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Foot pain is more common than you may think, affecting 19% of men and 25% of women over 45 years old. The risks only increase with age, which is why practicing routine foot care at home is so important. Luckily, promoting foot health can be easy with the right knowledge, time, and attention. Learn more about common foot conditions and tips for improving foot health below.
While foot pain affects many of us, it’s a problem that often goes unnoticed or unreported. Even the most health-conscious among us sometimes forget to care for our feet, though foot health should never be overlooked. Our feet are the foundations of our bodies, affecting our posture, mobility, and quality of life.
This is especially true for seniors who are susceptible to many of the conditions that impact our feet the most. Diabetes and arthritis are just two of them. Though no matter what the problem is, foot conditions can pose a serious risk to older adults’ mobility and independence. They also put you at greater risk of falls.
Keeping your feet happy and healthy is difficult and only requires a few good habits you can practice regularly. Take a look here for some ideas to get started.
Whether you’re already experiencing foot pain or want to prevent it in the future, foot health is all about practicing good daily habits. Doing all of the following each day can help prevent some of the most common foot ailments:
Stretching your feet regularly can help keep muscles limber, preventing common conditions like plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. To help simplify your massage, make sure to start with the right equipment:
It’s important to wear shoes when walking outdoors as they keep your feet clean, supported, and protected. However, the wrong pair of shoes can also harm your feet. There are many dos and don’ts when it comes to picking the right pair, so keep this checklist in mind when choosing yours:
In some cases, orthotics can also be purchased to improve your shoes’ fit and comfort. They can be especially useful for providing support to specific areas of the feet. For example, if you suffer from plantar fasciitis, arch support orthotics could be a good choice. Custom orthotics can also be prescribed to mold to your specific foot shape. Heel cups can also be used to provide additional support.
Compare the best insoles for foot pain here.
Just like any other part of your body, the best way to keep your feet strong and healthy is to use them regularly. Regular exercises can improve the overall health of your foot while also reducing the risk of injury. The best foot exercise is walking, as it puts your foot through a full range of motion.
Depending on your level of mobility and foot health, other types of foot exercises can be of help.
We all tend to lose flexibility as we age, which is why stretches are especially important for older adults. They can keep feet limber and reduce the risk of injury. Slow and gentle stretches are the way to go, isolating one group of muscles at a time. Take a look at some arch stretches you can try yourself.
While stretching keeps muscles limber, exercising with weights or exercise bands can help make muscles stronger. This allows them to provide better support to your foot and the rest of your body. Just make sure to practice foot exercises in moderation, just one or two days a week, to avoid overuse injuries.
You can also find specially-tailored foot exercises for a range of different conditions, including:
One of the best ways to keep your feet healthy is to learn to recognize some of the most common conditions that can harm them. Make sure to stay on the lookout for all of these:
There are many different kinds of fungal infections that affect feet, but athlete’s foot is one of the most common. You can identify it by discolored skin accompanied by burning, blisters, and dry skin. It’s caused by leaving feet in sweaty socks for long periods, and the best way to prevent it is to make sure you change your footwear and wash your feet regularly. Breathable, moisture-wicking socks can also be helpful.
Toenail fungus, or onychomycosis, is another common fungal infection that grows under the toenail. You can recognize it by discoloration and a thickening of the nail. It’s a bit harder to treat than athlete’s foot and may require an anti-fungal medication from your doctor.
The Achilles tendon is the band of muscle that connects your heel bone to the back of the calf. It’s extremely important for walking, which is why any problems with it can drastically impact your mobility. Achilles tendonitis is when this tendon becomes inflamed, causing pain and swelling. It is often caused by repetitive motion or improperly fitted footwear.
Bunions are swollen areas of the foot caused by misaligned joints. The most common type of bunion is on the inner edge of the foot, right next to the big toe. This type of bunion is often caused by wearing high heels and other types of misfitted footwear.
Bunions can be hard to correct, though bunion splints or toe separators can help align the toe, while adhesive pads can relieve the pain.
If you feel a stabbing pain near the heel, especially if it's strongest first thing in the morning, you might have plantar fasciitis. This condition is caused by strain placed on the plantar fascia or the band of muscle connecting the heel to the ball of the foot. It has a wide variety of causes, but the most common are obesity, overwork, age, and genetics.
Mild cases of plantar fasciitis can be cured by staying off your feet. More chronic cases can be treated by anti-inflammatories and orthotics.
You can recognize metatarsalgia by a pain focused on the ball of the foot, between the long bones called the metatarsals. It is most often caused by unsupportive footwear, high-impact sports, and conditions like arthritis.
Just like with many other conditions, treating metatarsalgia is all about finding the right footwear or orthotics. More mild cases can also be treated with a cold pack and rest.
Diabetes isn’t a foot disorder, but it does often affect foot health, introducing a wide range of different conditions. Diabetes makes you more prone to foot ulcers, calluses, skin diseases, neuropathy, and infections because of the reduced circulation caused by the condition.
Treating diabetes often means making lifestyle changes like exercising and making healthier eating choices. If you’re looking to manage the damage to your feet, make sure to wear proper foot protection when walking outside, moisturize daily, and keep your feet moving to promote circulation.
Arthritis in the foot usually falls into the category of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or post-traumatic arthritis. The first two of these are considered “wear and tear” conditions, mostly affecting patients over the age of 50.
The most effective type of treatment will depend on what kind of arthritis you are suffering from but getting proper support in the form of footwear and orthopedics is essential.
Everyone knows warts when they see them but what many people don’t know is that a virus causes them. Plantar warts are common on feet and can be caused by a virus entering your body through small cuts. Walking barefoot on dirty, wet surfaces is one common cause.
Warts can’t be treated by home remedies, and trying to cut off yours will probably only result in the wart spreading. Doctors can use liquid nitrogen, lasers, or topical creams to remove them.
Corns and calluses may look similar to warts, but they are completely different. Rather than being caused by a virus, they are caused by rubbing against tight shoes or standing for long periods in the same position. Calluses generally appear on the bottom of the foot while corns are on the top. Many people have them, and they may or may not be serious enough to require treatment.
If your corns or calluses start to become painful, you should switch to different footwear that fits better. You can also try foot pads which will protect your skin.
While it might seem like a lot to remember, the truth is that foot health is often as simple as staying mindful of a few basic habits. As long as you keep your feet clean, protected, and supported regularly, you stand a much better chance of maintaining mobility well into old age.