Foot Health in Your Golden Years: 3 Ways Aging Affects Feet

Aging doesn’t just cause wrinkles in your brow, brittle fingernails, or aches in your back. Did you know that 80% of people over age 60 have some sort of problem with their feet? Most parts of the body shrink as we age, but the feet are one exception. In fact, a person can gain half a shoe size every decade after age 40, says Dr. Steven Pribut, a podiatrist at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

aging feet

Will your feet age gracefully?
Image Source: FineArtAmerica.com

Structural Changes

The feet absorb more shock and force than any other body part. According to Ultra Running magazine, our feet absorb two to three times our body weight per stride. So, for a 300-pound runner, that’s the equivalent of 1,500,000 pounds per hour handled by the 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the feet. Structurally, many things can go wrong over the years, especially if you’re not wearing the right type of footwear. Here are a few conditions to be aware of:

– Fallen arches: The feet elongate and widen as the arch tendon’s tissue degenerates and flattens. Some people are born with flatter feet than others, while arthritic patients tend to have more age-related foot flattening. To prevent fallen arches, you should buy supportive shoes with orthotic inserts and avoid barefoot walking.

flat feet

The feet naturally flatten over time as fat pads wear down and tendons weaken.
Image Source: DrFoot.co.uk

– Mid-foot pain: One in six people over age 50 will develop osteoarthritis in their mid-foot, according to a study by Keele University’s Arthritis Research Centre in the UK. The tissue around the joints becomes swollen, stiff, and painful. Overuse, genetic predisposition, obesity, and faulty footwear can all lead to increased pressure on the joints. Orthotic insoles can greatly reduce the stress placed on the feet. Losing weight and wearing well-fitting, quality training shoes are also important.

Skin Conditions

We tend to tuck our feet away in shoes and forget about them. So, unless you go for regular pedicures, you may find that the skin on your feet ends up getting neglected. The National Institute on Aging says the skin “becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth” as the years wear on. Some of the skin conditions you may encounter include:

Cracked heels: Women going through menopause especially report this problem for some reason. The skin surrounding the heels is naturally less supple and more prone to fissures. Also, the lower limbs have fewer grease-producing glands. Cracks in the skin can invite bacteria and fungus into the body, causing all sorts of secondary complications. Using a moisturizing heel balm, pumice stone, and exfoliation lotion can help the skin on your feet age gracefully.

– Sores & ulcers: The high prevalence of the 40+ population with Type 2 diabetes has led to an increase in older people with sores and ulcers on their feet. Blood vessel damage, lack of oxygen circulation, and loss of sensation may all contribute to serious skin aberrations that do not heal quickly. To avoid amputation, wear properly fitting footwear, never go barefoot, and inspect your feet daily.

Nail Conditions

Impaired circulation, systemic diseases, exposure to infection, or changes in the nail plate can all cause the nails to change as we get older. Some problems may include:

– Hardened nails: One in 50 elderly North Americans will develop onychogryphosis — a “ram’s horn toenail,” says podiatrist Michael O’Neill of the College of Podiatry. The nails become unsightly, difficult to cut and painful when pressed against the shoes. The best approach is to trim the nails after a bath or foot soak. Electronic files or podiatric visits are other options.

elderly toenail fungus

Most elderly Americans will have toenail fungus at some point in their lives.
Image Source: SanLuisPodiatryGroup.com

– Toenail fungus: Incidence of warts decrease with age because the body develops immunity to viruses over time. However, the incidence of onychomycosis (toenail fungus) increases. Research has shown that there is a genetic component to a person’s likelihood of contracting toenail fungus.

There are things you can do to limit the odds of contracting foot fungus. Most cases of toenail fungus stem from wearing contaminated shoes, which become festering petri dishes of pathogens over time! The SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer uses UV light to eliminate 99.9% of microbes in the shoes to limit your contact with infectious fungi and bacteria. Making Sterishoe a part of your daily routine will help your feet stay healthy and germ-free for years to come.

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