- Written by Dr. Meredith Warner Dr. Meredith Warner
As we get older, our feet tend to change for the worse.
Our feet bear the weight of our bodies every day of our lives. Most of us will neglect to take the best care of our feet and often take them for granted. We wear ill-fitting shoes that constrict bones, muscles, and tendons, leading to painful problems and conditions later in life.
Your Shoes Can Make a Major Difference
Due to our choice of shoes, as we age, the foot tends to change shape slowly.
You are probably familiar with calluses and bunions. Both appear when our shoes have constricted the natural movement of our feet during our walk cycle.
Bunions are common in people who have a history of wearing narrow-toed dress shoes, popular in both men’s and women’s fashion. A bunion occurs when the big toe curves in toward the center of the foot, causing the toe joint to become more prominent.
Most of these fashionable dress shoes are lacking in arch support, which can lead to wider, flat feet later in life. In most cases, these issues can be treated with a proper-fitting orthotic shoe or shoe insert that is structurally supportive and cushioned for comfort and shock absorption.
It is best to speak with a foot professional if your pain persists after stabilizing your feet with orthotics, as they can offer more options based on your specific needs.
Take Time to Pamper and Care for Your Feet
As we age, our circulatory system has more difficulty pumping blood to our extremities, including our feet. Some common symptoms include swelling, foot fatigue, and a higher risk of infection.
For swollen and fatigued feet, I highly recommend the use of foot baths and compression socks. A warm foot bath with Epsom salts warms the feet, promoting increased blood flow, which can reduce swelling and aches.
Foot massages will also help reduce swelling and loosen stiffened bones and muscles. Use oil or moisturizing lotion during the massage. Try coconut oil or shea butter, but avoid oils and lotions with added fragrances, as they can dry out your skin.
Reduced blood circulation can make a small cut or blister dangerous. These wounds can take longer to heal, making infection more likely.
Be aware of the condition of your feet. Keep them clean and moisturized to prevent cracked and blistered skin. As you age, your immune system has a harder time fighting off foreign bacteria, and the smallest cut could cause serious health issues if not properly addressed.
If you ever notice any drastic changes to the appearance of your feet, like discolored toenails or skin, you should contact a doctor for an examination to be safe.
With Age Comes an Increased Risk for Arthritis
One of the most common conditions I see in older patients is arthritis. Arthritis is a condition onset by a deterioration of the padding in your joints. Joints will rub together, causing pain and stiffness.
Arthritis foot pain can originate in the feet, knees, and hips. Typically, this stiffness is more prominent early in the morning and late at night. The pain usually will lessen as you move throughout the day and worsen during rest.
Recommended treatments for arthritis include anti-inflammatories, shoe inserts, massages, and stretches. Another option that could alleviate arthritis pain is weight loss, as it will lighten the load on the joints.
Plantar Fasciitis Can Present Painful Problems with Age
Another common condition I see in many of my patients is plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is a degenerative condition that affects the band of tissue that connects the toes to the heel, causing stabbing heel pain. This heel pain is the most painful in the morning when taking the first step out of bed and will usually decrease throughout the day as it stretches while walking.
While plantar fasciitis does not strictly affect older patients, it is more common among older populations. Plantar fasciitis can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or level of physical health; however, effective treatment methods can be harder to find for older individuals.
The most common forms of treatment include steroid injections, surgery, and physical therapy. You can alleviate the pain of this condition by performing daily stretches and wearing well-fitting shoes with structural support. You can easily find plantar fasciitis braces, shoes, and inserts in stores and online. In some cases, patients will need custom shoes or orthotics.
If you ever have questions about your current foot health, visit a foot-care professional as they will be able to evaluate your situation and give you the best options for your path to relief and recovery.
Dr. Meredith Warner is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, specializing in foot and ankle conditions, and the founder of Warner Orthopedics & Wellness in Baton Rouge, La. She is also the creator of The Healing Sole, flip-flops designed to treat plantar fasciitis. www.warnerorthopedics.com