Off to the Olympics? Make sure you have healthy and pain-free feet. Shoe styles come and go, but seldom are they designed for the health of the foot. Rather, they’re designed for good looks and fashion statements. When I was a teen, the shoe styles for women were pointy toes and medium-high heels. They hurt the foot, but it was worth the pain to be fashionable. Today’s five to six inch heels are a sure-fire prescription for foot pain in the future, but I wouldn’t bother telling the young women wearing them. They’ll believe the same thing I did––it’s worth a little pain to look good.
For those of us over fifty, we’re a little more tuned in to preventive health measures and living a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to keep our feet in good working order to maintain good balance and help us stay active as we age. Common practices that can cause foot pain and damage include going barefoot, which opens the foot to various injuries and wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or put excess pressure on foot joints, such as high heels, too large or too small shoes, and shoes with no arch support such as flip-flops.
There are five common sense preventive measures everyone can take to ensure good foot health:
Practice good foot hygiene. Bathe daily and keep feet free of dirt, sweat and potential bacterial infections.
Do a quick visual inspection of the feet daily. Look for sore spots, blisters, and any other injury that might need treatment.
Cut and trim nails properly. They should be cut straight across with any sharp edges filed. Note any nail discoloration.
If diabetic take special precautions to protect and inspect feet. Diabetics may not be able to feel foot injury as easily as non-diabetics and damage to the foot may take place before it’s noticed.
Wear proper shoes. Provide insoles if necessary, wear proper socks and be sure shoes are a good fit.
Some common foot problems in seniors are:
Gout: an arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric acid in the system. It usually attacks the joint at the base of the toe, causing swelling and intense pain.
Diabetes: Diabetics often have a condition known as diabetic neuropathy in their feet. It causes a lack of sensation in the feet to cold, heat and pain. Thus foot injuries may go unnoticed until damage has been done. When there are foot injuries, the diabetic may walk out of alignment, favoring one side or another of the foot causing foot ulcers. Due to decreased blood flow, cuts and ulcers take longer to heal. Even athlete’s foot can lead to infections. Fungal infections of the nails are another common problem with diabetics.
Ingrown Toenails: Improper toenail trimming or shoes that don’t fit properly are the most common causes of ingrown toenails. Once ingrown, the nails can cause inflammation or infection in the surrounding tissue. Severe cases require surgery.
Corns and Calluses: Calluses are a build-up of hard tissue caused by excess pressure on the foot. Corns are a build-up of tissue at the site of a bony area. Both can be treated with pumice stones. It is not recommended to use over the counter remedies or to cut the hardened tissue away.
Bunions: A bunion is formed when the big toe is pushed into the next toe. It is usually caused by the pressure of poorly-fitted shoes. Bunions may need to be removed surgically.
Plantar Fasciitis: severe foot pain can result from inflammation of the plantar fascia, a broad band of fibrous tissue running along the bottom of the foot. Treatment includes stretching exercises and wearing of various shoe inserts. Icing the injured foot is also helpful.
Good foot care is just one part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Keep those feet healthy and you’ll enjoy the benefits of an active life for many years to come.