As we age, staying healthy requires us to take care of our bodies from head to toe. We often focus on keeping our hearts, lungs, and other vital organs in good shape, but look down. What are you doing to care for the complex network of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that make up your feet?
Our feet do a lot of heavy lifting to support and help us move around, but we often neglect them until something goes wrong. Statistics show that about 80% of Americans have experienced a foot problem, such as corns, calluses, bunions, plantar fasciitis, or neuropathy, and half of them say it has significantly affected their quality of life.
If you don’t care for your feet, simple tasks like walking, standing, or wearing shoes can become excruciatingly painful, and even lead to more severe issues that may significantly impact your daily life and mobility. That’s why it’s crucial to pay attention to our feet and give them the love and care they deserve.
As we celebrate Healthy Foot Month, let’s explore some common foot problems, how to prevent and treat them, and some tips from our podiatric physicians for how to have healthy feet and stay on your toes for years to come.
WHY TAKING CARE OF YOUR FEET IS IMPORTANT
On average, a person will walk around 115,000 miles in their lifetime. That’s equivalent to walking around the Earth’s circumference almost five times! This statistic alone emphasizes the importance of taking care of your feet.
Your feet are a vital body part that enables you to move around, maintain balance, and perform daily activities. However, as we age, our feet become more vulnerable to various conditions such as arthritis, bunions, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, foot pain, and other foot-related problems.
Taking care of our feet should always be a top priority. Having healthy feet is crucial to maintaining our mobility and independence as we age, making it imperative that we prioritize foot care. Neglecting foot health can lead to chronic pain and discomfort, severely impacting your overall quality of life.
COMMON FOOT PROBLEMS, HOW TO PREVENT THEM, AND WHEN THEY MIGHT NEED TREATMENT
Foot problems can be minor or severe and can occur at any age. Here are some of the most common foot problems you might face in your lifetime and easy ways to prevent them.
- Blisters: Blisters are often caused by friction and can be prevented by wearing properly fitting shoes and socks. But if you end up with a blister, you should avoid wearing tight or ill-fitting shoes or engaging in activities that put pressure on the blister until it has fully healed. Resist the temptation to pop or drain the blister, as this can increase the risk of infection and delay healing. If the blister is in an area prone to rubbing, you may also want to cover it with a padded bandage.Blisters typically heal on their own within a few days to a week. If the blister is large or painful or doesn’t heal within a week, you may want to see a podiatrist for professional care.
- Calluses: Calluses are thickened areas of skin that develop in response to repeated friction or pressure. While calluses are generally harmless, they can become painful if they get too thick or develop in areas with a lot of pressure or rubbing.The best way to prevent calluses is to avoid shoes that are too tight or loose and use cushioned insoles or pads to reduce pressure.
If you have a callus, it is generally not advised to get rid of it at home, as improper removal can lead to further complications and may even worsen the callus. Podiatrists have specialized tools and techniques for removing calluses without damaging the surrounding skin,
- Ingrown toenails: Ingrown toenails occur when the edge of the toenail grows into the skin, causing pain and discomfort. To prevent ingrown toenails, trim your toenails straight across and avoid cutting them too short.
While some home remedies can help relieve symptoms, attempting to remove the ingrown toenail yourself can lead to further complications and should be avoided.
It’s best to see a podiatrist who can safely and effectively remove the ingrown portion of the nail. This may involve lifting and trimming the nail or, in some cases, removing a part of the nail or the entire nail.
- Athlete’s foot: Despite its name, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that can happen to anyone. The fungus causes itching, burning, and scaling of the skin on the feet.
Athlete’s foot can often be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams or sprays. However, if the infection is severe, doesn’t improve after a week of otc treatment, or if you have other foot problems, it may be necessary to see a podiatrist.
- Plantar fasciitis: Plantar fasciitis is a common foot condition that causes pain in the heel and bottom of the foot. It can be prevented by wearing supportive shoes, avoiding high-impact activities, and stretching regularly.
If you have pain and stiffness in the heel or bottom of the foot, especially when first getting out of bed in the morning or after sitting, sharp, stabbing pain in the heel, or swelling or redness in the heel or arch of the foot, you might have plantar fasciitis.
If you believe you have plantar fasciitis, seeing a board-certified podiatrist for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan is important.
- Bunions: Bunions are bony bumps on the joint at the base of the big toe. They can happen at any age but are more likely in seniors. This is because as we age, the cushioning on the bottom of our feet also tends to wear down.
Bunions can worsen over time if left untreated, causing more pain and discomfort, and in severe cases, may require surgery to correct. If you have a bunion, it’s important to see a healthcare provider, such as a podiatrist, who can accurately diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of treatment.
You can prevent bunions by not wearing tight or narrow shoes, wearing shoe inserts, choosing shoes with a wider toe box, stretching your feet for better foot flexibility and maintaining a healthy weight.
- Neuromas: Neuromas are benign growths of nerve tissue that can develop in the ball of the foot, causing pain, burning, and tingling sensations. Neuromas can be caused by wearing tight shoes or high heels, or by participating in high-impact activities that put pressure on the feet.
To prevent Neuromas, it’s important to wear shoes that fit properly, avoid high heels or tight shoes, and use cushioned insoles or pads to reduce pressure.
If you experience pain or discomfort in the ball of your foot, especially when walking or standing, you may have a Neuroma. It’s important to see a podiatrist who can accurately diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of treatment, which may include custom orthotics, changes in footwear, or other therapies.
Other foot problems are more likely to occur due to age-related changes and medical conditions. Here is a list of some of these foot problems and how to prevent them from happening.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a common condition in seniors that can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints of the feet. Wearing shoes with arch support and performing exercises to improve joint flexibility can help manage arthritis-related foot pain.
- Gout: Gout is arthritis that causes sudden, severe pain and swelling in the joints, particularly in the big toe. Seniors should avoid high-purine foods and maintain a healthy weight to prevent gout attacks.
- Diabetic foot problems: Seniors with diabetes are at increased risk for foot problems such as neuropathy, poor circulation, and foot ulcers. Proper diabetic foot care, including daily foot inspections and regular visits to a podiatrist, can help prevent diabetic foot complications.
- Peripheral artery disease: Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition in which the blood vessels in the legs and feet become narrow or blocked, leading to poor circulation and foot pain. Regular exercise and quitting smoking can help manage PAD and prevent foot problems.
- Foot infections: Seniors are more susceptible to foot infections due to age-related changes in the immune system and reduced blood flow to the feet. Proper foot hygiene and wearing clean, dry socks and shoes can help prevent foot infections.
It’s important to take care of your feet no matter your age, but seniors need to take special care of their feet and seek medical attention for any foot problems or changes in foot health. Just as it is important to see a heart doctor if you have heart issues, it is important to see a podiatrist for issues with the feet.
At The Surgical Clinic, our team includes two board-certified podiatrists who specialize in geriatric foot care. They can help you maintain healthy feet, address any foot problems you may experience, and even perform foot and ankle surgeries if needed. With their expertise and compassionate care, you can trust your feet are in good hands.
HOW TO MAINTAIN HEALTHY FEET AT ANY AGE
It isn’t difficult to keep your feet healthy. However, neglecting foot care as part of our daily routine can be easy. From wearing proper footwear to regular hygiene practices, we can take many simple steps to keep our feet healthy and pain-free.
Here are a few tips for maintaining healthy feet that you can incorporate into your daily routine to ensure your feet stay happy and healthy for years to come.
1: Wear appropriate footwear:
Shoes that don’t fit your feet properly can cause a long list of problems, from something as simple as pain, blisters and calluses, to more severe issues such as back pain and an increased risk of falls.
Shoes should fit well, provide proper arch support, and be comfortable to wear. You might even need different shoes for different activities. Ensure that your shoes properly support your feet and ankles to ensure safety while walking. Your feet should have enough room front to back, as well as on each side, so that the structure of your foot is not being compressed.
In most cases, you should even wear supportive shoes at home. Walking barefoot or in unsupportive shoes can lead to foot problems over time, so it’s important to wear shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning.
2: Practice good foot hygiene:
Neglecting to clean and care for our feet can increase the risk of infections, such as athlete’s foot and fungal toenails, and can lead to unpleasant foot odor. Keeping our feet clean, dry, and well-maintained can prevent these foot problems and maintain good foot health.
- Wash your feet thoroughly: It’s easy to assume that the water and soap running down from our bodies when we shower is enough to keep our feet clean, but our feet come into contact with all sorts of surfaces, so they can harbor dirt, bacteria, and even fungus.
You should always take a few extra seconds to scrub your feet thoroughly. Always do so with lukewarm water, soap and gentle exfoliation. Don’t use hot water, which can damage or dry out the skin and lead to various foot conditions.
- Cut toenails regularly and carefully: Keep your toenails trimmed by cutting straight across and never into the corners. Overgrown nails can cause discomfort and other health concerns, such as bacterial infections. Conversely, cutting your nails too short can lead to ingrown nails and serious infections.
- Keep your feet moisturized: Dry feet can lead to cracking, itchiness, irritation and foot sores. It is important to keep your feet moisturized around the clock.
Additionally, wearing socks made of breathable materials can help with dry feet by providing a barrier that helps to retain the moisture in your feet. Socks also help to reduce friction between your feet and footwear, which can help to prevent the development of dry, cracked skin.
Another way to keep your feet from becoming dry is to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out.
4: Perform frequent foot checks:
Keeping a watchful eye on your feet can help detect foot problems early on, prevent potential complications, and promote good foot health. By inspecting your feet regularly, you can identify possible issues and take prompt action to prevent them from worsening.
Foot checks should be performed weekly for most people. For seniors, and especially those with diabetes, it is advised to do a quick daily foot check.
Upon waking, run your hands over your feet to feel for any temperature, texture, or sensation changes. Next, for any signs of cuts, blisters, sores, redness, or swelling. And last, inspect your toenails for signs of ingrown toenails, nail fungus, or other problems.
If you notice any foot problems or have concerns about your foot health, it’s important to see a podiatrist as soon as possible.
5: Don’t ignore foot pain:
It’s common for feet to become sore and achy if you are on your feet often or have recently started a new activity. But if you are experiencing unexplained foot pain, foot pain that worsens or doesn’t improve with rest, ice, or over-the-counter pain relievers, it is important not to ignore it and consult with a healthcare provider, such as a podiatrist, for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Ignoring foot pain can lead to further complications, such as chronic pain or permanent damage to the foot. For example, untreated foot ulcers in seniors with diabetes can lead to infections, amputations, and even death. By seeking prompt treatment from a podiatrist, seniors can prevent foot problems from becoming serious and potentially life-threatening.
6: Exercise regularly:
Staying active improves blood flow to the feet, strengthens the muscles, bones, and joints, and reduces the risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, which can increase the risk of foot problems. Exercise also improves balance and coordination and has numerous benefits for overall health.
It is important to choose appropriate activities that are suitable for your fitness level and foot health. For some, high-impact activities like running or jumping can increase the risk of foot problems. When exercising, wearing proper footwear that provides adequate support and cushioning is also essential.
7: Keep your blood sugar stable:
This applies more so to those with diabetes, but it is essential to understand that your dietary health can lead to diabetes, which often causes a range of uncomfortable and, in some cases disabling foot conditions.
Regular physical activity and proper nutrition are keys to preventing type 2 diabetes and maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, it is crucial to keep your diabetes under control and check your feet daily.
8: Stretch, massage and elevate your feet:
Stretching your feet is an excellent way to help improve circulation and flexibility. You can do this by flexing and pointing your toes, rolling a tennis ball under your feet, or using a resistance band to stretch your toes.
Elevating your feet is also a great way to improve overall foot health. Propping your feet up for a few minutes daily helps reduce swelling and improves blood flow, two crucial aspects of overall foot health.
Regular foot massages can also help improve circulation and relieve tension in your feet. You can do this yourself or schedule a professional massage.
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD STARTING TODAY
Whether dealing with a specific foot condition or simply looking to prevent future problems, taking care of your feet is essential to overall health and wellbeing, and seeing a podiatrist is an important step in ensuring your feet stay healthy and pain-free.
April is National Foot Health Awareness Month and provides an excellent opportunity to prioritize your foot health and make positive changes to your daily routine. In addition, National Foot Health Awareness Month is not just about taking care of your own feet but also about spreading awareness of the importance of foot health. So, don’t forget to share this blog with a friend or loved one and help spread the word about the benefits of healthy feet!
By following the tips and recommendations discussed in this blog and seeing a podiatrist regularly, you can start making strides towards better foot health and giving your feet the attention and care they deserve.
See A Podiatrist in Middle Tennessee
Podiatrists are doctors with the training needed to treat various foot & ankle conditions for people of all ages. Whether you want to be proactive with your foot health, have a sprained ankle or a pinched nerve, or you’re looking for expert diabetic foot care, our podiatrists have the expertise needed to help keep your feet happy and healthy.
The Podiatry Division at The Surgical Clinic has two Board Certified Podiatrists that are long-standing members of the American Podiatric Medical Association and board certified podiatrists. Dr. Tod Bushman (in Mt. Juliet and Lebanon, TN) has over 20 years of experience in podiatric care, and Dr. Timothy Bush from Foot and Ankle Specialists of Nashville are both taking new patients.
In addition to treating foot problems, Drs Bushman and Bush can also provide preventive care and advice to help you maintain healthy feet as you age. This may include recommendations for proper footwear, exercises to improve foot and ankle strength and flexibility, and advice on foot hygiene and skin care.
If you have any foot problems or concerns or want to take the first step in keeping your feet healthy for life, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our podiatrists today!