Our feet might just be the hardest-working and most underappreciated body part we have. They carry the brunt of our weight, challenged by uneven walking surfaces, and endure the torture of uncomfortable shoes.
They might get some special pampering before summertime, but they spend the rest of the year squeezed into socks then shoes that usually place style over comfort. Our feet don’t have an easy life, and unfortunately, we may really start to notice changes as we age.
Here are 12 conditions that develop in your feet as you age:
- Losing fat — Unlike other areas of your body that are more likely to gain fat as we age, our feet may lose fat from the cushy padded areas that protect them. Technically called fat pad atrophy, the loss of padding may cause pain in your heel or ball of your foot. Orthotics or even filler injections may ease the pain.
- Morton’s neuroma — If you feel like you have a rock in your shoe or have pain in the ball of your foot near your toes, you may have Morton’s neuroma. This is caused by thickening tissue around a nerve, which can be very painful. They are more common in women who wear high heels or pointy-toe shoes. In fact, wearing lower heels or wider shoes can ease the pain. Treatments range from conservative – arch supports and foot pads which might reduce the pressure on the nerve, to steroid injections, decompression surgery or even removal of the nerve.
- Plantar fasciitis — A ligament in the sole of your foot, called the plantar fascia, can be irritated by repetitive movements or improper footwear. This can cause severe pain and stiffness where your ligament attaches into you heel bone. The pain generally tends to be worse when you first wake up and often diminishes with movement. It can be treated with stretches, ice, over the counter pain medications, and arch support.
- Achilles tendinitis — A decreased blood supply and the wear and tear of age can weaken the Achilles tendon, which is used to flex your foot like when you climb stairs. Achilles tendinitis can cause pain behind the ankle or in your heel. Treatments include rest, medication, and ice for the swelling.
- Osteoarthritis — Nope, not even your toes are safe from arthritis. Previous injuries, years of wear, and decreasing collagen production take a toll on the joints in your feet. When cartilage wears down, like in other joints, your bones can end up rubbing together painfully. Take DeepMarine’s Canadian Collagen peptides to reduce the inflammation in the affected joints and work to rejuvenate the cartilage that cushions the bones in the joints.
- Gout — A complex type of arthritis caused by uric acid crystals; gout is more common in men. The crystals collect in joints, most commonly the big toe, and cause heat, pain and swelling. Prescription medication specifically for gout can help. Certain foods, like anchovies, scallops, liver, meats, and asparagus can trigger a flare-up. Some people report finding relief from gout by taking marine collagen peptides; it helps to reduce the swelling in the joint. It’s also important to make changes in your diet so as to keep gout from flaring up. Unfortunately, you need to stop drinking beer as that’s a significant trigger (terrible right!).
- Flat feet — Obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions can cause wear and tear on the tendons supporting the arch of your feet. This can lead to a painful flattening of the arch. It can be treated with physical therapy, braces, orthotics, or surgery.
- Ingrown toenails — They can happen to anyone, but ingrown toenails are more common as we age. They occur when the side of the toenail grows into the flesh of your toe, usually the big toe. This can cause swelling, break the skin, and become infected. Ingrown toenails can be caused by cutting nails too short, and by wearing shoes that are too tight in the toe area. Soaking the affected toe, gently removing the toenail where embedded, and applying antibiotic ointment can help.
- Cracked heels — As we age, our bodies make less elastin, collagen, and natural oils, leaving skin drier and less flexible. Skin on your heels is especially susceptible to dryness and irritation as socks may wick away moisture and shoes may rub. The skin on the heels can harden and crack, and it can be very painful. Pumice stones or exfoliating creams can help. Collagen also helps to build integrity in the skin and helps to heal skin wounds including deep heel cracks.
- Bunions — These are bony lumps that grown at your big toe joint, forcing it to grow inward. High heels and shoes with narrow toe areas are common causes. Icing the toe, wearing bunion cushions, and wearing looser shoes can help. Some people have surgery, but be certain that you have an experienced surgeon and also the time to recover – basic recovery takes 6-8 weeks, but full recovery can take up to 6 months.
- Bone spurs — Little bony growths most commonly on the heel, bone spurs are caused by inflammation due to osteoarthritis, or tendon or ligament injuries. They don’t always cause symptoms, but they can irritate surrounding tissues and nerves, becoming very painful. Steroids and physiotherapy are starting points for treatment and, as a final step, surgery can be considered.
- Hammertoe / claw toe — These are abnormal growth in toe joints that grow stiffer with age. A hammertoe juts up at the middle joint, while claw toes curl down towards the ground. Wearing roomier shoes, protecting the toes with padding, and gentle exercises can sometimes help.
Age-related foot problems can be painful and disruptive to your lifestyle. And they will rarely simply resolve on their own. If you notice changes in your feet that are causing you discomfort, seeing a podiatrist is the best way to get you back on your feet. Don’t underestimate the value of good, custom made orthotics. They can be very light weight and will slip into almost any athletic shoe. Orthotics aren’t inexpensive, but it’s impossible to get around without our feet.