By: Dr. Beth Templin
Our feet and ankles play a huge role in our ability to stay upright. They are the foundation for good balance in our bodies. As we age, it's common for the foot and ankle to become weaker and less flexible. This can change the structure of the foot, which affects the way the foot works. When this happens, the feet aren't as effective as they should be and the risk for falls increases. Let's take a look at some of the more common foot and ankle issues that happen with age and what you can do to address them.
Weakness of the feet and ankles. As we lose the muscle strength in our feet, we lose the internal support for the 3 arches of the feet. This can lead to pain and will contribute to changes in the foot alignment like fallen arches.How do you know if you have weak intrinsic foot muscles? Think about spreading your fingers out as wide as you can and then making a tight fist. Now try this same movement with your toes. If you have trouble doing this, you may have some weakness.
Another common problem with aging feet and ankles is Foot Drop. This is caused by weakness of the muscles in your shin. This will cause you to drag your toes on the ground, instead of lifting them each time you take a step. People with foot drop are more likely to trip and fall. To correct foot drop, you will need to strengthen the muscles in the front of your shin. If you are unable to correct the weakness due to a stroke or severe neuropathy, an Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) may be needed.
Stiffness of the feet and ankles. When you lose the motion in your feet and ankles, it will decrease your ability to react to uneven or changing surfaces. Think about walking on grass, gravel, or sand. All of those surfaces are uneven and require that your foot and ankle can move in numerous directions to adapt to the changing landscape. Tight calf muscles tend to be one of the biggest issues, so incorporating calf stretches into your daily routine can help keep the full motion in your ankles.
Footwear Recommendations: Proper footwear is a must to support the arches and help with alignment. Allowing your feet and toes enough room to completely spread out can help avoid developing common foot deformities such as bunions and hammer toes.
Good shoes have the following:
Remember to take good care of your feet!! They have such an important role in keeping you balanced every day.
❤ Dr. Beth
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.