Putting your Best Foot Forward as you Get Older

Dr. Michael Theodoulou, DPM, FACFAS

Dr. Michael Theodoulou, DPM, FACFAS
CHA Podiatric Surgeon

The human foot is an extraordinary tool that gives us the ability to walk and remain mobile. It is estimated that we take 70 million steps in our life. That’s a lot of repetitive loading with expected eventual wear and tear! If we combine this with the typical aging process, and then further challenge it with many of the chronic illnesses that affect the human body, you can see why podiatrists remain very busy.

Many of my older patients have asked me “what can I do to keep my feet healthy?” Well, here are 5 ways we can help preserve foot function in our later years:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight: This is critical. The foot is the body part that comes directly in contact with the ground, so any extra loading by excessive weight puts undue stress on our bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.
  2. Stay active: As the famous line says, “use it or lose it.” Disuse can lead to bone density loss, muscle weakening and weakened cardiovascular standing.
  3. Manage Diabetes: Diabetes can have profound effect on the lower extremities! It puts us at greater risk for reduced blood flow and loss of nerve sensation while limited our ability to fight infection. Keeping blood sugars as normal as possible is essential. Social habits such as smoking only make this worse.
  4. Appropriate Foot Hygiene: Good hydration of skin is important. Some people use moisturizer to limit cracking of skin and secondary wounds. I also recommend trimming your nails straight across and not cutting into corners.
  5. Good fitting shoes: Try wearing shoes that are flat with limited heels and rigid soles. Lace them well (but not too tight) to provide stability and support. If we know that the foot weakens over time, so do our shoes – so they should be replaced when needed.

    And here’s a good tip: I always recommend to buy shoes at the end of the day when our extremities are naturally more swollen. This will give a better fit. Often I ask my patients with deformity to trace an outline of their foot on a sheet of paper when standing and make sure it conforms well with the structure of the shoe.

In the 1920’s Dudley Morton, M.D., a famous surgeon and anatomist of the human foot, pointed out that the two greatest maladies that will afflict our society will be dental and foot care. I couldn’t agree more! Dentistry has done an excellent job in preventative care and preserving function. We must be as vigilant in the care of our feet.

This article provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. Thank you.