The human foot is a very complex structure with 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons, muscles, and ligaments. One of the most common ailments for aging Americans is sore feet.
The Aging Foot
Feet, like the rest of our body, feel the effects of age. Blood may pool in the veins which can cause feet and ankles to swell, arches falter so there is a tendency for the feet to flatten out, and toes can curl into claw toes due to muscle imbalance. Muscle tissue also thins and the nerves that supply them don’t send electrical messages as well as they once did. Older people, particularly women, are prone to bunions, a misalignment of the bones in the big toe that cause the end of the metatarsal bone at the base of the toe to angle out. It’s often more injury and chronic diseases, especially diabetes, that cause feet pain and other problems rather than “age” itself.
Feet are a Reflection of One’s Health
The human foot is a good reflection of one’s health. Podiatrists are often the first to recognize certain systemic conditions, including diabetes, circulatory disease of the foot, arthritis or other health issues. Signs of foot trouble can include pain, excessive dry skin, thick or discolored toenails, swelling, redness or unusual sensations. Toenails that are rounded inward instead of outward could signal iron deficiency anemia. Kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, and circulatory problems can cause feet to swell. Tingling or numbness in the feet and slow to heal wounds could be signs of diabetes or other serious diseases. Being overweight can cause foot pain and problems, so no question, losing weight can literally take a load off your feet, sparing you pain and other potential foot problems. In addition, pain in the feet can trigger pain in the legs, hips, and back.
It is very important for your primary care physician to evaluate your feet at each regular check up to ensure proper foot health. They will then refer you to a podiatrist for further evaluation if they see signs of concern.
Keep Feet Comfortable, Stable and Supported
As we age, our feet can spread and we can lose some of the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of our feet. Today’s running or walking shoes are wide, roomy and stretch well, keeping older feet comfortable, stable and supported. Good shoes can help with balance and support, something critical to help lessen the chance of a serious injury from a fall vs. walking around indoors in slippers, socks or bare feet.
It is also important to have your shoe size measured frequently as the foot can change with age. Be especially careful about width and be sure the front of the shoe is deep enough or one can run the risk of calluses on the knuckles of the toes due to friction. Observing preventive foot health care has many benefits, including comfort, limiting potential medical problems, and reducing the chance of hospitalization due to infection.
Foot Health Tips
- Properly fitted shoes can help avoid serious foot problems.
- Look for shoes with a firm sole and soft upper as they are best for daily activities.
- Feet can swell during the day so plan to shop for shoes in the afternoon.
- The best exercise for your feet is walking. Ask a podiatrist about other helpful foot exercises that increase range of motion and strengthen both ankle muscles and muscles that contribute to toes curling with age.
- Never cut corns or calluses with a razor or other instrument; use any over the counter products with the advice of your podiatrist.
- Bathe feet daily in warm water, never hot, using a mild soap with moisturizers or moisturize after.
- Trim or file toenails straight across.
- Inspect feet daily. Contact a podiatrist if you notice any redness, swelling, cracks or sores.
- Have feet examined by a podiatrist at least twice a year.
Committed To Keeping You On Your Feet
Many believe it’s normal for feet to hurt as they age, however, many foot problems can be treated with great success. There are more than 300 different foot ailments. Some are inherited or accompany aging, however, most are caused by years of wear and tear or neglect. Foot problems can lead to pain in the knees, hips or lower back, with problems related to diabetes, arthritis and circulatory disease often detected first in the feet.
At Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists, our podiatrists provide services designed to keep older people on their feet. Amputations and other surgeries due to infections of the feet, many brought on by diabetes, have been reduced in recent years because of early diagnosis and treatment. Further reduction is our goal. For assistance with your foot care or someone you love, please contact us at 941-758-8818 or visit us online at www.cortezfootandankle.com. We’re open 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday and have 4 locations to serve you in Bradenton, Parrish and Sarasota.
Dr. Christopher Addison is a graduate of University of South Florida and the Illinois College of Podiatric Medicine. After completing his surgical residency at St. Frances Hospital in lowa, he held a teaching appointment as Assistant Professor of Surgery at the College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, lowa. Dr. Addison has lectured frequently at national conferences on all facets of foot and ankle surgery. When not working, or spending time with his three kids, Dr. Addison enjoys woodworking, gardening and boating. Dr. Addison joined Cortez Podiatry Associates in 1985.
Cortez Foot & Ankle Specialists Providing foot and ankle care for families since 1974
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