Feet. They are the one part of the body that takes the most beating. We rely on them to carry the weight of our bodies, taking us from point A to point B. Yet they are probably also the body part that is most often neglected, and most taken for granted. It’s no wonder why so many things can go wrong with our feet. And it’s usually a slow progression that doesn’t need to happen.
It should not come as a surprise that as we age, our risk for problems with our feet increases. In one study 87% of older people reported at least one foot problem. Feet widen and flatten, and the fat padding on the sole of the foot wears down as we get older. Our skin also loses moisture and is much drier. Foot pain, in fact, can be the first sign of trouble in many illnesses related to aging, such as arthritis, diabetes, and circulatory disease. Foot problems can also impair balance and function in older adults.
You may experience pain or discomfort anywhere in your foot. You may have pain in the heel, toes, arch, instep, or bottom of foot (sole).
Foot pain may be due to:
- Being on your feet for long periods of time
- Being overweight
- A foot deformity that you were born with or develops later
- Shoes that fit poorly or do not have much cushioning
- Too much walking or other sports activity
The following can cause foot pain:
- Arthritis and gout. Common in the big toe, which becomes red, swollen, and very tender.
- Broken bones.
- Bunions. A bump at the base of the big toe from wearing narrow-toed shoes or from abnormal bone alignment.
- Calluses and corns. Thickened skin from rubbing or pressure. Calluses are on the balls of the feet or heels. Corns appear on the top of your toes.
- Hammer toes. Toes that curl downward into a claw-like position.
- Fallen arches. Also called flat feet.
- Nerve damage from diabetes.
- Plantar fasciitis.
- Plantar warts. Sores on the soles of your feet due to pressure.
- Stress fracture.
- Nerve problems.
Basic Foot Care
The following steps may help relieve your foot pain:
- Wear foot pads to prevent rubbing and irritation.
- Wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes, with good arch support and cushioning.
- Wear shoes with plenty of room around the ball of your foot and toes, a wide toe box.
- Avoid narrow-toed shoes and high heels.
- Wear sneakers as often as possible, especially when walking.
- It may be necessary to lose weight.
- Learn exercises to strengthen your feet and avoid pain. This can help flat feet and other potential foot problems.
- Keep toenails clipped and feet well groomed.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if:
- You have sudden, severe foot pain
- Your foot pain began following an injury, especially if your foot is bleeding or bruising, or you cannot put weight on it
- You have redness or swelling of the joint, an open sore or ulcer on your foot, or a fever
- You have pain in your foot and have diabetes or a disease that affects blood flow
- Your foot does not feel better after using at-home treatments for 1 to 2 weeks