Ageing Feet – What Do I Need to Look Out For?

close up of elderly person's foot

As we age many things change – and this includes our feet!

Maintaining foot health is particularly important as we age, because it’s our feet that help keep us mobile.

Throughout your lifetime, your feet take on most of the forces applied on the body when standing, walking, and running. Your feet will have served you well throughout the years, so it is super important that we take good care of them!

Keep reading to learn about some of the common conditions that can affect our feet as we age.

General Foot Care – Thicker Nails, Thinner Skin & Tinea

Reaching down to cut your toenails becomes more difficult as we age. However, it is vital that the general health of your feet is maintained, and that includes cutting your nails.

By not cutting your nails properly, or allowing them to grow too long, you are susceptible to a number of nail related issues, including damage to your nails and painful ingrown toenails.

Difficulty reaching down to your feet can also result in dry skin as little to no moisturiser is being applied to the skin. And as we age, our skin becomes thinner, so it is even more important to make sure that they are adequately moisturised. Moisturising your feet can also reduce the risk of painful cracks in the skin, especially on the heels.

Skin infections, like tinea are also more common as we age because it becomes difficult to dry between the toes. Learn more about tinea, how it can affect you and how it can be treated with our article “The What, Where, Who & How of Tinea Pedis”.

Fat Pad Atrophy

Underneath the heels and forefoot we have a fatty padding. This helps to protect the heel bone as well as the bones in the ball of the foot.

As we age, this tends to become thinner and “atrophied”. What this means is there is less support and cushioning for these bones.

Ideally, the foot is in a tripod orientation, meaning that most of the pressure when standing is in the heels and underneath the 1st and 5th toes. When there is less cushioning under these parts of the feet, patients often describe the feeling as “walking on bones”.

This can also lead to callus and corn formation.

If you do have fat pad atrophy, it is important that you see a podiatrist for an assessment. In order to provide comfort and cushioning to these areas, we may suggest certain types of footwear that can offload these areas. Orthotics are also an effective way to add support and cushion the whole foot.

Larger Foot Size

We rely on our feet to keep us mobile and active throughout our lifetime. And as we age, our feet tend to get longer and wider. This is due to increased laxity of the tendons and ligaments within the feet. Ageing can also result in the formation of foot deformities, like bunions, and lesser toe deformities such as hammer toes, clawed toes and mallet toes.

This may also increase foot size and might even require a change in shoe size, going up one or two sizes in some cases.

It is important to note that this is expected to happen and not something to be worried about. There are many different treatments options available for these conditions and sometimes it may just mean changing your footwear style and/or size.

Osteoarthritis

In Australia, it’s estimated that 2.2 million people are suffering with osteoarthritis.  Osteoarthritis tends to affect people over the age of 45 and is more common in women than it is in men.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease caused by the deterioration of the articular cartilage in our joints.

It is condition that is commonly treated by podiatrists as osteoarthritis in the feet can be very painful and debilitating.

Thankfully, there are many treatment options available to help you. To learn more about Osteoarthritis and how it can be treated check out our article “Condition Spotlight: Osteoarthritis”.

Falls and Balance

Falls are a major concern in elderly patients who have reduced mobility, weakness, or other health conditions, such as poor eyesight or vertigo.

In Australia, approximately 30% of adults over the age of 65 will have a fall once a year. Causes of falls include slipping, tripping, medical episodes, or stumbling, and are common in the home.  A large percentage of those who fall will sustain injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones.

Reducing the risk of falls in the elderly population is vital in order to maintain good overall health.

If you are identified as being at risk to falls or you are worried about falling, it is important to talk to your podiatrist about this. There are many things we can put in place to help with preventing falls.

Some of these preventative measures include:

  • Footwear

Wearing footwear in the correct size, with an anti-slip outside and adequate fastening such as Velcro or laces is imperative in preventing falls. Footwear that meets these requirements will help to ensure that the shoes stay on your feet, as well as reducing the risk of slipping or tripping due to incorrect sizing. Shoes should also be sturdy and supportive instead of flexible and bendy.

  • General Foot Care

By maintaining your general foot health, you can reduce the risk of pain within your feet that is caused by skin and nail conditions. Regular visits to your podiatrist will help to manage your feet health and treat any issues you may have.

  • Keeping Active

As we age, our fitness and strength decreases. It is important to maintain a healthy active lifestyle, whilst also making sure that you are participating in activities that are safe.  Some great activities include walking, water aerobics, and simple strength exercises.

  • Balance Training

Poor balance is a key risk factor for falls. Practicing balance withing a safe environment and with supervision will help reduce the risk of falls. Have a chat to your podiatrist at your next consult to see what balance exercises you can do safely.

  • Utilising your podiatrist and other health professionals

Podiatrists are known as Allied Health Practitioners.  This means that we often work closely with other health professionals including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and general practitioners. If we identify that you also require other services, we will be able to refer you to our network of colleagues.

 

If you noticed changes to the appearance of your feet or are experiencing pain or discomfort in your feet and/or lower limbs come see one our friendly podiatrists. Book your appointment by calling us on 03 9432 2689 or click here to book online.