Caring for Ageing Feet: How Your Podiatrist Helps

As we get older, certain tasks get that little bit harder – whether it’s getting your shoes on, opening a jar, or reaching your feet to trim your toenails. This is why skin and nail care is a very important part of what we do here as podiatrists. Taking care of ageing feet goes beyond maintaining comfort; it contributes to mobility, balance, and the enjoyment of an active lifestyle. Whether we’re reducing the thickness of your nails, removing corns, or managing cracked heels, we know that by relieving your pain and improving your comfort, we’re directly helping you to keep moving on your feet, so you can optimise your health.

Here’s a look at the ways that our team here at Perform Podiatry helps to manage and maintain the foot health of older adults.

Footwear Assessment, Advice and Modifications

Your shoes become the ground you walk on, being responsible for supporting your comfort, stability and mobility. We work closely with older adults to ensure that their shoes are helping them through every step and not hindering them, and give personalised advice based on any foot conditions or ailments you have – from foot pain to bunions and more.

Generally speaking, you want to opt for shoes that provide ample support, cushioning, and a proper fit. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to discomfort, blisters, and even foot deformities. Look for shoes with a wide toe box and adjustable fasteners to accommodate potential foot swelling.

Keeping Toenails Trimmed

When your toenails are properly trimmed and maintained, it reduces your risk of ingrown toenails and related infections. Podiatrists can also reduce the thickness of your toenails, improving both your comfort and their appearance. If managing toenails at home, you want to trim them straight across and avoid cutting them too short to prevent discomfort.

Managing Corns And Calluses

Like with toenails, regular podiatry appointments help you stay on top of any corns and calluses that arise, meaning you get to walk comfortably and without pain. It is not recommended to attempt to manage these at home due to the risks in older feet.

Providing A ‘Second Eye’

While it’s one thing to advise older adults to regularly check their feet for signs of deterioration, redness, sores, blisters, cuts or anything else that’s sinister, it’s very different to be able to do it, especially with vision changes and greater difficulty reaching the feet. Your podiatrist acts as a ‘second eye’ at every skin and nail care appointment, catching potential issues early that may have been missed which can prevent them from escalating into more serious complications.

Addressing Dry Skin

Ageing skin tends to become drier, and this applies to the feet as well. Your podiatrist can help with dry skin as well as complications such as cracks in the heels, helping promote your comfort and reducing the risk of infection. If managing dry skin at home, applying a moisturiser, especially to the heels, can prevent cracking and discomfort. Avoid applying lotion between the toes, as it can create a moist environment conducive to fungal growth.

Monitoring Foot Sensation

Loss of sensation in the feet is another common issue among older adults, which can lead to unnoticed injuries. This is something that you can discuss with your podiatrist at your appointment, and something they can help you monitor and manage. At home, regularly check for numbness, tingling, or changes in sensation and consult a healthcare provider if such issues arise.

Preventing Falls

A person’s fall risk can be reduced by 36% when working with a podiatrist. With approximately one third of all falls being preventable in nature, many people are choosing to work proactively with their podiatrist in areas such as falls risk assessments, footwear checks, custom foot orthotics, balance assessments and more to help reduce their falls risk and improve their long-term health and comfort.

If your feet or legs are causing you pain or discomfort, or you’ve found that over the years you are no longer able to care for them in the best way, then our Perform Podiatry team here in Remuera, Auckland, are here to help. We’re proud to help thousands of people every year look after their foot health. We’d love for you to join us.

Book your appointment by calling us on 09 523 2333 or book online here.

Preventing Falls With Podiatry

Having a fall, whether it’s in our own home or when we’re out and about, can change our lives entirely. The injury we sustain from a fall can affect our ability to not only walk and move but stay independent – it might mean we have to stop living independently within our home and instead move into a care facility.  Here in New Zealand, according to ACC, approximately 30% to 60% of those aged over 65 years will have a fall every year – with up to 20% of these ending up in hospital with a broken bone – a figure that only increases in likelihood with age, with those aged above 85 years having the greatest risk. Once you have a fall, at any age, the risk of you having another fall increases greatly. Aside from the physical pain and restrictions, falls can take a significant toll on your mental health, with fear and anxiety over another fall becoming more prevalent and with less confidence when it comes to movement. Together, this leads to a hesitation to participate in physical activity and social events – and the less we move, the harder it becomes.

How do podiatrists help with falls?

As podiatrists focus on the function, movement and stability of the feet and legs, we help by:
  • Identifying the characteristics of your feet and legs, as well as your footwear, that make you more vulnerable to falling
  • Diagnosing any problems in the feet and legs that may be causing you to change the way you walk, or walk in a less-than-optimal way, that may increase your falls risk
  • Treating or managing the problems we identify to reduce your falls risk
  • Putting additional measures in place to improve your stability on your feet, or make walking easier and more comfortable
  • Assess your footwear to ensure it isn’t contributing to your falls risk and is instead helping you walk comfortably and safely

Footwear: Does it really matter?

The shoes you wear on a regular basis, or lack thereof, can play a large role in your falls risk. There are a number of things our patients never think of until we discuss it with them – like the weight of their shoes. When your shoes are heavy and clunky, it can weigh your foot down, especially when you may already have some weakness in the muscles in your feet and legs. This can make you more likely to catch the bottom of your shoe on the ground, making you more likely to trip and fall. Another feature is how much your shoe allows your foot to roll around from side-to-side. A good shoe should keep your foot steady and stable, whereas flimsy shoes will let your feet naturally roll from side to side, tiring the muscles in your feet and legs and making you more vulnerable to injuries – especially ankle sprains. While this may not be as obvious inside your home, the moment you go out for a walk and start walking over uneven ground, it can cause a big problem.

What happens when we fall?

When we fall, the big risk is that we have an injury like a fracture (broken bone). This is much more likely the older we get, given that the prevalence of osteoporosis (weak, fragile bones), as well as medical conditions like arthritis, are much higher, putting us at risk. Whether it’s an injured muscle, tendon or a broken bone, we’ll need to recover from our injury, which will see us either changing the way we walk and move (which can lead to a series of other pains and problems), or staying immobile in a cast, walker or moonboot for a period. When we’re immobilised, we stop using the surrounding muscles, causing them to weaken. This makes recovery and healthy movement even harder, and can be very stressful on our bodies – especially as we grow older. While we do help our patients recover from such injuries at all ages, we always believe that prevention is better than treatment, which is where falls prevention comes in.

Let’s prevent those falls

If you’re worried about falls – or about a family member having their first or another fall – bring them in to see our experienced podiatry team. We’ll go through a falls assessment and discuss the best ways to help them prevent falls and stay comfortable and mobile on their feet. Book your appointment online here or call us on (09) 523 2333.