As we age, we may notice little things occurring like gray hairs, wrinkles on our face, or difficulties reading. Aging can cause many different physical and mental changes. But did you know aging feet issues can occur, too?
With aging, over time, general wear and tear can take a toll on your feet. Your muscles and tendons lose elasticity. Additionally, cell turnover and collagen production begin to slow. Eventually, the fatty layer which cushions the soles and heels of your feet starts to thin. These factors all contribute to the development of foot pain. Moreover, these changes due to aging feet can inevitability affect how your joints, bones, and tendons function and lead to stability problems.
Therefore, seniors need to understand how age can affect their feet. Because, with knowledge, they can take steps to prevent aging feet issues before they become a serious problem.
4 Physical Changes that Occur to Aging Feet
As you get older, you may notice these physical changes to your feet.
No. 1: Tight Tendons
Tendons are the cord-like tissues that attach your muscles to your bones. With age, your tendons don’t hold as much water as they used to. Reduced water content can cause tissue stiffness in your feet and ankles. And your tendons won’t be able to tolerate stress as much as they used to.
Moreover, repetitive motions over time on a tendon can cause irritation, called tendonitis. This continued stress on a tendon can lead to pain. Chronic (or long lasting) tendonitis is more common in older individuals.
Additionally, tight tendons can increase your risk of ruptures and tears. One of the largest tendons in your body is your Achilles tendon. Inflammation and degeneration of the Achilles tendon is called Achilles tendonitis. When an Achilles tendon ruptures, an older individual can experience reduced function in the affected leg and feet.
What You Can Do About It
You need to keep your tendons as healthy as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to stay active. Consistent exercise can improve the collagen content of your tendons, increase their thickness, and improve their strength. Vary the exercises you do. But do not over do it. Make sure you warm up before you ramp up the intensity of your workout. Also, strengthening exercises can help keep your tendons loose and healthy.
No. 2: Stretched Ligaments and Lost Elasticity
Ligaments are the tough, elastic, fibrous material that connects your bones to other bones. They give strength to your joints and help keep them stable. As you age, your ligaments lose elasticity, which means they become stiffer and less flexible. You may notice it’s harder for you to get up and down out of a chair as you get older due to lost elasticity in your ligaments.
Additionally, in aging feet, your ligaments may stretch over time. Stretched ligaments can cause your arches to ache. You may also become flat footed. Moreover, stretched ligaments can throw you off balance. Then you may become more susceptible to ankle sprains and injuries.
What You Can Do About It
Foot exercises are a great way to improve flexibility in your ligaments and prevent overstretching in your aging feet. Toe curls and marble pickup are two great exercises to strengthening your ligaments.
No. 3: Lack of Fat Pad Cushioning
The plantar fat pads are located in the bottoms of your feet under the ball and heel. They’re made up of several small chambers that contain fatty tissue. The walls of these chambers are comprised of elastin (mainly collagen) that’s flexible and pliable.
The purpose of the fat pads is to protect the bones, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves in your feet. They provide cushioning for your feet by absorbing and dissipating the impact, shear forces, and pressures when you stand, walk, run, or jump.
As you grow older, the collagen and the elastic fibrous tissues in your feet diminishes. Additionally, the water content in your fat pads dwindles, too. These decreases cause the fat to thin out in the bottoms of your feet. Without enough fat, you lose the cushioning and protection in your feet. Therefore, you’ll likely begin to experience more foot pain.
What You Can Do About It
To add more cushioning to your feet, you can use gel pads, reinforced insoles, or custom orthotic devices, like ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics, in your shoes. Also, you should choose footwear that supports your feet, especially your heels and arches. Supportive footwear can cushion your feet and provide needed shock absorption. As a last resort, you can talk to your doctor about possible surgical treatments.
No. 4: Bone Density Decline
With age, you lose bone mass or density. This is especially true for women following menopause. Bone density loss is caused by reduced calcium levels in your bones. As your calcium levels decline, your bones become more porous. The holes in the honeycomb structure of your bones become larger. When your bone density loss becomes too extreme, you have a condition called osteoporosis. This bone disease makes your bones more fragile. Because of this, osteoporosis can increase your risk of foot fractures.
Furthermore, bone density loss can cause changes to your posture and gait (the way you walk), too. Your body may hunch over more with your neck tilted forward. Your knees and hips may be more flexed. Also, your shoulders may become narrow while your pelvis may widen.
Because of these posture and gait changes, you will walk with shorter footsteps at a slower pace than you used to. Additionally, you may find walking to be more difficult. Plus, you may become more unsteady on your feet.
What You Can Do About It
In addition, you should eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Also, you should make sure you’re getting 500 mL of vitamin D daily. Vitamin D helps you absorb the calcium in foods. If you have osteoporosis, you should talk to your doctor about prescription treatments.
Furthermore, you should eat foods containing potassium, vitamin K, and magnesium to help your body absorb and use calcium. These nutrients can be found in vegetables and fruit, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Also, you should eat protein-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, and fish. Protein helps you build muscle and keeps your bones strong.
Other Common Conditions in Aging Feet
Think about it! Your feet have carried you everywhere from your very first step. In a lifetime, it’s estimated you’ll have walked about 216,262,500 steps. That’s around 110,000 miles for an average person with an average stride who lives until 80 years old.
It’s little wonder your feet undergo changes as you age. Especially when you think about the normal wear and tear on your joints and stress forces impacting your feet.
Some other common issues you may experience with aging feet include bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, and heel spurs. Many of these conditions can cause foot pain. But pain and discomfort don’t have to be something you have to “put up with” as you get older.
ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics Can Help Aging Feet
One solution for foot pain due to aging feet is to wear ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics in your shoes. Our custom orthotics are crafted just for you to match the specific needs of your individual feet. The bio-mechanical design of ezWalker® Custom Orthotics provide the exact support the arches of your feet need. They also help fix posture and gait problems, which may contribute to the pain in your feet, knees, hips, or lower back.
Or, you can order your foot mold kit with specified instructions on how to create custom molds of your feet by visiting our online store.
Why should you suffer with debilitating foot pain? Relieve your pain. Maintain your mobility. And continue to live an active life with ezWalker® Custom Fit Orthotics in your shoes.
Because … when your feet feel good, you feel good!®
Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cover Photo: 123RF / rido