What Can Go Wrong With Your Feet As You Age

Fat Pad Atrophy

Getting older often can bring on extra weight and fat. But the one place you can lose padding is in your feet. That’s bad, because you need the cushioned layer to protect your tootsies from daily pounding. You may feel pain in the ball of your foot and heel. Shoes with cushions or custom-made foam shoe inserts called orthotics may help. Or your foot doctor may suggest another treatment like filler injections to replace the fat pad.

Cracked Heels

Mature skin makes less oil and elastin, which leaves it drier and less supple. Without regular care, your heels may harden, crack, or hurt. Being overweight worsens the problem. Special creams called keratolytics help slough off the tough top layer. Follow up with a pumice stone to remove dead skin. Apply moisturizing lotion every day. If your heels get swollen and red, talk to your doctor. You may need a prescription ointment.

Ingrown Toenails

Sometimes, the side of a nail (usually on the big toe) grows into the skin. It can happen at any age, but it’s more common in older folks. Your toe may swell, hurt, and get infected. Sweaty feet, being overweight, and diabetes all add up and raise your chances for an ingrown toenail. To prevent it, avoid cutting your toenails too short or wearing tight shoes. In severe cases, your doctor may have to remove the nail root.


By the time you reach your 50th birthday, your feet may have trekked 75,000 miles or more. All that wear and tear or a previous injury can lead to osteoarthritis. It happens when cartilage, a flexible tissue that prevents friction, breaks down. That lets bone rub against bone. Most people who get it are over 65.

Flat Foot

Many babies are born with flat feet, but more than 80% outgrow it. Some adults get flat feet because of an injury or things like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Tendons that support your arch get damaged and flatten your feet. It can hurt. A giveaway is that your feet jut out, so most of your toes are visible from behind your leg. Normally, you’d see only the fourth and fifth toes. Orthotics, physical therapy, braces, and surgery can help.

Achilles Tendinitis

The Achilles is the tendon you use to flex your foot when you climb stairs or go up on your toes. Age and lowered blood supply can weaken the tendon. Your heel or the back of your ankle may hurt. Rest, icing, and medication can help fight the swelling. Don’t ignore the problem. You could need surgery for serious tears.

Diabetic Foot Ulcer

Diabetes can damage your nerves so that you may not feel small cuts or wounds. Your feet also might tingle, feel numb, or have jabbing pain. Foot ulcers can start as something small like a blister, but then get bigger and infected. They’re a major cause of amputations in people with diabetes. Keep blood sugar controlled, and check your feet often. See a doctor right away if you see anything odd.


Gout is a painful form of arthritis is most common in middle-aged men. It happens when a waste product called uric acid collects as crystals, often in the big toe. It can swell, stiffen, and hurt a lot. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to ease the swelling. You may feel better in about a day. Exercise, eat less red meat and shellfish, go easy on alcoholic beverages and sugary foods, and drink lots of fluids to help prevent future attacks.


These are painful bony lumps that grow along the inside of your foot at the joint where your big toe meets your foot. Bunions grow slowly as the big toe angles inward. Tight, narrow, shoes like high heels may worsen them. That’s why bunions appear much more often in women. They can run in families, too. Icing, special pads, and shoes that aren’t too tight help. Your doctor might suggest surgery in serious cases.


It’s an abnormal bend in the middle joints of your toe. It’s usually your “second” toe, next to the big one. But it also can affect the third, fourth, and fifth toes. You’ll notice an unusual shape, and you may have some pain when you move it, as well as corns and calluses from the toe rubbing against your shoe. Your doctor can treat it with special footwear, pain meds, and sometimes surgery.

Claw Toe

This kind of misshapen foot is similar to hammertoe. But instead of just the middle joint, claw toes also affect the joints closest to the tips of your toes. Your toes curl and dig straight down into the floor or the soles of your shoes. Claw toes grow stiffer with age. If you can move them, try strengthening exercises like picking up a marble or piece of paper with your toes.

Fungal Infections

Less elastic skin and weaker immunity can invite more fungal infections in seniors. The sole of your foot may scale and itch. If it’s not treated, the infection can spread to your toenails. Treatment includes antifungal creams and sometimes pills. Fungus is hard to kill, so use your medication for as long as directed. Tip: Don’t smear cortisone creams on the rash. They weaken the skin’s defenses and worsen the infection.

Source: webmd.com


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