It’s so easy to overlook the importance of your feet day-to-day, but as the base of support for your entire body that literally carries you from place to place, your feet can have the biggest impact on your quality of life. Ignoring those nagging foot problems can lead to all sorts of troubles and we want you dancing through life, not hobbling! So let’s kick off our shoes, get comfy and explore what the common foot problems in older adults are—and what to do about them.
Why older adults shouldn’t ignore foot problems
If you want to kick your foot problems to the curb, you can’t ignore them. Ignoring foot issues as you age can lead to:
- Loss of mobility
- More difficulty walking & doing daily activities
- Loss of function in the muscles you use for climbing stairs, getting out of chairs & walking
- An increased risk of falling
- Loss of balance, coordination & stability
What Are Common Foot Problems In Older Adults?
Arthritis in your feet is joint inflammation that can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, and limited range of motion. Age, wear and tear, and certain medical conditions contribute to its development. Through a combination of pain management, physical therapy, orthotic devices, and lifestyle modifications that help reduce stress on the joints, it’s possible to manage arthritis.
These are bony bumps that form at the base of the big toe, causing it to deviate towards the other toes. Bunions can be caused by genetics, footwear choices, and even the structure of your foot. The best thing you can do for bunions is wear proper footwear with a wider area for your toes. Using padding or orthotics can help reduce pressure. In more serious instances you might need to consider surgery.
Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are abnormal bony projections that develop along the edges of bones. They often form as a result of prolonged joint stress, such as arthritis or injury. Proper footwear, orthotics and physical therapy can help manage symptoms and reduce discomfort caused by bone spurs.
Bursitis is the inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joints and tendons. Repetitive motions, joint overuse, or injury can lead to bursitis. Treatment can be really simple using the RICE method of dealing with inflammation: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Physical therapy & foot exercises also help relieve inflammation and restore normal joint function.
Hammertoes and claw toes happen when there’s an abnormal bending or curling of the toes, which can cause pain, discomfort, and difficulty finding well-fitting shoes. To help with the pain, you’ll want to wear roomier shoes and do toe exercises. You should also talk to a foot specialist and consider orthotics. If it’s extreme, you may need to get surgery.
Morton’s Neuroma is a thickening of the tissue surrounding a nerve, most commonly found between the third and fourth toes. It often results in a sharp or burning pain in the ball of the foot. Tight footwear, foot deformities, and repetitive stress can sometimes lead to Morton’s Neuroma. Again, proper footwear with a wider toe area and orthotics can help relieve some of the pain.
Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Pain
Plantar fasciitis is the inflammation of the thick band of tissue (the plantar fascia) that runs along the bottom of the foot, leading to heel pain. Overuse, improper footwear, and foot mechanics are the main culprits that lead to plantar fasciitis. Treatment typically includes stretching exercises, orthotics, footwear modifications and/or physical therapy.
Calluses are one of the most common foot issues—and the easiest to deal with. These thickened areas of skin usually develop due to repetitive friction or pressure. While calluses can be managed through gentle filing after soaking your feet, it’s important to address the underlying cause, such as ill-fitting shoes or abnormal foot mechanics. Using cushioned insoles or orthotics can help distribute pressure evenly and reduce callus formation.
Similar to calluses, corns are small, hardened areas of skin that form on the toes or feet due to repeated friction or pressure. Corns can also be treated by gently filing them down after soaking your feet. Wearing well-fitting shoes and using protective padding can prevent further irritation and corn development.
Degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis or age-related changes in the joints and bones, can lead to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. Keeping your joints in good condition with exercise and physical therapy can help reduce the pain.
This is what happens when the Achilles tendon (which connects the calf muscles to the heel bone) becomes inflamed. Usually it’s because of overuse, improper footwear, or inadequate stretching. Usually all you need to do is rest the muscle, apply ice packs, and do some gentle stretching exercises. Wearing supportive footwear or orthotics is also a good idea. In severe cases you might consider some physical therapy or corticosteroid injections.
Diabetes/Diabetic Foot Ulcer
Individuals with diabetes are prone to foot complications, including peripheral neuropathy and poor circulation. Diabetic foot ulcers can develop due to reduced sensation and impaired wound healing. Managing diabetes through proper blood sugar control, regular foot inspections, wearing protective footwear, and seeking early treatment for any wounds or infections is essential to prevent serious complications.
Fat Pad Atrophy
While we normally want to get rid of fat elsewhere—when it comes to the bottom of our feet, we want to keep it! Fat pad atrophy is the thinning of the natural cushioning fat pads on the soles of the feet. It can cause discomfort and increased pressure on the bones and joints. Using cushioned insoles or gel inserts, wearing well-padded shoes, and maintaining a healthy weight can help alleviate symptoms and reduce pressure on the feet.
Also known as fallen arches, this is when the arches of the feet do not develop properly or collapse over time. This can lead to pain, instability, and difficulty finding well-fitting shoes. Supportive footwear with arch support, custom orthotics, foot-strengthening exercises, and maintaining a healthy weight can provide relief and improve foot function.
Gout is a form of arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints. It typically affects the big toe joint and can cause sudden and severe pain, redness, and swelling. Managing gout involves dietary changes to reduce purine-rich foods, medications to manage pain and inflammation, and lifestyle modifications to prevent flare-ups.
This is not about breaking a bone. Stress fractures are tiny cracks in the bones due to repetitive stress or overuse. They’re quite common in the feet and can cause localized pain and tenderness. So don’t worry—you won’t need a cast. Treatment is simple. Rest, wear supportive shoes, (using crutches if necessary), and gradually return to activity after proper healing.
Tips for overcoming common foot problems
You probably noticed a trend as we broke down each of the most common foot problems in older adults. Most foot issues can be avoided or treated simply by wearing the right footwear for your feet.
- Wear proper footwear
- Consider orthotics
- Consider shoe modification and/or cushioned insoles
- Talk to a foot specialist
- Exercise! Your feet are made up of more than 120 muscles, ligaments, tendons & nerves that need to be stretched & strengthened to function properly just like any other part of your body. Check out our 5 Day Foot Strength class for the best exercises for your feet (Click Or Tap Here)
Now that you know what the common foot problems in older adults are, if any of those issues sound like what you’re experiencing you should talk to a foot specialist. They’ll be able to give you a proper diagnosis and get you on the right treatment plan. Remember—healthy feet are crucial to a good quality of life!