Yet, many of us take our feet for granted. US adults don’t give the same priority to caring for their feet as they do for their heart, eyes, teeth or skin, even though 80% agree that foot health is fundamental to well-being. Your efforts will be worth the time. A few minutes of daily care today can make your feet healthier as you get older.
How Feet Change With Age
Throughout life, everyone’s feet naturally get wider and longer; your arch gets flatter; the fat pad under your heel, which protects your foot’s plantar fascia, ligaments, tendons and bones thins out; and you lose some range of motion in your ankles.
Foot Protection in Your 20s and 30s
Two common things you can do that damage your feet for the rest of your life are to wear heels that are too high for you and not protect your feet when you play sports or exercise.
Avoid harm from high-heels. Heels that are too high don’t just hurt your toes and toenails, they can cause leg injuries, osteoarthritis of the knee, plantar fasciitis, and hip and low back pain. High Heels also increase the risk of sprains and falls. In fact, 1 out 3 women have permanent problems from their high-heel habit. High heels may also make your bunion deformity worse. The 21st century is the millennium for stylish, lower-heeled shoes and heels that balance height with complementary comfort technologies.
Wear the right shoes for each activity. The top five activities that cause foot pain are running or jogging, hiking, basketball, walking for fitness and dancing. The biggest leisure activity that causes foot pain is shopping. (All the more reason to shop online!) Wearing the same athletic shoes day-in and day-out aren’t likely to give your feet the support you need in every circumstance so you’ll need more than one pair to help prevent foot pain.
Once you’ve picked the right pair for your activity, wear padded socks. Studies show that they can help protect your feet from injuries.
Foot Fortification in Your 40s and 50s
After age 30, the fat pads at the bottom of your feet start losing their thickness, suppleness and strength.
By the time you’re 50, you may have lost as much as 50% of your fat pads and the skin around your foot is much thinner too.
This means your feet are more vulnerable to the pounding forces of walking and to skin damage. The 40s, 50s, and 60s are the peak ages to develop or aggravate problems that result from poor-fitting shoes, like bunions and arthritis.
Treat any foot problems that develop right away to keep them from getting worse.
Take some time every day to help your feet stay safe and strong, too.
Be safe and strong. Help protect the bottoms of your feet by not walking barefoot, even at home. Going barefoot is especially hazardous when you have nerve injury or if you are a diabetic with decreased sensation in your feet.
Save yourself from the pain of ill-fitting shoes. Have your feet measured. Most adults don’t keep the same shoe size as they age; generally shoe size gets larger due to flattening of the arch.
Help reduce the impact on your knees with soft insoles which will also reduce pain from calluses. Wear comfortable shoes as often as you can. Shoes that let you walk naturally allow your hips, back, legs, and feet stretch.
Keep your feet and legs strong by getting up and moving around and taking time to stretch your calves and feet every day.
Foot Care After 60
Changes in flexibility, dexterity, vision and blood circulation may mean you need to adapt how you take care of your feet. Use these tips for self-care:
• Don’t risk infection from cuts or ingrown nails—let your doctor trim your toenails.
• Be aware that sensitive feet are more delicate. Shoes that are too tight or even a wrinkled sock can damage your skin. Tight fitting shoes may lead to blisters that may get infected.
• Keep your glasses prescription current so you can see to inspect your feet and to reduce your chance of falling.
• Prevent losing your balance when you wash your feet with a tub or shower chair.
When you are shopping for footwear:
• Buy adjustable shoes with hook-and-loop straps for easy on and off and so you can adjust the fit when you need to.
• Choose shoes with a non-skid outsole for more stable steps.
• Look for diabetic-friendly and orthotic-friendly shoe and sock options, as appropriate.
American Podiatric Medical Association: “Public Opinion Research on Foot Health and Care, Findings from a Survey of 100 US Adults, March 2014.”
American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: “How to Assess Changes in Feet: Normal or Abnormal”
American Osteopathic Association: “The Real Harm in High Heels”
Physical Therapy: Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association: “Foot Care for the Aging.”
Institute for Preventive Foot Health:
“Integrated Approach to Selecting Padded Socks and Shoes that Fit”
“Fat Pads: What You Need to Know”
“Foot Problems Pervasive in U.S. Linked to Obesity, Sedentary Lives, Diabetes, Says IPFH/NPD Study”