From the day we start walking, our feet are subject to extreme conditions. The foot is an extremely resilient part of the body, but its biological age and appearance are influenced by both internal and external factors, compounded by its complex musculoskeletal structure. Modern-day activity and poor footwear are the most common causes of premature ageing of the foot. Other factors include genetic foot posture disposition, body weight, a disease like rheumatoid arthritis, lack of essential dietary nutrients and too much, or too little, weight bearing exercise and obesity.
What happens to your feet as you age?
Ageing of the foot occurs as the bones, joints, soft tissue and fat pad degenerate. Long-term exposure to excessive load and abnormal forces acting upon the foot (i.e. high physical load or inappropriate footwear) can lead to arthritis, deformity, reduced function, or loss of the fat pad.
In older people, signs of arthritis, thinning of the fat pad, clawing of the toes, bunions and dorsal bumps, calluses, nail complaints and foot deformities increase the foot’s age.
Advanced wear and tear are also seen in younger people, particularly those who wear unsupportive footwear, ex-athletes, people with excessively flat feet) and people with high physical occupations.
How to take Care of older feet
Choose the right footwear
- Shoes with a suitable length – not too short and not too long.
- Appropriate width (not too tight or too loose), with the right shape to fit your foot.
- Adequately fastened shoes that are securely fitted onto the foot without requiring gripping or activation of your toes to hold it in place.
Care for your shoes
- Replace or repair your footwear before the wear and tear starts to show.
- Avoid hand-me-downs of footwear – they rarely fit appropriately and are often ‘worn in’ to the previous owner’s foot.
Give your feet love
- Use a tennis ball to massage your foot at the end of the day.
- Stretch the top of your foot and your toes by using your hand to apply downward pressure to the toes.
- While sitting barefoot, without assistance spread your toes. Hold the toe spread position for as long as possible and repeat five times daily.
- Stretch your calf muscles daily by dropping your foot off a step. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat five times each leg.
Take care of your general health and fitness
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Undertake regular weight-bearing exercise of more than 30 mins per day.
- Seek medical, podiatry or physiotherapy opinion for assessment of ongoing pain or injury.
- Care of older feet: Edited by Helen Potter In Touch Physiotherapy Sept 2017 from Medibank