A third of seniors suffer from foot problems, and 75 percent of the population has experienced foot pain at some point.
These statistics show foot pain can affect anyone regardless of age, but for seniors it’s especially important to practice proper foot care.
Your feet change as you age. They expand and lengthen as you get older. You also have flatter arches, stiffer ankles and foot joints and less cushioning under your feet.
All these changes can lead to foot pain, as can medical conditions like nerve disorders and diabetes, which cause poor circulation. People with heart disease, knee, hip or back pain and osteoporosis (weak bones) also are more likely to have foot issues.
Certain behaviors can make foot problems worse, too. According to a American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) survey, 64 percent of Americans say they knowingly wear shoes that hurt their feet; 78 percent of Americans have experienced foot pain because they wore uncomfortable shoes or shoes that didn’t fit.
Foot problems can include bunions, an overgrown bump on your big toe; hammertoes, dislocated toe joints that bend in an abnormal direction; ingrown or discolored toenails; foot ulcers and foot deformities caused by arthritis; heel or arch pain and calluses and corns.
Many of these issues are avoidable, so here are a few tips for proper foot care:
Wear comfortable shoes: The shoes you wear shouldn’t pinch your feet, so make sure there’s enough room left at the toe cap whenever you try on new shoes.
Also, wear shoes with the right support. As you age, the risk of slip and falls increase, so avoid shoes with a very soft sole.
Keep your feet elevated: Good circulation can reduce your risk of foot problems, so put your feet up when you sit. Get an ottoman, another chair or a recliner to make sure your feet are elevated, especially if you spend hours reading or in front of the TV.
Treat your feet: Take care of your feet. Always make sure they are dry and clean (not doing so can lead to fungal infections or other infections). Massage your feet or soak them in warm water at the end of a long day or after you’ve done activities that put stress on your feet, like walking or standing for a long time.
Stay healthy: Diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions can affect circulation and lead to foot problems. Many older adults suffer from multiple chronic conditions. It’s important to take the medications your doctor prescribes and follow his or her recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, which can help you better manage these conditions.
See a foot doctor: Self-treatment at home only can be so effective. Sometimes you need to see a professional to get the help you need, especially if foot problems haven’t improved.
According to the APMA survey, only 25 percent of Americans who have experienced foot problems have actually seen a doctor to address them and only 12 percent have visited a podiatrist, or foot doctor. Don’t fall into this category. Schedule an appointment with your doctor before the problem gets worse.
Foot pain is real risk for seniors, but you can avoid foot problems by wearing properly fitting shoes, following a healthy regimen and by seeing a doctor if you experience persistent pain. All these things are part of proper foot care and doing them can keep your feet in tip-top shape.