Family Health Magazine - growing older
Your Nice Old Feet
With care, they can last a lifetime
Even under ideal conditions, good car tires wear out. A flat tire can make an otherwise good car completely useless. Most feet are used so much that they, too, wear out. Unlike car tires, feet cannot be changed for new ones. On average, our feet walk the equivalent of the distance around the world by the time we reach the age of 65. Make your feet as happy as possible. Painful feet are a serious problem.
If the shoe fits…
The only way to keep your feet happy is to start by wearing practical shoes that work well for your feet. Set aside all of your ideas about what makes a good shoe. Be prepared to pay more, sacrifice fashion, and let function and comfort be your guide.
- Wear only lace-up shoes. These allow a better overall fit and some extra room if your feet swell. Running shoes are excellent for most occasions.
- Be sure that the heel fits snugly, with a firm heel counter (the cup that cradles the heel) and a thicker, stiffer sole.
- Proper fit will leave an empty space (about half an inch) at the toe of the shoe when standing.
- The toe box of the shoe must be wide and deep enough to cover your foot comfortably without rubbing.
- Ignore the size label of the shoe and concentrate on its fit. Too often, we are convinced that we take a certain size. Odd sizes from around the world allow too much variation to be sure that one size will always fit.
- Choose a shoe with removable insoles in case you need special ones.
- Have the salesperson trace both your foot and the insole from the shoe. Your foot tracing should fit inside the insole tracing, especially at the front of the foot.
Foot, skin and nail care
Along with well made, properly fitting shoes, looking after your feet is very important. Caring for the toenails and keeping the skin of the foot healthy reduces the chance of major problems.
Those who cannot see well or have problems reaching the feet should ask a family member or a close friend to help with your nail care. If you have diabetes, circulation problems or serious foot-related problems, seek professional instruction and assistance from your doctor or health care professional. After initial instruction by a trained professional, you can then have monthly ‘bridge and foot care club’ meetings.
Helpful tips on foot care
- Use nail cutters that are easy to operate, with blunt edges to cut thickened nails. Small blunt scissors that look like mini pruning shears are best.
- Cut only small bits of the nail at a time. Do not cut your toe nails too short.
- Use a pumice daily on your calluses. Only pumice your feet when they are dry.
- If the skin is dry, use a moisturizing cream or lotion, but avoid the areas between your toes.
- Never try to cut down on the corner of an ingrown toe nail. If it hurts or is red and swollen, see your foot care provider.
- Professional training or nail care services are advised if you have diabetes or poor circulation in your feet.
Foot, ankle or lower leg swelling
If you have swollen feet or ankles, fitting shoes properly can be very difficult. The action of the calf muscle while walking normally takes care of this swelling. However, it does not work as well as you get older and stiffer, or reduce the amount you walk. If the following practical hints about what you can do yourself do not help, get professional advice.
- Walk as much as you like. Try to walk with a normal heel-to-toe stride to get better circulation pumping action.
- Avoid sitting whenever possible and when you do sit, wiggle your toes and ankles often. Do not cross your legs.
- Avoid socks with tight elastic tops. If there is a ring of indentation in your skin when you take them off, they are too tight and should be cut or replaced.
- Eat a low salt diet.
- When standing, do not stand still.
- Talk to your doctor or health care provider about special compression stockings to control swelling.
- If your ankles are swollen, lie down and elevate your legs above the level of your heart. Do this several times in the afternoon and evening for at least 20 minutes.
Put your best foot forward
- Get shoes that fit properly and are comfortable. If your ankles or feet swell, get shoes with soft uppers and laces. Consider high quality runners as your primary shoe.
- Look after your feet with daily inspections and monthly nail cutting. Keep the skin soft and callous-free.
- Have a friend or professional care for your feet if you are having difficulty.
- Try the tips above to reduce swelling. If you cannot, see your doctor or health care team.
- Do not try home remedies on your feet. If there is pain or a growth, see your family doctor or foot care professional.
- Do exercises and stretches for your feet. The ‘toes to the nose’ stretch using a towel is very good.
Just as a car needs good tires to run well, your body needs healthy feet to stay fully active throughout your life. Look after your feet!
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2012, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [GO_FHc11]