Most Common Foot Problems in Older Adults
If you’ve noticed more foot pain and discomfort as you age, you’re not alone. Painful steps affect our mood and independence, removing us from our daily activities and rendering us unable to do the things we love. Anyone over 65 is generally more susceptible to foot problems, so not only is effective foot care necessary, but arming yourself with knowledge is key to stopping these issues from getting out of control.
We’ll walk you through some of the most common foot problems that older adults experience, along with their symptoms and some tips for management and prevention. Learn about the crucial role quality shoes play in taking care of your feet and most importantly, don’t let foot pain hold you back. Read on to make informed choices that will enhance your foot health and overall happiness.
How Our Feet Change As We Get Older
Before tackling the most common foot problems, it’s important to understand why old age makes us more susceptible to dealing with these conditions. As we age, our feet undergo significant changes from bearing the brunt of our weight over the years, including prolonged wear & tear that results in flattening arches and less elastic skin, leading to a wider foot structure.
These natural transformations result in sagging joints and thinner skin that’s more prone to injuries, infections, or color changes. And if you have small, relatively painless foot issues now, these problems will become exaggerated in a few years, which is why it’s so important to address them head on.
Why Older Adults are More Susceptible to Foot Pain & Injuries
On top of thinning skin, older individuals are also more likely to juggle other age-related factors like decreased blood flow, bone density loss, dry skin, and rough & brittle nails. Poor circulation in particular takes a heavy toll on your feet, potentially causing numbness, swelling, and slower wound healing.
Because we often forget to care for our feet, we might halt injuries from healing properly and further exacerbate any pains, setting ourselves up for painful foot conditions or increased risk of accidents. Individuals with preexisting conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases are especially vulnerable when it comes to injuries and age-related factors that affect our feet.
6 Most Common Common Foot Problems in Older Adults
To start off, arthritis is one of the most common & recognizable conditions of aging feet, responsible for pain, stiffness, and overall reduced mobility. Individuals can suffer from many types, including:
- Osteoarthritis –– the most prevalent form that damages joint cartilage over time and can affect the underlying bones.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis –– an autoimmune disease that typically attacks several joints at once and can lead to deformations.
- Gout –– an especially painful type of arthritis that usually affects the big toe and may cause sudden redness in feet, swelling, or discomfort.
- Ankle Arthritis –– a localized condition where articular cartilage wears thin and eventually breaks down, leading to pain, friction, and ankles that are warm, red, and tender to the touch.
Treating arthritis often requires a trip to your podiatrist, but you can better manage the symptoms by staying active, carrying out gentle exercises for joint flexibility, or taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for pain relief. Early diagnosis and wearing orthopedic slippers are both essential for minimizing discomfort and preventing your condition from worsening.
Bunions are another very common foot problem that produces a protruding bony bump near the base of the big toe. While there could be a genetic component, they frequently affect women and older adults and form due to years of pressure, forcing the foot bone to shift outward and the big toe to deviate towards the smaller ones.
Because uncomfortable footwear can aggravate or create bunions, wearing stretchy & comfortable orthopedic slippers with ample toe room, proper cushioning, and a design that hugs your feet is the best way to prevent and alleviate pain.
Plantar fasciitis could be to blame if you’re experiencing intense heel discomfort. The condition is an inflammation of the thick band of skin that stretches from your toes to your heel, often producing a stabbing pain when you walk. Many people complain that the pain is at its worst after prolonged inactivity, like sleeping, standing all day at work, or sitting in the car.
Routine foot care is the best way to treat & prevent plantar fasciitis, including gentle massages, arch stretching exercises, and orthotic shoes with cushioned soles, as opposed to tight footwear or high heels. During a particularly unpleasant flare-up, you can alleviate the discomfort with rest, ice, and pain relievers.
Fairly frequent amongst older adults, hammertoes result from an abnormal bend in a toe, causing the middle joint to move upward and the tip to flex down like a claw. While the cause behind this curvature problem is unknown, it normally affects the second, third, or fourth toes and could be a muscle imbalance between joints.
The sooner you catch a hammertoe the better, because they’re difficult to treat without medical intervention. Fortunately, our footwear choices make a difference in the early stages, so it’s essential to avoid wearing narrow shoes or high heels. To prevent discomfort, opt instead for a pair of supportive slippers with flexible toe room and soft padding, like memory foam inserts.
Peripheral neuropathy is a lesser-known but common affliction for the elderly, with symptoms including pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the feet. The diminished sensations can come from traumatic injuries, infections, nerve damage, or preexisting conditions like diabetes.
The inability or trouble to detect pain in your feet is especially dangerous if you’re dealing with extreme temperatures, bumps & bruises, or sharp objects that accidentally got into your shoes. Managing neuropathy involves regularly checking your feet for any cuts that need attention, proper glycemic control for diabetics, and choosing comfortable, supportive footwear.
As we’ve mentioned, aging feet often lose some skin elasticity and healing abilities, making them more susceptible to fungal infections like athlete’s foot. In addition, individuals with weaker immune systems may take longer to fight off any contagions.
Keep up a simple but daily foot hygiene regimen to ward off infections, and check between your toes for red, peeling, or scaly skin––especially if you use communal spaces or showers. Aside from changing your socks regularly and keeping your feet clean & dry, choose breathable footwear with moisture-wicking materials like wool to deter fungal growth.
The Role of Footwear in Preventing and Managing Foot Problems
Despite aging feet’s tendency to develop issues, combating these foot conditions can be as simple as choosing the right shoes. Ill-fitting footwear squeezes your toes, doesn’t provide any arch support, and is quite simply uncomfortable, leading to or worsening foot problems.
On the other hand, the benefits of orthopedic slippers for older adults include better support, safety, and comfort for optimal foot health and problem prevention.
Features to Look for in Orthopedic Slippers
Your orthopedic slippers should have supportive arches that better distribute the weight of your every step, reducing any built-up aches & strains with the added benefit of easing pain from conditions like plantar fasciitis or flat feet. In addition, look for a pair with proper cushioning, like memory foam, that provides shock absorption and alleviates fatigue & discomfort for those standing or walking all day.
Another standout feature of your orthopedic slippers is their breathable materials that regulate foot temperature and prevent moisture buildup, like soft silk or satin, comfortable cotton or mesh, and even leather or wool. Finally, find a pair with anti-slip soles for added safety when walking on slick or wet surfaces around the house. Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the same as house shoes.
The Connection Between Comfort and Foot Health
Footwear that prioritizes comfort, fits well, and provides proper arch support & cushioning can manage pain from various foot problems and may prevent these issues from ever occurring in the first place. Studies even show that proper shoes promote better circulation, paramount for our overall health & well-being.
Maybe it goes without saying, but comfortable shoes will make your feet happier and, in turn, improve your quality of life. We may not realize how much our foot health impacts our mood, but a pair of quality slippers can keep us on our feet and make our days more enjoyable.
To wrap it up, it’s only natural that your feet show signs of aging over the years, from common foot problems like bunions and arthritis to more serious issues such as neuropathy and hammertoes. While they may feel inevitable, the key to comfort is understanding the symptoms behind these conditions and knowing how to prevent and address them. Making informed footwear choices is the first step in your journey, focusing on quality construction & materials that will elevate your foot health, keep you moving, and boost your overall contentment.