My mother came to visit me last weekend — we had a great time. She lives about 200 miles away in Valatie, New York. We stopped in Market Basket in Gloucester to pick up a few things. We were in the checkout line when I saw her take a double-look behind her. She handed me what she had in her hands and said “I’ll be right back.”

I paid for our groceries and was left standing at the front of the store waiting. She finally came around the corner of the checkout counters with a big smile on her face. She had seen someone she knew from home. It was her podiatrist who was vacationing in Rockport. My mother loves her podiatrist. She had been having some severe pain in her feet and her podiatrist determined why, explained it to my mom, and she has made adjustments and is now pain-free.

Foot health is huge concern for people as they age. In one study, 87 percent of older people reported at least one foot problem. We spend a lot of time on our feet in a lifetime.

On average each person spends four hours a day on their feet and takes 10,000 steps. That’s a lot of wear and tear. Our feet flatten and widen as we age. Foot pain can cause problems with mobility and balance and is a risk factor for falls. Many times, just as in my mother’s case, foot pain can be managed by gentle interventions such as routine foot care, changing footwear, and the use of orthotics.

Foot health, or ill health as the case may be, can foreshadow many illnesses related to aging, such as arthritis, diabetes, and circulatory diseases. If you are having issues with your feet you may want to have a doctor take a look. In the meantime here are some things to look out for and some ideas that might help.

Common foot problems in older adults include:

  • Dry skin – can cause itching and burning feet.
  • Bunions – a bony growth or misaligned bone at the base of the big toe or sometimes on the small toe.
  • Calluses and corns – dead thickened skin on toes.
  • Hammertoes – toe joints that curl up or under. They often result in a permanent dislocated joint.
  • Toenail problems – ingrown, thickened, or discolored toenails.
  • Diabetes-related issues, such as stubborn foot ulcers that are difficult to heal, loss of feeling or circulation problems.
  • Heel pain – this pain is present at the back of the arch from heel spurs or planter fasciitis.

Some common cures:

  • Use skin cream on your legs and feet everyday.
  • Wear shoes that fit better or use non-medicated foot pads that may help with corn or calluses.They also be helpful for bunions that are not too painful.
  • Roomier shoes may offer relief for hammertoes.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication can help alleviate the pain and reduce swelling from bunions.
  • Surgery is sometimes needed to reduce pressure and relive pain from bunions. It can also offer relief for serious cases, surgery may be required for hammertoes.
  • Use toe clippers made especially for toe nails to help avoid ingrown toe nails. A doctor can remove the part of the nail that has grown into the skin.

“My foot pain affected everything,” said my mother.

It affected the obvious, her walking, and the less obvious, her concentration.

My mother takes her foot care seriously and is very attentive to what she wears. We did a lot of walking last weekend. She left without pain in her feet.

Kelly Knox is the development officer of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.

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