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Touch the toes test

The Touch the toes test helps you feel for changes in your feet.

You can do the test at home to check the sensitivity (or feeling) in your feet. Sensitivity is one way in which your body alerts you to other problems. 

Pain or throbbing tells you when you’ve hurt yourself. In the case of feet, pain could be due to a burn, blister, cut, ulcer or even problems with your shoes. Because you feel it, you can act quickly and get the right treatment.

Why you should do the test

If you have diabetes and don’t have good sensation, you may not feel that you’ve been hurt. That could mean it’s not treated quickly enough which could lead to serious infections or ulcers. In the worst cases, it leads to amputation.

Maybe you know that you have less sensation in some parts of your feet? In this case, you need to check your feet every day by looking over them. We’ve also got guidance to help you do this.

How to do the test

It’s quick and easy to do. But you need someone there to help who’ll touch your toes and write down the results. Tell them it’ll only take a couple of minutes.

The video below shows how to do the test. You can also download full instructions on the Touch the toes test (PDF, 1MB) on how to do it.

Touch the toes test in 8 steps

Here’s some guidance for whoever is doing the test on you

It means touching six toes – three on each foot. You then write down how many of the touches they feel. 

It’s important to remember your touch must be light as a feather, and quick – no more than one or two seconds. You shouldn’t press, prod, poke, tap or stroke their skin. If they don’t say anything, don’t press harder. It’s tempting but you need to write down that they didn’t feel it. You also shouldn’t touch each toe more than once. 

1. Ask them to take off their socks and shoes and lie down on a sofa or bed.

2. Remind them which is their right and left leg. Do this by firmly touching each leg and saying, “This is your right” and “This is your left”.

3. Get them to close their eyes and keep them closed until the end of the test.

4. Explain that you’re going to touch their toes. Ask them to say “right” or “left” as soon as they feel you touch a right or left toe.

5. Then lightly touch their toes using your index (pointing) finger.

6. Start by lightly touching the tip of the right big toe with the tip of your index finger. They’ll say “right” if they feel the touch. If they don’t respond, they haven’t felt it.

7. Write down whether they felt it or not.

8. Now do this for the other five toes in this order:

  • Right big toe
  • Right little toe
  • Left big toe
  • Left little toe
  • Right middle toe
  • Left middle toe
Right big toe
Right little toe
Left big toe
Left little toe
Right middle toe
Left middle toe

What your risk level means

If you felt the touch at five or six of the toes, then your sensation is fine. You’re not at increased risk of developing a foot problem because of a lack of sensation. However, you must carry on having your annual foot checks at your GP practice. Sensation can go at any time and you might not notice. 

Damaged or impaired sensation

If you didn’t feel when two or more of your six toes were touched, then you’re very likely to have reduced sensation. And you might be at risk of a foot ulcer. 

It’s best to get it confirmed by a healthcare professional. So get an appointment at your GP surgery for a full examination of your feet.
If the results show that you’ve lost sensation, you should be referred to a diabetes specialist podiatrist, foot protection team, or the diabetes foot clinic. They’ll be able to help you manage the condition.

This test is officially known as the Ipswich Touch Test, which was designed by Gerry Rayman and the team at Ipswich Hospital.

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