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Foot Problems as we Age

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The older we get, the more attention we need to pay to our health. With so many potential health issues to keep on top of, the feet may not be seen as a cause of major concern. But there are many ways our feet can be affected by the ageing process, and even the slightest problem can impact an individual’s quality of life.

What are the Issues?

One in three people over the age of 65 suffer from some sort of foot problem, and there are many reasons for this. One of the biggest problems is improper footwear. While this can affect people at any age, it particularly impacts older people. Their feet are more rigid, and years of wear and tear will have taken their impact on the shape of the feet. Fallen arches, curved toes, and walking on the sides of the feet are just some ways improper footwear can harm older feet. Bunions, corns, and calluses can also form quite easily, which could lead to pain and further complications.

Apart from ill-fitting shoes, the effects of ageing make the feet far more susceptible to injury. Decreased circulation means a lot less blood and lymph flow to the feet. This is because they are both the farthest body-part from the heart, and fighting against gravity. Additionally, older people often lose weight in their feet, which removes the cushioning between the ground and their bones.

There are 33 joints in the feet, so people suffering from arthritis will really feel the effects here. As well as risk of pain in these 33 joints, the effects of arthritis on other joints such as the hips and knees can affect how a person walks, which could in turn lead to further problems.

What to Do

The first thing to do, and this applies to everyone regardless of age, is to make sure you have the right footwear. The type of shoes you wear will affect your health in both the short and long term, so this is the place to start. To learn how, see our blog on Choosing the right shoe for your foot type.

When it comes to improving circulation, it’s a bit more of a commitment. Improving circulation requires the right balance of diet and exercise, and maybe some medication. The types of exercises you do will absolutely depend on your individual case, so you should develop a routine with a qualified therapist. Regardless of your case however, taking hot (but not boiling) footbaths can help improve circulation, and can also help alleviate corns, calluses, and bunions as well. Elevating the feet above the heart (e.g. by lying on the couch) can also encourage the flow of blood and lymph, improving the ability of the feet to take care of themselves.

Arthritis is a more pervasive problem, and another that may require medication. Stretching the feet or getting a foot massage can help alleviate the pain, but proper footwear with lots of cushioning is the most important factor. Custom orthotics is one way to approach this, which you can learn about that here. If the pain is confined much more to one foot than the other, a cane may help take some of the weight off.

Like most health concerns, foot problems are an inevitable reality of getting older. There may be many potential issues, but most of them can be dealt with easily if we just put in the time and care. We know we’re going to need our feet every day, so caring for them should be seen as a priority, not a chore.