Foot problems can affect anyone, male or female, young or old. However, it’s women that most commonly have issues with their feet.
There are several reasons for this, but a dominant factor is the onset of menopause. This generally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, and is marked by considerable changes in physical and mental wellbeing. This leads to a whole host of issues including foot problems.
Oestrogen plays a vital role in women’s health in many ways. It contributes to the good health of your hair, nails and skin, it helps to control cholesterol levels and decreases inflammation (essential for a healthy heart), and maintains bone density and energy levels.
These are just a few examples of the function of oestrogen. However, during menopause levels of this essential hormone start to fall dramatically and the knock-on effects are considerable.
Collagen Levels Drop
Oestrogen is essential to produce collagen – a crucial protein found throughout the body. Skin, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments all contain this fibrous substance, which provides strength, support and flexibility.
Collagen helps with the function of numerous organs and is a crucial ingredient in the healing process. Low levels have far-reaching effects throughout the body and most certainly in the feet.
Weight Gain and Posture
Hormonal changes often lead to weight gain, especially around the abdomen and thighs. If there’s more of you, you’ll be heavier on your feet, and this puts your lower limbs under extra pressure – precisely when you don’t need that to happen.
Muscle mass also reduces during menopause, and this leads to changes in posture as it forces you to stand and move in an unnatural way. This will be felt throughout your body – neck, shoulders, back and hips and, of course, in your feet.
What Does This Mean for Your Feet?
- Lack of Cushioning
The balls and soles of your feet are cushioned by a thick pad of connective tissue. This protects the bones and joints from friction and pressure as you stand and move. Lack of collagen causes the skin and tissues to thin and lose their elasticity. In effect, your feet lose their protective padding and you can end up walking on your bones – extremely painful indeed.
- Corns and Bunions
If your feet are suffering from pressure in all the wrong places this can easily lead to corns, bunions and blisters, which will add to your discomfort.
- Heel Pain
Your heel bone connects to the toes via a thick ligament called the plantar fascia. Lack of elasticity strains the ligament and causes inflammation. The Achilles tendon can be affected in the same way and this leads to Achilles tendonitis. In both cases, the result is an extremely painful heel problem.
This condition tends to affect women far more than men, as oestrogen is essential for bone strength and density. Over time lower levels make the bones increasingly weak and easy to break. In some cases, simply coughing can cause a fracture.
With so many bones in your ankles, feet and toes, it’s not surprising that it’s remarkably easy to break something at this time of life. Simply tripping when walking can be enough to cause problems.
Your Podiatrist Can Help
These are just a few of the issues that can arise, but the right exercise, footwear and diet can help tremendously. Your podiatrist can advise and support you during this tricky time and provide expert treatment should you need it.