podiatrist with senior patientOur feet experience a significant degree of wear and tear throughout our lives. This may result in calluses or bunions, chronic pain, aching and stiffness. For older adults, declining health and certain lifestyle factors also play a role, including diabetes and muscle atrophy.

Foot issues can hinder your independence and affect overall health, so be on the lookout for the following problems as you age.

Circulation Changes

The feet and ankles experience swelling and numbness due to blood pooling in the veins. These changes may be hormonal, related to medication or a cardiovascular condition.

Fat Pad Atrophy

You can lose fat in your feet, which makes walking more painful. As such, custom orthotics are recommended for your shoes to add more cushioning and support to the ball and heel.

Morton’s Neuroma

When tissue thickens around the nerves of your feet, it can contribute to inflammation and pain. The nerve generally runs between your third and fourth toes, and you may feel as if you constantly have a pebble in your shoe.

Individuals who wear high heeled shoes or a narrow toe box are at higher risk of developing this condition. More cushioning and getting steroid injections can help manage symptoms.

Skin Changes

Dry skin can cause the soles of your feet to have a thickened, cracked and flaking texture due to decreased oil and elastin production. To manage discomfort, moisturize your feet and use a pumice stone to slough off any dead cells. For older adults, the cracks and dryness can lead to bleeding and decreased barrier function, which increases your risk of infection.

Calluses may be mistaken for dry skin due to their thicker, hardened appearance but they are often a result of poorly fitting shoes rubbing against your feet. For seniors, calluses can also indicate a gait issue influencing how your shoes move around on your feet.
Fungal Infections

Older adults are more vulnerable to infections due to a weaker immune system and higher likelihood of having diabetes or another health condition. As a result, walking barefoot increases risk of developing a fungal infection, especially in public places like pools and gyms. In these cases, your skin may become red, scaly, cracked and blister or ooze fluid.

Toenail Changes

Along with skin and muscle changes, toenails also start to grow differently with age. Older adults are more susceptible to ingrown toenails, in which the nail begins to curve downward and grow into the surrounding skin. Due to age and fungal infections, your nails may also change in color and start to thicken.

Plantar Fasciitis

Marked by heel pain, plantar fasciitis can develop in response to a lack of arch support, repeat running or jogging, standing for hours at a time, being overweight or having high arches. Pain may be constant or occur at certain times of the day. Older adults should stretch the plantar fascia ligament, use orthotic inserts and anti-inflammatory medication.


You may experience these growths between your toes, where sweat accumulates and your shoes and socks rub against your skin. While they vary in density, corns have a tender, knot-like center that can make walking painful.


Characterized by clogged sweat glands, this condition results in small bumps and makes walking and wearing shoes painful. The blockages created have potential to become cancerous and will need to be extracted.


Bunions appear as bumps on your feet, but have a bony feeling and form on the joint at the base of the big toe.


If your toe joints start to bend at an abnormal angle, you may be developing hammertoe due to improper balance. Your toes may eventually take on a claw-like form and cause you pain.

Claw Toe

Joints may curl and bend, to the point the shape extends all the way down to the tips. You may find your toes dig into the soles of your shoes or may stiffen and become immobile.


Older adults can develop ankle arthritis, due to cartilage degeneration around the joint from years of stress and friction. Aside from the ankle, arthritis can develop in the subtalar joint and the big toe. Bunions can precede a condition known as gout arthritis in this area.

Flat Foot

While flat foot can be a genetic condition, it may also stem from a torn posterior tibial tendon. The weakened tendon provides less support and can cause the arch to flatten and the foot to turn out to the side. Along with orthotics, you may need to wear a brace or see a physical therapist.

Achilles Tendinitis

A lifetime of wear can contribute to inflammation around the Achilles tendon, resulting in persistent pain around the ankle or back of your foot that may require surgery.

Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Diabetic neuropathy lessens the sensation you feel in your extremities due to decreased circulation and nerve damage. This combination increases risks for blisters, sores, small cuts, ulcers and infection. Untreated diabetic neuropathy can lead to eventual limb amputation.


Common among older adults, gout is a type of inflammatory arthritis resulting in a tender, swollen joint. The metatarsophalangeal joint, located near the big toe, is more susceptible.

Gout can occur in response to uric acid taking on a more crystalized form, causing a joint to swell and stiffen. Treatment may include medication, dietary changes and more exercise.

Bone Spurs

These form when extra bone tissue grows where two or more bones meet, often in response to the body attempting to repair itself. Although spurs can emerge in multiple locations, the foot is susceptible and you may feel a hard protrusion growing below the skin.


This condition occurs when the bursae supporting the bones, muscles and tendons become inflamed. Bursitis often results from trauma around the big toe.

Stress Fractures

Individuals with osteoporosis or brittle bones are more susceptible to foot stress fractures. Older adults can experience this condition in response to a sudden increase in activity level. Inflammation occurs around the bone, contributing to small cracks that can worsen if not allowed time to heal.
If you’re concerned about the condition of your own or an aging loved one’s feet, the medical professionals at West Hartford Health & Rehabilitation Center can help! Contact us to learn more about our services.