments. Yet that’s probably only a fraction of the number of foot problems.

Mostly, say podiatrists, that’s because many people have the erroneous notion that their

feet are supposed to hurt.

13. Only a small percentage of the population is born with foot problems, the American

Podiatric Medical Association believes. It’s neglect, and a lack of awareness of proper

care — including ill-fitting shoes — that bring on the problems. A lifetime of wear and tear,

plus neglect, accounts for the fact that the practices of most podistrists are made up of

older Americans.

14. Corns and calluses are caused by friction and pressurefrom skin rubbing against bony

areas when wearing shoes. If the first signs of soreness are ignored, corns and calluses

rise up as nature’s way of protecting sensitive areas.

15. There are approximately 250,000 sweat glands in a pair of feet, and they excrete as

much as half a pint of moisture each day.

16. Plantar warts are caused by a virus which may invade the sole of the foot through cuts

and breaks in the skin. Walking barefoot on dirty pavements or littered ground can

expose feet to this sometimes painful skin infection.

17. The seven colleges of podiatric medicine all have entrance requirements which, like

institutions granting MD (medical doctor) and DO (doctor of osteopathy) degrees,

anticipate completion of an undergraduate degree, though they will consider candidates

who show unusual promise and have completed a minimum of 90 semester hours at

accredited undergraduate colleges or universities. However, the colleges report that

recent entering classes were, on the average, almost as likely to have more than four

years of undergraduate/graduate work as less than four.

18. About 19 percent of the US population has an average of 1.4 foot problems each year.

19. About 5 percent of the US population has foot infections, including athlete’s foot, other

fungal infections, and warts each year.

20. About 5 percent of the US population has ingrown toenails or other toenail problems each


21. About 5 percent of the US population has corns or calluses each year. Of the three major

types of foot problems (infections, toenails, and corns and calluses), people are less

likely to receive treatment for corns and calluses and more likely to continue to have

corns and calluses as a problem without treatment.

22. About 6 percent of the US population has foot injuries, bunions, and flat feet or fallen

arches each year.

23. About 60 percent of all foot and ankle injuries, reported by the US population older than

17 years of age, were sprains and strains of the ankle.

24. As a person’s income increases, the prevalence of foot problems decreases.

25. Podiatric physicians are the major providers of foot care services, providing 39 percent of

all foot care (orthopedic physicians provide 13 percent of all foot care, all other physicians

provide 37 percent of all foot care, and physical therapists and others provide 11 percent

of all foot care).

26. Podiatric physicians are four times less likely to use costly inpatient services than other


27. Podiatric physicians provide treatment for 82 percent of corn and callus problems, 65

percent of toenail problems, 63 percent of bunion problems, 46 percent of flat feet or

fallen arches problems, and 43 percent of toe/joint deformities.

28. Patients with foot problems visit podiatric physicians an average of 3.7 times a year,

orthopedic physicians 3.4, osteopathic physicians 3.2, all other physicians 3.0, and

physical therapists and others 7.1.

29. As people age, they increasingly choose podiatric physicians. Medicare data verifies that

podiatric physicians are the physicians of choice for 83 percent of hammertoe surgery, 67

percent of metatarsal surgery, 77 percent of bunionectomy surgery, and 47 percent of

rearfoot surgery. Medical Economics magazine reported that 56 percent of all older

patients have seen a podiatric physician.

30. About 5 percent of the US population sees a podiatric physician each year. There were

more than 55 million patient visits in 1995 from about 14 million people.

31. In 1998, the average number of yearly patient contacts with a podiatric physician was


32. There are about 13,320 active podiatric physicians in the United States today. There is

an average of one podiatric physician for every 20,408 people.

33.  About 81 percent of all US hospitals have podiatric physicians on staff. The larger the

hospital, the more likely it is to have podiatric physicians on its staff.

34. About 87 percent of podiatric physicians are affiliated with preferred provider

organizations, 52 percent with nursing homes, 81 percent with health maintenance

organizations, 21 percent with academic institutions, and 12 percent with insurance

companies, utilization review firms, or peer review organizations.

35. Over the past 10 years, an average of 592 new podiatric physicians graduated yearly

from the 7 podiatric medical colleges.

36. In 1998, 53 percent of all active podiatric physicians were certified by one or more

recognized podiatric medical boards.

37. On average, the podiatric physician in the United States is 42 years old and has been in

practice 13 years.

38. Over 14 percent of podiatric physicians are female.

39. About 58 percent of podiatric physicians are in solo practice. They have an average of 3


40. About 48 percent of podiatric physicians have a license in 1 state, 31 percent in 2, 19

percent in 3, and 2 percent in 4 states.

Sources for the data are the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine, American Hospital Association,

American Podiatric Medical Association, Council on Podiatric Medical Education, Podiatry Insurance Company of

America, United States Bureau of the Census, and United States Department of Health and Human Services.

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Dr. Gregory M. Jansyn