As we grow into our older years of life every part of our body changes and feet are no exception to this rule. The average person will walk around 100,000 miles in their lifetime, the equivalent of more than 4 times around the circumference of the earth. It’s not surprising then that our feet can become painful over time after such a lifetime of a journey and often with little care or attention along the way.
If you were to take a photograph of your feet in your 20’s, 40’s, 60’s and 80’s they would more than likely look quite different through the decades of walking, running, shopping, working and not to mention the unsuitable footwear that we put them through in our daily routine.
Here are just some of the changes that we can expect to happen to our feet as we age:
- Thicker Toenails- Toenails tend to become thicker and so more yellow and discoloured, this is because of reduced circulation to the toes which are the furthest extremity away from the heart. Repeated trauma from footwear also causes the nails to thicken.
- Fungal Nails- Fungus can thrive in damaged nails and so when nails become thicker they can be more susceptible, those with Diabetes are also more prone to this due to raised Glucose levels.
- Dry skin- The skin on the feet and especially over the shins thins out and becomes dry making it more likely to be easily damaged, and more difficult to heal.
- Heel Pain and Pain on Ball of foot- As we get older the fatty padding under our feet thins and our skin loses its elasticity, this can make walking more painful as our joints are not as cushioned from the ground we are walking on.
- Bunions and Hammer/Clawing toes- Osteoarthritis can affect the joints in the feet making the toes become deformed and difficult to fit into footwear.
- Corns and Calluses- The above mentioned arthritic changes can make footwear become tight and uncomfortable causing friction leading to corns and calluses developing.
- Swollen Feet- Due to cardiac (heart) problems more prevalent in older people and venous insufficiency (the blood not effectively pumping back up the legs because of varicose veins) fluid can pool in the legs and ankles making them feel tired and heavy. If the circulation is reduced the feet can also feel quite cold.
These are just some of the changes that happen to the feet, there are more. Cutting your own toenails can also become almost impossible to do. Many of our patients have told us how it feels like their ‘feet have gone further away’ or that they ‘can get down to them but then can’t see to do them properly.’
The fact is that impaired vision, arthritic joints, hips that have been replaced and nippers that just won't cut through thick toenails, make what used to be a quite simple task almost impossible.
A Podiatrist can help, by having your feet treated around every 6 weeks you do not have the toil of trying to cope yourself with this new problem. The added advantage is that your Podiatrist will not only do the things you now find difficult, but can also offer you other support, footwear advice when your usual shoe no longer fits, a referral onto a vascular consultant if your foot pulses become reduced, Insoles when your feet become painful to walk on.
By investing in your ageing feet you are reducing the chances of a fall, subsequent operations, and increasing your mobility. As Podiatrists we believe that health feet really can be your best companion as you grow older to ensure you the best quality of life.