Ageing FeetThe passing of years takes its toll on every part of the body – including the feet! Skin on the feet thins and slackens, the fatty pads that protect the heel from impacts wear down, muscle tone weakens, and joints lose their youthful suppleness. Small wonder when you consider that every step you take, your bodyweight is transmitted through the feet as they absorb the shock and cushion the impact.
Feet may also be more prone to feeling the chill with age, as reduced physical activity and poor blood circulation can lead to numb, cold feet.
Fighting the effects of age
Old age can’t be avoided - but we can all fight its effect upon the feet. Here are a few solutions.
- Thicker socks, double socks, lined shoes or boots will all help keep the chill at bay, as will wearing bed socks at night. Well-cushioned shoes and the use of inserts will also help combat the effects of age on foot arches.
- Exercise is a must - and the most natural workout in the world is walking! Just 30 minutes a day helps keep the circulation moving whilst maintaining the mobility of your feet.
- Don’t assume your feet will remain the same size as you get older. When buying shoes, have your feet measured and opt for shoes with laces, Velcro or a buckle to allow for adjustments should your feet or ankles swell. Slippers offer little support for your foot and their lose-fitting nature can make them a tripping hazard.
Above all, maintain a daily foot-care regime. Age does accelerate the onset of potential problems, and prevention rather than cure is always preferable, particularly as you grow older.
The foot is prone to two variants of this potentially-painful problem -
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the tissues that cushion the bones. This causes swelling and stiffness that can jam or freeze the affected joint. The small joints of the hands and feet are the most common parts to experience rheumatoid arthritis - both at the onset and during the course of the condition - hence it’s often found around the big toe and ankle.
- Osteoarthritis is caused by wear-and-tear on the gristly cartilage that supports movement of a joint. The big toe - which bears the brunt of the body’s weight during propulsive movement - can therefore be particularly susceptible. Again, osteoarthritis causes tenderness and rigidity in the affected area.
There are no ‘cures’ for arthritis, but orthotic devices, cushioned inserts, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sometimes surgery, can all be successful in improving mobility and reducing discomfort.
As weak muscles can also contribute to loss of flexibility and mobility, certain types of exercise (such as swimming) can also improve the conditions. If you have signs of arthritis, consult a GP or podiatrist as soon as possible.