The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Foot Care for Seniors: Five Tips for Aging Feet

Posted by on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

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There are plenty of things to look forward to as you age: more free time, possibly grandchildren, a certain “I’m old so I’m finally saying what I think and doing what I want” feeling. Then there are the things people don’t look forward to: gray hair/losing hair, falling faces (or other body parts), and either gaining weight or losing weight.

When you make your list of aging woes, though, did you include your feet? You should, because like any other part of your body, your feet change with age, too. Considering how much we use them, it’s actually pretty amazing that they don’t plain give out.

They hang in with us, though, because our feet are just so amazing. Nevertheless, here are some foot things you should look out for as you get older:

  1. Check your size Do those favorite boots you bought two years ago feel a little tight when you put them on for the first time this fall? Do those shoes you ordered online in a size seven “because you always wear a size seven” not fit at all? Well, the boots didn’t shrink, and the shoe’s manufacturer isn’t playing a trick on you (though shoe companies certainly can be erratic in their sizes); the truth is your feet have gotten bigger. Don’t feel bad, everyone’s foot size increases. Years of pounding over streets, grass, and floors stretch out the tendons and ligaments in your feet, enough to shift you into a different shoe size. The moral of this story? Stop taking your foot size for granted–always try on shoes and choose the ones that fit, no matter what the size on the label says. The right size shoe is as important to you during the day as the right mattress is to you at night!
  2. Check your shape You may never have given your arches a second thought–after all, you have arches, right? You’re not one of those poor people who have flat feet–until you are. The stretched out ligaments and tendons in your feet may not only change their size, but their shape as well shape: your arches can collapse as you age. You may not notice this visually at first, but if you find that you’re feeling pain in your arches, or noticing that your feet are rolling inward when you walk (something that often happens with flat feet), then you should see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900). If your feet are flat, you may need orthotics for additional arch support.
  3. Check your padding No, I’m not referring to that extra inch or two that suddenly appeared around your waist–I mean the fat pad on the heel of your foot. As we age, the fat pad thins out (sadly, this does not happen in more welcome places on our bodies). Since we need this fat pad to cushion the bones in our heel, this can cause heel pain, heel spurs, or calluses. If you’re aging and you feel pain in your heel, it may well be fat pad loss. Don’t worry, though–you can buy heel cushions or heel cups at any drugstore. If that doesn’t solve the problem, see your podiatrist for further investigation.
  4. Check your balance Falls are one of the biggest dangers to aging people. As our bones grow more brittle, a fall that you wouldn’t have noticed twenty years ago can put you in a cast for a long time and make you more vulnerable to future falls. The reasons for the increase in falls as we age are many and complicated, but your podiatrist can help you fight back somewhat. If you’ve had a bad fall or feel you’re at risk, see your podiatrist for exercises that can strengthen your ankles and feet. Orthotics may help as well.
  5. Check your feet Yes, check your feet all over for any peculiarities or changes. Itchy spots and flaky skin can mean you have a fungal infection, as can thickened, yellow toenails. Dark spots can be a warning about skin cancer. A change in overall skin color in your feet can signal a larger issue, like a circulation problem.

Your feet have done a lot for you over the years, so as you get older, make sure that you take some time to treat them nicely. Wash them every day and dry them thoroughly. Help your circulation by having someone give you a foot massage or giving yourself one every so often. Moisturize your feet to help avoid dry skin, especially cracked heels.  Take care of your feet, so they can continue helping take care of you!

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.