Why Foot Problems Get More Common With Age, and What to Do About It | Livestrong.com (2023)

Why Foot Problems Get More Common With Age, and What to Do About It | Livestrong.com (1)

Wearing supportive shoes can help prevent foot problems or ease pain from certain conditions as your aging feet change.

Image Credit: athima tongloom/Moment/GettyImages

Your feet can experience wear and tear as you age — after all, they've (literally) carried you through life. That's why you might have trouble with your tootsies as you get older. But what changes can you expect in aging feet, exactly, and why?

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Here are the most common foot problems in older adults and how to deal with them, plus some expert-approved shoe recommendations to support healthy feet as you age.

1. Overuse

According to Kenneth Cornell, DPM, a podiatrist at Austin Regional Clinic in Austin, Texas, adults are generally more likely to have foot issues — including foot pain — as they get older. There can be several causes, but the most common is overuse and the way your feet change over time.

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"As we age, our feet tend to have less elasticity — our arches become weaker and tissue becomes less elastic," he says. "When there is less elasticity, you're more likely to suffer arthritis or overuse injury and, therefore, foot pain."

Fix it:​ As with any type of persistent pain that's difficult to manage, talk to your doctor regardless of whether or not you've already been diagnosed with a foot injury or condition. You may ultimately need foot surgery if pain from overuse persists, but your doctor can help you figure out the right treatment plan.

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2. Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common foot issues that can crop up as you age, Dr. Cornell says. It's a condition caused by injury to the plantar fascia, the ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot and acts as arch support.

When the plantar fascia is strained and inflamed, it can cause heel and arch pain.

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Fix it:​ While the condition is common — especially in more active people, like runners — it's also preventable with the help of natural remedies for plantar fasciitis. "The best way to prevent plantar fasciitis and many other foot pain issues is to find shoes that fit correctly and have the right amount of support," Dr. Cornell says.

He recommends shopping for orthotic inserts to help with cushioning and shock absorption to avoid heel pain, especially if you've had plantar fasciitis in the past. You should also avoid shoes with little heel and arch support — like sandals, flip flops and ballet flats — as they can be hard on your feet and add stress to the ligaments supporting your arch.

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Stretching is also important to relieve pain and prevent re-injury, Dr. Cornell says. Using a band to stretch your calves, Achilles tendon and foot will help. Rolling a ball (like a lacrosse or spiky massage ball) on the bottom of your arch or using a foot stretcher can also provide relief.

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3. Arthritis

Arthritis, which is swelling or tenderness of one or more joints, is also common as we age, Dr. Cornell says. This typically occurs because our arches weaken over time, paving the way for joint strain and pain.

Ankle arthritis, which is a form of osteoarthritis, occurs when the cartilage of the ankle joint wears thin and breaks down over time. When the bones lack cartilage to protect them from the friction that occurs with movement, they can fragment and form spurs, which can cause pain and stiffness in the joint.

Fix it:​ "Like [with] plantar fasciitis, wearing shoes with great arch support should help, as well as stretching," Dr. Cornell says. "However, if pain persists, surgery might be necessary."

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Tip

Some people also require medication to manage arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you.

4. Flat Feet

Another common foot problem in older adults is adult-acquired flat feet, Dr. Cornell says. This occurs when the foot starts turning out as the tendons, which are meant to hold up the arch, begin to weaken.

Fix it:​ Regular stretching and wearing supportive shoes can be helpful, but if your pain doesn't go away, Dr. Cornell recommends talking to your doctor to determine if surgery may be necessary.

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5. Bunions

Bunions are a protrusion on the side of the big toe that occur when some of the bones in the front part of your foot move out of place, Dr. Cornell says.

"Bunions can worsen as we age because our feet get wider and arch height decreases," he says. "As the tissues relax, the bunion gets larger."

Fix it:​ You may have heard that bunions require surgery, but it's still not clear how well these procedures work and is thus usually a last resort after you've tried other treatments and methods to relieve your pain, according to the University of Michigan Health.

To prevent bunions from getting worse, it's best to wear comfortable shoes with adequate arch support, wide toe boxes and to avoid pointy-toed shoes, Dr. Cornell says. You can also wear a bunion corrector to help keep your toe in alignment.

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Bunion correctors can also help protect the protruding bone from rubbing against your shoe and forming blisters or calluses, per the University of Michigan Health.

6. Hammertoe

Hammertoe occurs when the toe (often the second one) moves up and out of position, Dr. Cornell says.

"Sometimes pressure from a bunion could cause hammertoe, but it's more often caused by wearing shoes that are too narrow or don't fit well," he says. "Wearing high heels can aggravate this condition by pushing the toes into the shoe."

People with hammertoe also often develop calluses due to the bent toe rubbing against the shoe, which can aggravate the pain, he says.

Fix it:​ Choose your footwear wisely. The best shoes for hammertoe have a deeper and wider toe box, Dr. Cornell says. Certain exercises — like picking up marbles with your toes — may help strengthen the area to relieve pain, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Still, in severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

7. Morton's Neuroma

A neuroma is a benign growth of nerve tissue, usually around the third and fourth toes, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

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It's sometimes called a pinched nerve or nerve tumor, and can create a burning sensation, tingling or numbness between the toes while walking, Dr. Cornell says. This condition is more common in people assigned female at birth than people assigned male at birth.

Fix it:​ With a neuroma, you'll often feel pain while walking (it may feel like you have a rock in your shoe), which can be relieved by stopping to take off your shoes and rubbing the affected area. Neuromas are often caused by wearing high heels frequently, so your shoe choice can help to reduce your risk as well, per the APMA.

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The Best Podiatrist-Approved Shoes to Buy

Dr. Cornell says you're at higher risk for the above conditions as you age, which is why investing in supportive, quality footwear is crucial.

"Many foot conditions can be prevented by wearing proper footwear and, when needed, orthotic inserts," he says. "Common foot conditions that occur as we age, such as bunions, neuromas, hammertoes and calluses, can be prevented by choosing shoes that fit correctly and by avoiding high heels."

When shopping, Dr. Cornell recommends looking for shoes that aren't too flexible in the toes (you shouldn't be able to roll the shoe up) and a wide (versus narrow) toe box. "Your shoes should provide adequate biomechanical support and stability to the foot, as well as good longitudinal arch support," he says.

And make sure to measure your feet before you buy, as they can flatten and widen as you get older, thereby changing your shoe size.

Based on those guidelines, here are some of Dr. Cornell's recommendations for comfortable and supportive footwear. Note that certain brands categorize their shoes as being for "men" or "women," which is why we've used those terms below.

The Best Shoes for Aging Feet

FAQs

Why do older people have foot problems? ›

Geriatrics and Podiatry

When people age, some common issues that may occur are bone density loss, dry skin, poor circulation, and rough brittle nails. These issues may also affect your foot health if the necessary steps are not taken to alleviate the problems.

What helps with aging feet? ›

Regular care for aging feet helps minimize problems
  1. Wash and thoroughly dry your feet for good hygiene.
  2. Wear a fresh clean pair of socks and change them daily.
  3. Keep the insides and outsides of your shoes clean.
  4. Rotate your shoes — don't wear the same pair two days in a row.
  5. Wear properly fitted shoes.

What is the main cause of foot problems? ›

Injury, overuse or conditions causing inflammation involving any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the foot can cause foot pain. Arthritis is a common cause of foot pain. Injury to the nerves of the feet may result in intense burning pain, numbness or tingling (peripheral neuropathy).

Do feet get worse with age? ›

Do people's feet change as they get older? They don't change in size, necessarily. But feet may get wider, not longer, as we age. They change in their elasticity the same way other body parts do – tissue becomes less tight, causing the increased width and sagging of the arches.

Why is it harder to walk when you get older? ›

With age, there is a natural loss of muscle mass that can lead to a loss of balance and coordination and affect the way you walk. This process can be accelerated by neurological disorders, such as dementia, as well as musculoskeletal disorders.

What are two common foot problems of the elderly? ›

Although foot problems are varied and the causes multifactorial, three major foot issues in older adults include pain, neuropathy, and deformities.

How do you keep your feet youthful? ›

7 Ways to Keep Your Feet Looking Pretty All Summer Long
  1. Exfoliate At Least Once A Week. ...
  2. Avoid Soaking Feet. ...
  3. Keep a Pumice Stone in Your Shower. ...
  4. Do Some Heavy-Duty Moisturizing. ...
  5. Don't Forget to Apply Sunscreen. ...
  6. Eat Foot-Friendly Foods. ...
  7. MORE: 5 Foods That Have More Sugar Than a Candy Bar.
  8. Let Toes Breathe.
14 Jul 2014

Why are my feet aging so fast? ›

Dry weather conditions, exposure to hot water or certain chemicals can cause your skin to become dry, including your skin on your feet. Dry, flaky, skin may also be caused by dehydration or underlying medical conditions. The lack of moisture can cause your skin to wrinkle.

How can I prevent foot problems? ›

Avoid bunions, nerve pain, heel pain, flat feet, and many other common foot disorders by using these six simple preventative measures:
  1. Wear shoes that fit. ...
  2. Don't be a couch potato. ...
  3. Exercise while wearing well-made athletic shoes. ...
  4. Practice good hygiene. ...
  5. Manage your diabetes. ...
  6. Rest when you need to.
6 Apr 2021

What shoes can create foot problems? ›

Improper footwear can cause arch pain, and they can even exacerbate other foot conditions such as bunions or corns. The five most problematic shoes are high heels (especially stilettos), pointy shoes, flip-flops, shoes that aren't designed for your activity, and unsupportive shoes.

What is the most common foot problem? ›

Bunions are one of the most common foot problems. A bunion is a prominent bump on the inside of the foot around the big toe joint. This bump is a bone protruding towards the inside of the foot. Some symptoms of bunions include inflammation, swelling and soreness on the side surface of the big toe.

Why do I keep getting problems with my feet? ›

And many foot problems, including hammertoes, blisters, bunions, corns and calluses, claw and mallet toes, ingrown toenails, toenail fungus, and athlete's foot, can develop from neglect, ill-fitting shoes, and simple wear and tear. Pain in your feet may even be the first sign of a systemic problem.

Do you lose padding in your feet as you age? ›

With age, it's fairly typical to see a loss of padding in the feet. As older adults lose this cushioned layer, the first signs of fat pad atrophy come in the form of foot pain along the foot and heel. Fortunately, a lot of this discomfort can be alleviated by wearing shoes with cushioning, or even foam shoe inserts.

Why do toes get crooked with age? ›

Tendons connect your muscles to your bones. When they go through the same compression as the muscles, your tendons lose their flexibility and shorten. When muscles tighten and tendons contract/shorten, the result is a crooked toe.

How far should a 67 year old walk each day? ›

Generally, older adults in good physical shape walk somewhere between 2,000 and 9,000 steps daily. This translates into walking distances of 1 and 4-1/2 miles respectively. Increasing the walking distance by roughly a mile will produce health benefits.

How many steps should a 70 year old walk a day? ›

Many experts agree that the recommended steps per day for seniors is 7,000-10,000. People who live with a disability or chronic illness can still benefit from an active lifestyle, and depending on individual abilities may strive for 5,500 steps per day.

How much walking should an 80 year old do? ›

Adults aged 65 and older need: At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.

What organs are affected by your feet? ›

Reflex areas of central organs such as the spinal column and stomach are in both feet; the organs on the right side of the body (e.g. the liver) are on the right foot, those on the left side (e.g. the spleen) are on the left foot; lungs and kidneys are on both feet; the toes correspond with the brain and its organs.

What is the best painkiller for foot pain? ›

Oral analgesic medications such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) or aspirin are often the first line choice for quick relief of foot pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen are also often recommended and can help to reduce inflammation at the same time.

Who can help with feet problems? ›

A podiatrist is an expert on every part of the foot. See a podiatrist if you have foot pain or injury. Get urgent medical care if you have any of these symptoms for more than one or two days: severe pain.

What foods make your feet stronger? ›

These all provide the essential fats, vitamins and minerals needed for healthy feet.
...
Healthy Choices
  • Leafy green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale and watercress.
  • Walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, lentils and beans.
  • Blueberries, blackberries and cherries.
  • Sardines, salmon and mackerel (omega 3).
  • Chicken and turkey.
7 May 2019

Are Crocs good for your feet? ›

"Crocs are OK to wear, within reason," says podiatrist Ejodamen Shobowale, DPM. A rule of thumb: you're good to wear Crocs for short-term, nonexercise use. "If you're just running a quick errand where you're not going to be on your feet for an extended amount of time, then I think that they're fine," Dr.

Is Vaseline good for your feet? ›

Vaseline is a petroleum by-product and it certainly does have many properties that can be very helpful for your feet. It is slick and can be used to help keep body parts from rubbing and becoming irritated. It is a favorite of distance runners for its ability to prevent blisters.

How can I make my feet soft and smooth naturally? ›

Take note of our pointers to learn how to make your feet soft and smooth at home.
  1. Enjoy a Vitamin E Oil Massage.
  2. Use an Exfoliating Foot Mask.
  3. Create Your Own Natural Foot Scrub.
  4. Treat Yourself to a Mega-Moisturizing Foot Scrub.
  5. Epsom Salt.
  6. Essential Oils.
16 Aug 2019

What slows aging the most? ›

Exercise is one of the best ways to delay aging. And with good reason: too much time sitting (sedentary behavior) is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and an early death. Aerobic activity is any activity that causes you to breathe harder than normal and your heart to beat faster.

What slows signs of aging? ›

11 ways to reduce premature skin aging
  • Protect your skin from the sun every day. ...
  • Apply self-tanner rather than get a tan. ...
  • If you smoke, stop. ...
  • Avoid repetitive facial expressions. ...
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. ...
  • Drink less alcohol. ...
  • Exercise most days of the week. ...
  • Cleanse your skin gently.
24 Feb 2021

Which part of your body ages the most rapidly? ›

You might be surprised to know that your face is not actually the part of your body that ages the fastest. It is, in fact, your breasts. A study, published by the journal Genome Biology has found that breast tissue is the part of the body that's most sensitive to the affects of ageing.

How do you slow down arthritis in your feet? ›

One proven way to help ease symptoms of arthritis in the feet is with exercise, both general full-body exercises (such as walking) as well as specific stretches and moves that target the feet.

Do compression socks help with foot pain? ›

The basic answer is yes. Compression socks provide continuous pressure to the foot that reduces inflammation (and pain). It also prevents painful cramps associated with plantar fasciitis by keeping the muscles and ligaments lengthened.

What is the most common problem treated by podiatrist? ›

The most common foot problem that a podiatrist treats is heel pain. Heel pain can be caused by a variety of different conditions, such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis. Treatment for heel pain often includes things like stretching exercises, orthotic devices, or cortisone injections.

What type of shoes is best for foot pain? ›

New Balance shoes are often cited as great for people suffering from foot pain. The Fresh Foam 1080V9 Running Shoes for men and women are stylish and comfortable with their mesh uppers. They have a wide toe box that helps to stabilize your feet and their ample cushioning helps with shock absorption.

What kind of shoes are best for your feet? ›

The healthiest footwear for both older and younger adults should fit well and have a low, broad heel, a thin and flexible sole, and some kind of lace, strap or Velcro to ensure the shoe stays firmly attached to the foot, he says. Sandals and flats often fit this description, though many don't.

Are Skechers good for your feet? ›

Are Skechers Shoes Good For Your Feet? Skechers may be good for your feet because they are designed to absorb the shock of running and walking while also reducing pain and fatigue. Skechers have a flexible sole that moves and bends with your feet while you are walking and offers gentle support while standing still.

What can feet tell you about your health? ›

That said, swollen feet and ankles could also be a sign of something more serious such as neuropathic arthropathy, arthritis, venous insufficiency, renal disease, congestive heart failure or gout—one of the “greatest imitators.” On the surface, gout, a type of inflammatory arthritis caused by elevated levels of uric ...

What are the most painful foot conditions? ›

Summary. Common causes of foot pain include plantar fasciitis, tarsal tunnel syndrome, metatarsalgia, Morton's neuroma, Achilles tendonitis, osteoarthritis, ingrown toenail, corns and calluses, bunion, and hammer toe.

Can stress cause foot problems? ›

Physical stress can take its toll on our feet in the form of excessive wear and tear of the nails and skin and show up as overuse injuries like tendinitis or bone stress fractures. Excessive emotional stress or anxiety can have more subtle symptoms and be felt all the way to our toes.

What are the signs of arthritis in your feet? ›

Symptoms of Arthritis in Your Feet
  • Trouble standing or putting weight on your feet.
  • Tenderness when touching the affected joints.
  • Pain when moving your ankles or feet.
  • Redness or swelling of affected joints.
  • Swelling or discomfort even when resting.
12 May 2022

Can anxiety cause foot problems? ›

People who are stressed may feel as if their walking or natural movement is strange, therefore they begin to walk improperly to alleviate this sensation. However, because your feet are intended to function in a specific manner, it frequently results in foot pain.

How do I permanently get rid of hard skin on my feet? ›

Soak the area of hard skin in warm water for 10 minutes. This will help to soften the skin, making it easier to remove. Gently apply a pumice stone or large nail file to the area. Start in a sideways motion, and then work your way up to small circles to remove the dead skin.

Why do older people become unstable on their feet? ›

Weakened muscles or poor vision can compromise our ability to remain steady on our feet.

How do I stop my foot pads from atrophy? ›

Limit the time you spend in high-impact, weight-bearing activities (such as running, basketball, gymnastics) to allow recovery of your heel pad after these activities. Maintain a healthy weight. Avoid walking barefoot, especially on uneven and hard surfaces (such as tiles, hardwood and cement).

What does atrophy in foot feel like? ›

Symptoms and telltale signs of fat pad atrophy include: Pain under the heel or ball of the foot when walking on a hard surface without shoes. A burning sensation in the heel or ball of the foot that becomes more severe with activity. Dull aching in the heel.

How can I straighten my crooked toes without surgery? ›

Treatment of crooked toes
  1. Buy shoes that fit. If your toes are flexible and can resume their natural alignment, changing your footwear may be enough to correct the problem. ...
  2. Exercise your feet. Foot exercises designed to stretch the muscles and tendons of the toes may help. ...
  3. Toe spacing. ...
  4. Toe taping.
  5. Splints. ...
  6. Surgery.
15 Jun 2020

Why do old people's feet hurt? ›

As people age, normal wear and tear on the joints, along with weakening bones, can lead to significant foot pain. Seniors also have thinner skin with less elasticity, particularly on their feet. However, the pain they experience in their feet is often preventable.

How much does it cost to get your toes straightened? ›

Out of pocket surgery for hammertoe costs around $4,200 on average. If you have a toe that becomes deformed and sticks up above other toes, it often impacts the toe next to it.

Why do seniors feet hurt? ›

Podiatric issues and chronic health conditions, such as arthritis, poor circulation, diabetic neuropathy, gout and plantar fasciitis, can all cause seniors to experience foot pain and discomfort.

What is geriatric foot? ›

Geriatric foot problems are classified as orthopedic conditions - primarily caused by the aging process. Over time the skin can lose elasticity and moisture, the bones can become brittle, and cartilage can harden – leaving the joints less flexible.

What is the most common foot deformity? ›

Two of the most common foot and ankle deformities are bunions and hammertoes. Do you know what they are and what steps to take to treat them? A bunion occurs when bones shift out of place in the foot. Bunions most commonly develop at the joint where the big toe joins the rest of the foot.

Can your feet tell you about your health? ›

Your feet can tell you a lot about your general health condition or warn you of underlying health conditions. From pesky foot pain to more serious symptoms, such as numbness, your feet often show symptoms of disease before any other part of your body.

What does a podiatrist do for the elderly? ›

A podiatrist can recommend food inserts to help with pain, and they can also inspect your feet for any diabetic warning signs, such as sores that won't heal. Many seniors keep their feet boxed up in heavy shoes and socks daily, and without the proper foot care, this can lead to fungal infections.

Should seniors go barefoot? ›

While a healthy person can go barefoot for limited periods , people who are older, or have underlying health issues such as diabetes, autoimmune disease, poor circulation, arthritis or neuropathy should always wear supportive cushioned shoes or slippers.

Why do old people need a podiatrist? ›

Podiatrists regularly treat nails in the aged population, and offer professional care of nail pathology such as ingrown nails, fungal nail infections, and wounds related to excessively long or thickened nails.

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