Health & Wellness

Feet First


man with foot pain

Nothing makes you want to get outside quite like a sunny spring day. But even a leisurely stroll down the shore can feel like a hike when every step hurts.

One in three people over age 65 has foot pain, stiffness, or aching feet, reports the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation. But that’s nothing to sit back and accept, says Dr. John Marino, a podiatrist affiliated with Roper St. Francis Healthcare. “Foot pain isn’t normal, whether you’re 25 or 85,” he says. “We can evaluate a patient’s foot concerns, diagnose what is causing the discomfort, and formulate a plan of treatment to alleviate the foot pain.”

Have a shooting or aching sensation in your heels? Dr. Marino says heel pain can be caused by multiple issues, such as inflammation of a ligament on the bottom of the heel, various nerve disorders, arthritis, tendon problems, dry, cracked skin, or even a thinning of the fat pad on the bottom of the foot, which is more likely to happen as we age.

Some foot conditions can be hereditary, including bunions (a bump at the base of the big toe) or hammertoes (in which the middle joint in a toe bends downward), both of which can cause an uncomfortable corn or callus (which are thickened areas of skin). “Many patients with these conditions will say that their mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather had the same problem years ago,” Dr. Marino says, noting that these maladies are also more common with age.

The good news is that, in most cases, relief can be found with over-the-counter or prescription products. Shoe modification can help. “Corn and callus pads are often very helpful, but always use the non-medicated types of these products,” says Dr. Marino. Cushioned shoe inserts can help remedy foot pain, as well. When these options don’t do the trick, make an appointment with a podiatrist, who can employ treatment options such as custom orthotics, braces, medication, injections, physical therapy, or surgery. “The bottom line is: There’s no reason to let foot pain slow you down,” Dr. Marino says.

 

SIDEBAR: Easy Steps

Preventative measures go a long way toward keeping feet healthy. Here, Dr. Marino shares his at-home how-tos:

  • Seek comfort and support. “Ill-fitting shoes are the cause of many foot problems,” says Dr. Marino, who notes that our feet can widen with age, changing our shoe size. “Have your feet measured while in a weight-bearing stance at a reputable shoe store once a year,” he recommends.
  • Take a peek. “Many seniors have lost some feeling in their feet due to neuropathy and may not realize that problems have developed,” says Dr. Marino. Using a hand mirror if needed, check your feet daily for signs of skin irritation, blisters, or other abnormalities.
  • Get moving. Staying active improves blood circulation, sending oxygen and vital nutrients to the whole body, including the feet.
  • See a specialist. You don’t need a referral to see a podiatrist, and their expertise can help keep your feet in tip-top shape. Diabetics have a unique combination of health factors that make it especially important for them to visit a podiatrist regularly, stresses Dr. Marino.

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