Take steps to keep your feet healthy as you age

SOLE SURVIVOR: Make sure your feet don't let you down as you age. Photo: Shutterstock
SOLE SURVIVOR: Make sure your feet don't let you down as you age. Photo: Shutterstock

Ageing is a way of life. After your feet have carried you millions of kilometres through your life, they can eventually wear down.

But there are ways to keep your feet healthy as you age, through proper maintenance, care and regular check ups.

"As you age, you can lose cushioning and soft tissue fat in the pads of your heels and balls of your feet, near your toes. Like the skin on your face, there is also a loss of elasticity in the skin on your feet, making it thin and vulnerable," said Adrian Pudlyk, director of the Foot and Balance Centre in Tugun, Queensland.

Nails also become more brittle, thicker and harder, making them difficult to trim and prone to ingrown toenails, fungal breakouts and other infections.

"Many of our patients find it difficult to see or bend down to their feet. We provide general nail care including trimming, cleaning and filing. This is particularly important for high risk patients such as the elderly and diabetics."

He said callouses can be also made worse wearing the wrong footwear. "Given your feet carry your body weight, footwear can make this more challenging if it creates extra friction on the areas of your foot.

"When this happens your body responds by thickening the surface area of the skin. These hard patches of skin are called callouses and if the pressure is concentrated in a small area, a corn may develop."

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He said while dry and cracked heels are unsightly they are also tender to walk on and risk a factor for infections.

"Bone deformities such as bunions or arthritis can lead to foot health issues and sometimes an increased risk of falls, which for many seniors, can have drastic consequences."

He said for many elderly people, most foot problems can be improved by regular maintenance and care, keeping weight down, shoe modification and the use of cushioned insoles.

"Your feet are mirrors of your health. Warning signs of health conditions can be dry skin, brittle nails, burning and tingling sensations in your feet or feelings of cold, numbness and discolouration."

He said if these occur, see a podiatrist who can pinpoint the cause.

"Regular check-ups with your podiatrist are recommended, especially if you cannot look after your feet yourself and have no one to help you.

"Nails that grow too long, corns or callous may all become infected and if you are diabetic, which has a higher risk factor as we age, then you should see a podiatrist."

This story How to look after ageing feet first appeared on The Senior.