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Healthy Feet

Foot Fitness as You Age


Updated September 10, 2004

If your feet hurt, it seems that everything hurts. Foot problems also seem to increase with age. Some changes in the feet are normal with aging; other changes may be an indicator of other disorders. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recognizes the importance of foot care, especially in the population over the age of 50, as they represent the majority of patients they see with foot problems.

The most common cause of foot problems is ill-fitting shoes. As one grows older the shoe size changes. The foot becomes longer and wider, and the fat pads on the heels and balls of the feet decrease in size. It is important that whenever buying new shoes, you have your feet measured to ensure proper sizing and fit. The best shoe to wear is one with a wide boxy, toe and low heel. Shoes that lace can adapt to changes in the feet from swelling during the day. Shoes made of leather breath better and help wick moisture away from the feet.

People with diabetes have special foot care concerns. Diabetes can cause nerve damage with resulting loss of sensation in the feet. A diabetic may not know that they have an injury or sore on the foot. Additionally diabetics have decreased circulation, which can impair the healing process. Diabetes should visually inspect their feet every day, and their physician should make a "foot check" a part of every visit.

Gout is another disorder that primarily affects males over 50. Gout is a form of arthritis that results from a build-up of uric acid in the joint fluid. Usually the first symptom is intense pain, redness and swelling of the joints, with the big toe being a primary site. Gout can be hereditary. Wearing shoes and walking can aggravate the pain of gout. The primary treatment is rest, elevation and anti-inflammatory drugs. Eliminating purines in the diet, which can contribute to uric acid buildup.

Other Foot Problems

  • Ingrown Toenail
    This will cause pain and redness around the nail. Diabetics should consult a foot care professional for treatment.
  • Corns and Calluses
    Ill fitting shoes usually cause these common foot ailments. The best treatment is to wear well fitting, roomy shoes. If corns are especially painful there are pads available that will ease the pain. Never cut or shave corns. If they are unbearable your should see a physician for care.
  • Bunion
    This is an enlargement of the bone at the base of the big toes. It causes pain especially when walking. Wider shoes often help, but more aggressive treatment such as orthotics or even surgery may be necessary.
  • Plantar Fasciitis
    This heel pain is caused by irritation of the ligament running along the bottom of the foot. Additional cushioning of the heel often relieves it, or with an arch insert that takes pressure off the heel. Running and walking shoes are often ideal for this condition.

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