As it does for the rest of your body, ageing takes its toll on your feet. It’s easy to see why these issues arise, considering the amount of stress we bring on our feet over a lifetime. In addition to the overall wear and tear, there are physiological changes that will affect how your joints, bones, and tendons will function. Although all these changes are undoubtedly normal, seniors should not presume that foot pain is to be accepted simply, and if not treated with caution, some of these natural changes can lead to serious problems.
One of the most obvious changes people notice with feet as they age is the change in its texture and elasticity. This stems from a gradual loss of collagen production in the skin, which important in helping to cushion the bottom of your feet and keeps one’s overall skin plump. Dry soles are also caused by a lessened amount of blood flow to the feet or nerve damage, either due to pre-existing health conditions like diabetes, and it reduces the ability of the feet to reproduce cells quickly, making it more vulnerable to external injuries.
Fat Pad Atrophy
As persons age, their feet tend to spread and become flat, and also lose the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of the feet. Our feet pads as a result become lose shock absorbency from our everyday tasks and activities that require foot movement such as walking or jogging, and thus cause it to become more susceptible to soreness and pain.
Thick Toenails And/or Ingrown Toenails
Aging inevitably causes a decline in production of the oestrogen and testosterone hormone that is important for keratin production, which keeps toenails and fingernails smooth and clean, it can cause our nails to discolour, crack, and form uneven ridges and layers. Other conditions like fungal infections can cause the toenails to become thick and brittle as well.
Ingrown toenails are another issue that happens with the lack of keratin production, though it’s mostly exacerbated by cutting your toenails too short and it causes the skin to grow over the nail then and as the nail grows, it digs into the skin. Wearing tight footwear tends to push the toenail against the edges of the toenail’s roots, or any prior injuries on the toe itself may cause the toenail to become impacted. Infection can develop when an ingrown nail continues to grow beneath the skin. This can be especially troublesome for people with diabetes or poor circulation, and may lead to ulcers if not treated properly.
Hammertoes is the abnormal bend in the joint of one or more of toes, which is often susceptible from other complications on the feet such as calluses (area of thickened skin that forms as a response to repeated friction, pressure, or irritation). and corns (hardened layers of skin that develop from your skin’s response to friction and pressure). Joint stiffness, discomfort, swelling, and pain often develop as a result of hammertoes developing, and are permanent unless surgery can realign the toe joints, although mobility of those same toes may still be affected after it.
Tendon and Ligament Functionality
The elasticity and stability of tendons and ligaments in the feet inevitably become diminished with age, and gradually lose strength. This reduces arch height and can cause an increase in the length or width of the feet, which ties back to the flat feet issue. When the tendons and ligaments stretch or begin to lose their function, it makes you more likely to sustain injuries like tendon tears, muscle strains, and tendonitis
Arthritis, espeically osteoarthritis, commonly causes foot problems with age. This is caused simply from years of use and often affects the ankle joint, the joint right below the ankle joint called the subtalar joint, and the big toe joint. This can lead to numerous issues for the feet which includes: –
- Hammertoes (mentioned previously)
- Bunions. A bony growth or a misaligned bone at either the base of the small or big toe, which causes the tip of your big toe to get pulled toward the smaller toes and forces the joint at the base of your big toe to stick out.
- Gout. An inflammatory disorder in which the accumulation of uric acid crystals around a foot joint, which causes the foot to swell painfully.
Taking good care of your feet and joints will help you avoid serious injuries in the future. With regular maintenance, a little less weight around the body, modifying your footwear, and perhaps consulting a podiatrist will help to ensure continued mobility in your elder years.