Being a foot can be a hard, thankless job, so if your feet ever start complaining, you should listen to them. “As we get older, our muscles and tendons lose elasticity, which can contribute to foot pain,” says Dr. Beth Gusenoff, a podiatric surgeon. Achy feet are no fun, but there are lots of ways that you can show your feet and yourself some love:
Choose the right shoe
Most instances of foot pain come from bad shoes, whether they’re too tight, or too high in the heel, says Dr. Marian T. Hannan. You should look for comfortable, cushioned, well-fitting shoes. She also suggests regularly swapping shoes, avoiding wearing the same pair all the time.
And make sure you measure your feet before you buy. Feet will usually get wider as we age, says Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon Kelly Hynes, MD. She suggests shoes with stiffer solid soles and stiffer arch support. But always make sure they’re comfortable. “Most of these middle-aged foot problems are not surgical problems. There’s usually a tweak you can make to the shoes you’re wearing that will take care of it.”
Clean your feet
Harmful bacteria and fungal infections like athlete’s foot can be kept at bay by keeping your feet clean and soaking them regularly, says Dr. Hannan. Foot baths can keep feet smooth, but make sure to thoroughly dry afterward, especially between the toes. Bacteria and fungi love a wet environment.
That also means if you moisturize, which can keep skin from cracking, avoid the area between your toes. If you find any wounds, sores, blisters, calluses or corns, wash them with soap and water, apply an antibiotic ointment to sores and wounds and use a bandage to protect corns and calluses from friction, advises Dr. Tim Swartz, MD, chief of podiatry at Kaiser Permanente’s Mid-Atlantic region.
Stretch it out
Stretching out your calf muscles could help your feet out, says Dr. Hynes. “A lot of foot problems happen because the calf muscles are very tight. It sends more force through the joints of the foot and ankle, and that’s why things start to hurt and get painful over time.”
Stretching in the morning and right before bed can increase your ankle mobility and lessen the stress on the small joints in your feet. Dr. Gusenoff recommends doing basic stretches for your Achilles, foot circles, and balance exercises, such as toe and heel raises or standing on one foot.
Maintain a healthy weight
As we age, so do our feet. “They change in their elasticity the same way other body parts do – tissue becomes less tight, causing the increased width and sagging of the arches,” says Dr. Hynes. Any extra weight we carry increases the mechanical load on our weakening feet, says Gusenoff. In terms of cardio, she suggests activities that are easier on the feet, like cycling and swimming. They will help you lose weight without stressing your feet too much.
Talk to your doctor
“Pain isn’t normal. It’s a signal to pay attention,” says Hannan. If you are experiencing foot pain that is persistent or severe, you should turn to an expert such as a podiatrist, orthopedist, or physical therapist to diagnose and treat the problem. “Sometimes foot pain in the aging population is dismissed as due to age and tired feet, but there may be a true underlying cause of the pain that can be treated,” Gusenoff says. Don’t hesitate to get your feet the help they need.