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Testing for sensitivity in your feet

This test helps you feel for sensation 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 can happen because of 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 lose some feeling in your feet, 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 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.

Kumar and Alex will show you how to do it in the video below. You can also download full instructions on PDF (PDF, 1MB) 
 

 

How to test for sensitivity in your feet

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide for you and your helper. You can also watch Kumar and Alex show you how it's done in our video.

It consists of the helper touching six toes – three on each foot. They then write down how many of the touches you feel. 

The touch must be as light as a feather, and for no more than a seconds. They also shouldn’t touch each toe more than once. 

  1. Take off your socks and shoes and get comfy by lying down on a sofa or bed.
  2. The helper will then remind you which is your right and which is your left leg. They'll do this by firmly touching each leg and saying, “This is your right” and “This is your left”.
  3. Close your eyes and keep them closed until the end of the test. All you have to do is say “right” or “left” as soon as you feel a touch on your right or left toes.
  4. The helper will now lightly touch your toes using their index (pointing) finger. They'll do this for these 6 toes in this order: 
    Right big toe
    Right big toe
    Right little toe
    Right little toe
    Left big toe
    Left big toe
    Left little toe
    Left little toe
    Right middle toe
    Right middle toe
    Left middle toe
    Left middle toe
    You say “right” or "left" if you feel the touch. If you do have a loss of sensation you won't feel the touch. 
  5. Your helper will write down whether you've felt a touch or not.

What your risk level means

If you felt the touch on five or six of the toes, then your sensation is fine. You’re not at an increased risk of developing a foot problem due to 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 does 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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