Our feet are our best friends. They help to keep us active and moving throughout life. From simply walking to performing exercise routines and everything in between, our feet help maintain our balance and support the rest of the body.
Our feet, then, truly withstand quite a bit of pressure, stress, and challenges throughout our lifetimes. Over time, the constant wear and tear on your feet plus the physiological changes that naturally occur as you age put a real strain on your feet and all of the parts which comprise the feet.
There are 26 bones in the foot and tendons, muscles, 33 joints, and connective tissues called ligaments. We put much pressure on our feet take from everyday life. From wearing high heels that make your toes curl to excessive strain from exercises like jogging, it is no wonder that foot problems tend to develop as the body naturally gets older.
Aging affects the feet in a variety of different ways. The aging process will eventually affect every part of the body, including the feet. Muscles and tendons will lose their elasticity over time, contributing to the onset of foot pain. Additionally, cell turnover and collagen production will slow down, the skin will become thinner, and the fat pad of the soles and heels will reduce as your feet age.
Because of these age-related changes to the body, substantial stability issues can affect the upper regions, including the knees, hips, and lower back. Through the natural aging process, common issues in the feet include thin skin conditions; problems in the connective tissue, joints, and nails; and poor blood circulation.
Certain foot conditions can affect anyone at any age. Stress fractures, corns, calluses, fungal infections, toe pain caused by shoes with a narrow toe box, or a strained calf muscle may be problems for just about anyone. However, certain conditions related to the foot begin to develop as the body gets older.
It is important to speak to a foot doctor if you discover an early sign of any of the following conditions:
The fat pads that protect our feet’ bottoms (specifically the heels and balls of the foot) begin to reduce through the aging process. When the fat pad is reduced, patients often experience a crunchy sound with every step.
The fat pad reduction typically causes stress fractures, bruised bones, and balance problems. Invest in high-quality gel pads or insoles and place them in your shoes for extra cushioning to relieve pain from this issue.
Some conditions can affect people of all ages, such as hammertoe, fungal infections, and bunions. However, certain foot issues develop or greatly worsen as we age. These conditions include:
If you begin to develop any symptoms of these conditions or you have greater risk factors that may contribute to the onset of these issues, contact a podiatrist as soon as possible. It can become a major problem and may compromise your ability to do physical activity.
Compromised blood flow caused by smoking, diabetes/blood sugar issues, and blood clots can increase the pain level you feel in your feet as you age. These problems can cause pain in any foot from the big toe to the arch and into the heel. Strengthening exercises and low-impact cardio workouts can improve your circulation and reduce pain.
When we age, the ligaments in our feet start to stretch, which reduces the height of the foot’s arch. This leads to having flat feet. Pain from a flat foot usually manifests in the midfoot but spreads into the inner ankle, arch, knee, hips, and lower back as activity continues. The condition can also cause overpronation and a loss of stability.
The skin of older adults tends to wear thin due to the depletion of collagen, leading to cracking and infection. Dry and cracked skin can be very painful when walking or standing when left untreated. To prevent cracking, give your feet some attention with a good moisturizer.
Tendons lose water as they age, affecting how the tendon can connect muscle to bone. Reduced water in the tendon results in a flat-footed gait and reduced flexibility, especially in the Achilles tendon. The flexibility issue can put you at a higher risk of rupturing the tendon, so stretching and physical therapy can help.
If you are experiencing pain in your ankle, subtalar joint (compound of the heel bone and talus), or big toe, then there’s a chance that arthritis may be set into it. Specifically, older adults are affected by osteoarthritis, also known as wear and tear arthritis.
When it comes to treating foot pain and other conditions in older adults, maintenance activities often provide relief. You may not be able to increase the fatty pads in your feet or increase your arch anymore, but you can take steps to help counteract the issue. These treatments include:
Whether you’re in chronic pain or just experiencing some nagging discomfort, it is important to consult with a foot and ankle specialist to discuss the condition of your feet and how to find the pain relief you need.
If you are an older adult experiencing pain from any of the above foot conditions, contact Rogers Foot & Ankle Institute to schedule your appointment with our experienced and skilled podiatrist in Eagle Mountain, UT!