Just like the rest of our bodies, our feet experience changes as we age. While every individual will experience something slightly different in their feet as time goes on, there are some common themes that we Pedorthists often see at SoleScience.
Our feet get longer and wider over time
Over time, and with use, the ligaments in the foot and lower leg can become softer and more lax. Conversely, tendons can tighten, causing the toes to curl or the ankle to be less flexible. These can cause a change in shape of the foot, which might include lengthening or widening. The most important point to note when the feet change shape is that your shoe size or width may change. When purchasing new shoes, be selective in choosing your shoe store and ensure you buy shoes that fit your foot. Don’t just go by the shoe size you’ve always worn!
Your feet lose their natural padding
Along the bottom of your foot, particularly in the heel and arch, lies a natural fat pad, intended to provide cushioning for the bones of your foot as they contact the ground. As we age, this fat pad begins to diminish or shift, and the bones of our feet are exposed to more pressure with each step. Cushioning in footwear (or orthotics, when necessary) become more and more important as the fat pad diminishes. Wearing protective cushioned footwear in the house and ensuring that your outdoor footwear is supportive and cushioned can help.
Arthritis, in all of its forms, becomes more prevalent and problematic as we age. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and is sometimes referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis. As it tends to progress with age, OA is most common in those age 50 or older and may be more common in those with physicals jobs. Footwear and custom orthotics can play a large role in reducing symptoms in most stages of OA. Sound like your or someone you know? For more information, see our injury locator.
The skin and nails can weaken
With time, the skin may get thinner and more fragile. Alongside the reduction in the fat pad, the skin itself loses elasticity and strength (known as elastosis) and may be more susceptible to tears and injuries. The nails may change as well, with changes ranging from thickening, breakage and ridge formation. While it may be assumed in many cases that thickening or yellowing of the nails is a result of a fungal infection, it may be a result of an increase in pressure or friction, as well as changes associated with age. If your skin is fragile or your nails are thick, it is recommended that you see a professional (chiropodist, nail care nurse) for skin and nail care to avoid injury.
Circulation may become slower
Diabetes, vein diseases and other impairments to circulation are more common as we age. Diabetes can affect the blood vessels over time, decreasing their effectiveness and impairing blood flow. Veins can become swollen or “leaky” over time, resulting in varicosities or swelling in the feet and ankles. Consult your doctor, physiotherapist or Pedorthist for exercises or therapies that are right for you.
What can YOU do to stay healthy and comfortable?
There are several things that you can do to help stay comfortable and more importantly, healthy!
- Protect your feet with properly fitting, supportive footwear. Every step you take places stress on your feet, but with the proper equipment, those steps can be made comfortably.
- Stay active to maintain your overall health, including circulation and muscle function. Consult your physician on the right level of activity for you. Inactivity can lead to deterioration in your foot health.
- Try foot-specific exercises to improve flexibility, increase strength or simply maintain your foot health.
Still have questions about your foot health? Contact your SoleScience Pedorthist today for personalized recommendations.