Oh, our aching feet. If they could talk, they would likely cry, “Help!” That’s especially true for older adults. Failure to take care of our feet can lead to a host of problems and contribute to falls, the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among older people. So, Growing Bolder rounded up some surprising facts about aging feet you should know – but probably don’t.
- Feet change as we age. While our bones don’t grow, our foot structure changes over time. Arches can drop, feet can spread, and we tend to lose fat that provides cushion to the bottom of our feet.
- Shoe sizes can increase. Because of the above-mentioned conditions, shoe sizes often change as we get older. So, it’s important to check the correct size when purchasing a new pair of shoes. What’s more, sometimes only one of the feet changes, in which case you should shop for the larger foot.
- Socks are important. Compression socks can improve circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots as well as keep your feet and legs from feeling tired. The right kind of socks wick moisture, reducing the possibility of fungal infections. But note: If you walk on hard floors in socks only, stop! Socks reduce the friction between the foot and the floor. Doctors say falls are common when people wear socks alone.
- The right shoes can help prevent falls. Today’s shoes for older feet are a far cry from Grandma’s unstylish orthopedic options. Kimberly Grogan, owner of Dash Sports, said today there are a wide variety of styles and colors, including sandals, that provide comfort and support for older people. She recommends people, especially as they age, get a proper fitting that includes having a professional not only measure your feet but watch you walk. The right sole can help prevent the foot from rolling over, Grogan said. A high arch will need more support in that area. More tips: www.godashsports.com.
- Healthy feet keep you mobile. Foot pain affects one in four adults 45-plus and accounts for 62% increase in falls, according to “Gerontology.” Muscles and tendons lose their elasticity. Plantar fasciitis, inflammation of the fibrous band of tissue at the bottom of your feet, is more common as we age. The good news: There are a host of preventative and curative actions available, from proper footwear to massage to feet-strengthening exercises. Keeping mobile is essential to longevity.
- Walking is wise. Walking is great exercise for our feet and overall health. It helps improve balance and muscle strength. Running may not be the best exercise for some people as they age, said Dr. Antony Merendino, assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute. “Running may not be our best option due to the fact it results in high impact to our feet, knees and hip joints,” he said. “This may exacerbate conditions such as osteoarthritis” among other medical problems. Best advice? Consult your physician.
- Visit a podiatrist. Merendino recommends that older adults visit a podiatrist to get an assessment on the condition of their feet and also get recommendations for footcare moving forward. And obviously, a foot care specialist should be seen as soon as a person experiences foot pain, limitation or injury, he said. At Grogan’s sports store, she often gets referrals from podiatrists and orthopedists. “Doctors provide us with a description of the patient’s ailments, and we work with them to find the best fitting shoes,” Grogan said.
Grogan believes that giving our feet some much-needed tender loving care can improve quality of life, especially as we age.
“Dash not only means a fast movement, but it refers to the dash between your birth and death years,” Grogan said. “Our goal is to encourage our patrons to live their most active dash. We love to see people getting and staying active all of their days.”