Your feet are the foundations of the body, yet they are often neglected over the years. This can negatively affect our balance, increase the risk of falling and on the extreme end of the scale prevent us from walking; all things that become more difficult as we age anyway. It’s important to look after your feet and to go to see a professional if you experience any pain or anything that feels out of the ordinary.
Health in Aging says that one in three people over the age of 65 has foot pain, stiffness, or aching feet. “Older people who are living in long-term care facilities tend to have even higher rates of foot problems. In the United States, up to 87% of people have painful feet at some time in their lives. Most of these problems derive from poorly fitting shoes, such as pointy-toed or high-heeled shoes.
“Older or obese people, women, and people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, or knee, hip, or back pain have much higher rates of foot problems. For women, pain in the toes and ball of the foot is much more common than in men, and it gets worse with age. However, pain in the heel tends to decrease as we get older.”
The good news is that a lot of these foot-related ailments that occur as we age are preventable. Here are some things you can do to keep your feet in tip-top shape as you get older:
1. Check your feet
We’ve all got used to checking the rest of our body for lumps and bumps, but how often do you check your feet? Make it part of your daily routine to inspect your feet for anything unusual. Check for dryness, discolouration, cuts and blisters. If anything looks like it could cause you concern - immediately or in the future - it’s a good idea to get a professional to look at it and give you some advice.
2. Practise good hygiene
You should wash your feet every day using warm soapy water, but avoid soaking them as this can destroy your skin’s natural oils. After washing make sure that you dry them thoroughly, as this can prevent infections such as athlete’s foot.
It’s also important to trim your toenails regularly and carefully, cutting straight across and not down at the edges as this can cause ingrown toenails.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
According to Harvard Health Publishing, being overweight affects your feet by putting greater force on them with each step. “It can also increase your risk of having a condition like arthritis in the feet and worsen pain from other foot problems. Being overweight can also harm foot health by putting you at higher risk for diabetes or poor blood circulation, which can lead to foot pain and loss of sensation in the feet.”
4. Wear the correct size of socks and shoes
Wearing ill-fitting shoes and socks can cause a number of health problems for your feet. Try new shoes on in the afternoon as our feet tend to swell during the day and make sure you change your socks daily to maintain good hygiene.
5. Stretch your feet
Stretching the tops and bottoms of your feet can help to ease foot pain. Stretching can also prevent a condition known as a shortened Achilles tendon.
The Verywell Health website says: “Tendons connect muscle to bone, and, if these are shortened due to water loss, you may end up with a more flat-footed gait since you will be less able to flex your ankle, mid-foot, and toes. This is especially true of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone.
“Unless steps are taken to routinely stretch your Achilles tendon, you may be at greater risk of a tear or rupture if you overexert the tissues.”
Verywell Health adds: “Dry skin, especially on the soles of the feet, is a problem that may require a daily application of moisturiser to prevent cracking and infection. The gradual depletion collagen, exacerbated by the lack of consistent foot care, can lead to the formation of cracked heels and calluses.
“If left untreated, cracked skin around the heel can make it painful to walk or even stand.”
7. Get a foot “check-up”
Like going to the dentist, make visiting a podiatrist on a regular basis a habit. Such experts will be able to pick up any signs of foot problems that might cause you future bother far sooner than you might. They can offer treatment and advice to keep your feet at their best.