How Aging Affects Your Feet
8 Common Problems and Why They Occur
Aging takes its toll on your feet as it does with the rest of your body. Given the amount of stress we place on our feet over a lifetime, it’s easy to see why these problems occur. In addition to general wear-and-tear, there are physiological changes that will affect how your joints, bones, and tendons function.
These changes tend to develop gradually as cell turnover and collagen production begin to slow. As the skin starts to thin, so, too, will the fatty layer cushioning the soles and heels.https://a8466f2d12b8a526dd50f7e1d778d1c1.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
These changes can give rise to stability problems affecting the knees, hips, and lower back. The gradual wearing down of cartilage in the joint space, along with inflammation of bursa and tendons, only adds to the burden.
The most common aging-associated foot problems are those that affect the skin, connective tissues, joints, nails, and blood circulation.
Dry skin, especially on the soles of the feet, is a problem that may require a daily application of moisturizer to prevent cracking and infection. The gradual depletion of collagen, exacerbated by the lack of consistent foot care, can lead to the formation of cracked heels and calluses.
If left untreated, cracked skin around the heel can make it painful to walk or even stand.
If cracks in the skin are deep enough, bacteria can infiltrate the exposed tissue and cause a foot infection. In older people or people with diabetes, this can lead to a potentially serious infection known as cellulitis.
As your feet age, connective tissues called ligaments can begin to stretch, reducing the height of your arch and leading to a condition commonly known as flat feet (pes planus).
The pain caused by pes planus, which typically develops in the mid-foot, tends to increase with activity and is often accompanied by swelling along the inner ankle and arch. Hip, knee, and lower back pain are also common.3
Flat feet can also alter the angle of your foot, causing overpronation, the loss of stability, and an increased risk of ankle and foot sprains.
Shortened Achilles Tendon
Another type of connective tissue, known as a tendon, can begin to lose water as you age. Tendons connect muscle to bone, and, if these are shortened due to water loss, you may end up with a more flat-footed gait since you will be less able to flex your ankle, midfoot, and toes.
This is especially true of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone (calcaneus).
Unless steps are taken to routinely stretch your Achilles tendon, you may be at greater risk of a tear or rupture if you overexert the tissues (such as by forceful jumping or running up the stairs).