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Older Persons Guide to Good Foot Health

An Older Persons Guide to Good Foot Health

Guide to foot health in older people
As we age, we naturally develop more problems with our feet due to normal daily wear and tear of joints but also because the skin starts to become thin, loses its elasticity as well as being dry and much more fragile.

As we only have one pair of feet for our whole lifetime, it’s important to take good care of them as foot pain can be debilitating. Foot pain can also lead to issues with walking and exercising which are an important part of health and wellbeing as we age.  Additionally, if we have trouble with mobility, this can impact on getting out and about and involvement in social activities which become ever more important as we get older.  As long as we take routine care of our feet, serious problems can usually be avoided, however, ageing can also mean that we develop other conditions, such as diabetes and arthritis, which in some cases can affect the foot which may require treatment. Healing can also take longer. 

Keeping active and on the move helps to keep feet healthy – it tones up muscles, helps to strengthen arches and stimulates blood circulation. And keeping strong and healthy is so important for overall foot health.

General foot care and protection

Keeping toenails cut and under control is key as nails that become too long can press against the end of the shoe and the constant pressure can cause soreness, infection and ulceration. Toenails that have been poorly cut may  also become ingrown and need professional attention 

Additionally, checking your feet regularly, daily if necessary, and moisturising them (but not between the toes) will help them keep supple as feet start to dry out and lose their natural oils as they age.  We also start to lose the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of the feet and soles and heels become dry and nails brittle and more difficult to manage.

Keeping warm is also important but do not warm them too close to the fire!  Warm stockings or socks can help but avoid anything too tight which can restrict your circulation or cramp your toes.  Wearing fleece-lined boots or shoes or even an extra pair of socks will also keep you warm but do make sure your shoes aren’t tight as a result.  Also please avoid the use of hot water bottles. Bed socks are also a good idea if you experience really cold feet during the night,  There is research that shows that if feet are warm people sleep better.

Footwear

The older you get, the more important it is to wear a shoe which is comfortable, well-fitting and holds your foot firmly in place to give adequate support.  Many people wear slippers if their feet are hurting but this can make things worse as slippers encourage you to shuffle rather than letting the joints work as they should. A pair of running shoes is the best option as these provide a good amount of shock absorption and stability and also support the arch.

Avoid plastic ‘easy clean’ uppers which don’t allow the foot to breath and won’t stretch to accommodate your own foot shape. There are lots of man made/vegan friendly alternatives available.

Many shoes have cushioning or shock absorbing soles to give you extra comfort while walking.  When buying shoes, ensure that you can put them on and take them off easily.  Check that the heel is held firmly in place, you’ll find that a lace, strap, buckle or Velcro fastening shoe will give more support and comfort than a slip-on.

Your shoes should be roomy enough, particularly if you intend to wear them every day.  If you suffer with swollen feet, it’s a good idea to put your shoes on as soon as you wake up, before your feet have had a chance to swell. In the summer try to wear shoes half a size bigger to accommodate swelling feet.

Further Reading:

Advice on Ageing Feet from the College of Podiatry


Fitter feet from Age UK