Foot health and ageing

As our feet grow older, they naturally develop more problems. But painful and uncomfortable feet are not something you should have to put up with.

A lot can be done to improve comfort, relieve pain and keep you on your feet for life.

Mirrors of health

The condition of our feet often provides early indications of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis or
circulatory disease. For this reason, the human foot is sometimes called the ‘mirror of health’.

Look out for warning signs such as dry skin, brittle nails, burning and tingling sensations, feelings of cold, numbness, and discoloration. Seek the opinion of your podiatrist when any of these problems occur.

Foot problems can be prevented

As we age, our feet tend to spread and we lose the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of our heels and
the balls of our feet. If we are carrying extra weight, our bone and ligament structure may also be affected.

Many people, including older people, believe it is normal for feet to hurt, and resign themselves to enduring foot pain that could easily be treated.

There are more than 300 different foot conditions. Some are inherited but for older people most stem from the impact of years of use. However, even in your retirement years, many foot problems can be treated successfully and the painful conditions relieved.

As you get older you should have your feet measured more frequently, rather than presuming your shoe size remains constant. Dry skin and brittle nails are other conditions older people commonly face.

Taking good care of your feet has many benefits, including: Increasing your comfort, limiting the possibility of additional medical problems, reducing your chance of hospitalisation due to infection, and keeping you active and mobile.

Keep them walking

Mobility can be a problem for older people, but with basic foot care and prompt attention to any problems, getting around shouldn’t be difficult.

Podiatrists in hospitals, community health centers, nursing homes and private practices provide services
designed to help keep older people on their feet.

Nail care

Keeping nails cut and under control will help keep you mobile. Unfortunately, many elderly people find cutting toenails problematic, due to poor eyesight or difficulties in bending down.

If you can cut your toenails yourself, make sure you trim them just short of the end of the toe, using a strong pair of nail clippers. After clipping, smooth the nails with a file or emery board, using downward strokes.

Your podiatrist will be able to cut even heavily overgrown or thick nails painlessly, and provide advice on
appropriate self-care.

Foot health tips

  • Properly fitted shoes are essential. The older you get, the more you need shoes that hold your foot firmly in place and provide adequate support. Floppy favourites can make you unstable and should be thrown out as they can lead to falls.
  • A shoe with a firm sole and soft upper that can be laced, buckled or strapped to the foot is best for daily activities.
  • Walking is a good exercise option for most people’s feet.
  • If you have reduced circulation, diabetes, or reduced fatty padding under your feet, avoid going barefoot even in your own home.
  • Never cut corns and calluses with a razor, pocket knife, etc. Don’t use over-the-counter corn products unless they were recommended by your podiatrist as they may do more harm than good.
  • Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm (not hot) water using a mild soap, then use a moisturiser separately.
  • Trim or file your toenails so they are slightly curved just short of the end of the toe.
  • Inspect your feet every day or have someone do it for you. If you notice any redness, cracks in the skin or sores, consult your podiatrist.
  • Have your feet examined by a podiatrist at least once a year.