Take a Load Off

As you age, just about every part of your body experiences some wear and tear. But perhaps no part of your body has worked harder for you over the years than your feet. Think about it: Wherever you’ve been, your feet have taken you there.

Whether you’ve spent your life running, dancing, biking, playing tennis, wearing fashionable heels or just chasing after your kids, you’ve put a lot of hard miles on your feet. Now, more than ever, it’s important to take care of them. Tips from the National Institute on Aging for good foot care follow.

Keep your feet moving. Exercising your feet is important for maintaining good blood flow. Walking is a great way to keep feet moving without abusing them, but there are also exercises you can do while sitting down. For example, rotating your ankles in alternating directions or curling your bare toes and spreading them outward will help with blood flow and balance.

Keep an eye on your feet. Check your feet for cuts, blisters, ingrown toenails and other changes often, and have any conditions treated. If you have diabetes, daily feet checks are especially important, as nerve damage may make it harder for you to feel when something is wrong.

Give your feet TLC. Wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes; wear clean socks; don’t put your shoes on until your feet are dry; don’t walk barefoot outside; get up and move periodically; wear comfortable shoes that fit properly.

The National Institutes of Health recommends that you also:

Rub lotion, cream or petroleum jelly on the tops and bottoms of your feet each day (but avoid the area between your toes) to keep your skin from drying and cracking.

Smooth corns and calluses gently after bathing. Do not cut corns and calluses. Do not use liquid callus removers, which can damage your skin. Rub gently in one direction to avoid tearing your skin.

Keep your feet away from fires, and avoid using heating pads on them. Wear socks to keep your feet warm.

Keep your feet up when you are sitting, and do not cross your legs for long periods of time, to keep the blood flowing. Wiggle your toes a lot.

Don’t smoke. Smoking reduces the blood flow to your feet.

When you’re active, wear athletic shoes that are designed for your specific activity (such as shoes for biking or running) and that fit properly and provide support.

Trim your toenails regularly after you wash and dry your feet, if you can reach them easily. Have your healthcare provider trim them if you cannot feel or reach your feet or if your toenails are thick, yellowed or growing into your feet.

If you do notice your toenails becoming thicker and discolored — or brittle and dry — you may have toe fungus. When this affects the area between your toes or the skin of your feet, it’s called athlete’s foot. Fungal nail infections are common in older adults and can be painful or lead to infection if left untreated. See your provider if you notice these symptoms, as the condition may also signal a weakened immune system.