We get older. Our bodies get older. There is nothing we can do about it but accept it and become knowledgeable about the changes that happen in our bodies, including our feet. Just like the hairs that become grey and the wrinkles that appear in our skin, our feet go through natural changes as we age and the more you know about these changes, the more things you can do to prevent complications or age related issues caused by them. Here are six common changes that often arise as we age.
- Toenail Changes. Age can cause toenails to become discolored, thickened and mis-aligned. There are other reasons this can happen to toenails so if it happens suddenly you should get it checked out by your podiatrist, but most often, the sole reason for toenail changes like these are age related.
- Toe Position. It is very common for toe position to change as we age. Toes may contract upward or deviate to the left or right. As we age, our gait pattern and functional abilities change, which causes our toes to change to help compensate. As long as there is no pain, there is no necessary treatment. If you notice discomfort or corns and calluses starting to appear, you may want to start wearing some padding and opt for wider toe box in your shoes. You don't have to ditch your heels, but maybe wear them less often and wear supportive sneakers more.
- Skin Changes. Just like the rest of the skin on our bodies, the skin on our feet will get drier and acquire more wrinkles. This is due to a shrinking supply of collagen. A good way to fight back and prevent cracking heels is the make sure you're staying hydrated and use a moisturizing foot cream. Twice a day is the ideal amount of time to keep those feet from drying out.
- Increase Size in Feet. Our feet can get longer and wider as we age. It is normal for some of us to acquire a lower arch with time due to gravity and weakened tendons or ligaments. When this happens, it allows the arch to drop which causes a lengthening and widening of the foot.
- Stiffness and Arthritis. As our bodies age, we naturally lose flexibility and become less elastic. This will cause stiffness in the joints of both the foot and ankle. Arthritis most commonly effects the big toe or mid foot joints on the top of your foot. Shoe inserts, exercises to increase range of motion and investing some time in yoga, pilates and stretching classes are the answer to combat stiff joints.
- Lack of Strength and Stability. For the same reason that our arches drop the foot tends to lose its strength and stability. Tendons, ligaments and muscles can become weakened over time which will lessen the inherent state of the arch. Arch supports and supportive shoes are the solution. Strength and balance classes can help with strength, as well as strengthening our core muscles and glutes, which create overall stability in the body all the way down to our feet and ankles.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com