You may have heard that feet get bigger during later life, and are perhaps wondering whether that’s really the case or just a myth. The truth is that although your feet broaden and lengthen with age, they’re actually spreading out rather than growing. Your toes become wider and arches drop as ligaments and tendons lose their elasticity.
Spreading out is one of the many physical changes that affect your feet from your fifties onwards. It’s important to be familiar with what to expect so that you can adapt to your feet’s changing needs and know when to request professional advice.
Key Effects of Ageing on Your Feet
Feet are prone to developing a variety of age-related issues, just like any other part of the body. However, people tend to notice the effects of ageing on their feet more than on some other areas because feet are crucial to maintaining mobility.
Major issues include:
- Drier skin – as you get older, your body produces less collagen, which leads to the skin on your feet developing a papery texture and cracking more easily.
- Less cushioning – another effect of reduced collagen levels is that your soles’ fatty pads lose their plumpness and so are less able to cushion your feet.
- Thicker nails – while the ageing process makes skin thinner, the opposite is true for toenails. The denser and more brittle your nails become, the harder they are to trim and the greater their risk of becoming ingrown.
- Stiffer joints – the wear and tear sustained by foot joints leads to stiffness in old age, with big toes often being badly affected.
- Poorer shock absorption – your tendons’ decreasing elasticity doesn’t just alter the size of your feet, it makes them less resilient. They struggle to absorb the shockwaves produced when your feet strike the ground.
- Weaker muscles – as you age, the strength of your foot muscles diminishes, leaving your feet poorly equipped to cope with intense activity.
- Longer healing time – the age-related narrowing of blood vessels impairs your body’s ability to repair cuts on your feet and fight foot infections.
Is Foot Pain Inevitable in Old Age?
The ageing process weakens feet, making ailments and injuries more likely. What’s more, health issues often experienced by older people (such as arthritis and diabetes) can cause or exacerbate foot problems.
Some people might therefore assume that foot pain is unavoidable during later life, but that’s simply not the case. There are steps you can take to safeguard your feet.
- Exercise regularly to improve your circulation and boost foot muscles.
- Moisturise your feet twice a day to keep skin supple.
- When buying shoes, always have your feet measured. As they spread out, your shoe size may well go up.
Specialist Foot Care for Later Life
As Age UK and the College of Podiatry point out, it’s just as important for older people to have their feet checked every year as it is to book an eye examination or hearing test.
With regular appointments at our London foot clinics, you can minimise the tell-tale signs of ageing and overcome problems. For example, our chiropody treatments (such as trimming toenails and soothing cracked heels) can be invaluable, especially if you now find it difficult to reach your feet. During our diabetic foot assessments, we check for damage to nerves, circulation and skin, the risk of which increases over time. In addition, we can prescribe custom-made orthotics to support your feet, enabling you to stay active for years to come.
For expert foot care for older people, please call Feet By Pody today on 0207 099 6657 or book an appointment online.