I was once told that the two most important purchases in your life are your shoes and your bed. The reason for this is that you are either in one or the other! Care for your feet is imperative if you are to avoid problems as you grow older. Painful or malformed feet can lead to issues with balance as well as mobility.
Foot problems are common in older people, for several reasons. Many have poor circulation, and this can slow the healing of foot sores. Feet can lose cushioning as you age, and the skin and nails can grow dry and brittle.
The most important thing is to wear comfortable shoes that fit properly. Avoid tight or high-heeled shoes that put undue pressure on the foot. Keep in mind that feet can become wider as you age, so you should always have them measured before buying new shoes.
This is particularly true of buying walking shoes. It is imperative that you get your foot measured every time you purchase a new pair of walking shoes or boots. Only ever buy from a reputable and recognised outdoor specialist dealer. Never buy walking shoes or boots online.
If you usually spend much of the day in a chair (this applies to all age groups), you can improve your circulation by stretching, walking, and other exercises. Avoid tight socks or sitting with your legs crossed.
Do not wear the same footwear all the time, alternate day about. This gives your shoes or boots a chance to ‘air’. Make sure you wash your feet every day, especially between the toes, and dry them carefully.
What foot problems do older people commonly face?
- Athlete’s foot: This is a fungal infection that thrives in warm, dark, moist areas, which makes the foot an inviting target. Early signs are redness, blisters, peeling, and itching especially between the toes. If you start to develop these signs then use an athlete’s foot powder or spray. You can help prevent athlete’s foot by keeping your feet clean and dry and keeping them well ventilated.
- Dry skin: To help prevent and reduce the burning and itching of dry skin, treat with moisturisers.
- Corns and calluses: Usually caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes. The best way to prevent these painful sores is to wear properly fitting shoes. If they do arise, you can pare them down by gently rubbing them with a pumice stone or callus file. You can protect further irritation with non-medicated pads or moleskin.
- Heel spurs: Painful calcium deposits can form on your heels as a result of putting too much pressure on your feet. A common cause is being overweight, standing too long, or wearing shoes that don’t give proper support. Treat with heel pads, cups, or other forms of support. If a bone spur continues to cause you pain, see a doctor.
- Ingrown toenails: Occur when a sharp piece of nail pierces the skin. Do not try to pull the nail off but carefully trim it straight across, keeping it even with the top of the toe. Do this regularly to prevent further problems. If you have an ingrown toenail that looks red and infected, you should see a doctor.
Remember, your feet are important to you. Look after them and they will look after you.