Good foot health is important at every age, but even more important as we get older. The longer our feet stay healthy, the longer we can maintain an active lifestyle. Complaints about sore feet are more common in people as they grow older; these are sometimes due to physical changes in the body that aging can cause.

Foot pain makes it harder to walk and carry out daily activities. Balance may also be affected and the chance of falling increases. But just because we are getting older, does not mean we need to put up with foot pain.

Causes of foot pain in older adults

Limited flexibility and decreased vision makes it difficult to care for our feet and nails like we used to. Toenails may become extremely long as we are unable to reach, see or manage the nail clippers. Pain can be caused by the overly long or thick nails being pushed up against the shoe or slipper.

After decades of standing, the fatty pads on the bottom of the foot can wear out. When these natural shock absorbers under the heel and on the ball of the foot are broken down, calluses can form. Calluses are the bodies attempt to protect itself, from the hard impact of the floor against the joints and bones of the foot. This thickened skin can cause extra pressure and pain on walking.

Aging can cause the small blood vessels in our legs and feet to narrow and become thicker. This reduces the amount of fluid and nutrients that get to the ends of our toes. This thickening of the vessels makes it harder for the fluids and nutrients to get out of the blood vessels and into the tissues and nails. This can cause the toenails to become dry, thickened and yellow, making them difficult to cut. Thickened nails put pressure on the toes and cause discomfort. Swelling and cramping in your feet and legs can also be the result of decreased circulation.

Tips for senior foot care

Prevention and maintenance is the best way to maintain healthy feet.

  • Inspect your feet regularly, daily if you are diabetic. Use a mirror to see the bottom of your feet if you are flexible enough, if you are not able to see your feet adequately, ask for assistance.

  • When sitting down for longer periods (i.e. when watching TV) put your feet up; this makes it easier for your heart to circulate the blood through your legs and feet.

  • See your Foot Care Nurse on a regular basis (every 6-8 weeks). Keeping your nails trimmed and addressing issues causing discomfort will prevent problems.

Foot problems can be the first sign of more serious medical conditions; symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, nerve issues and circulation problems may first be noticeable in the feet. It is important to pay attention to your feet and bring foot concerns to your health care provider’s attention as soon as you notice a problem.

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