More than 50 percent of Dr. Michael A. Sherwin’s podiatry practice in Bellingham, Family Foot Care, is caring for the feet of senior citizens, so he understands their needs.
Sherwin, a 30-year veteran podiatrist, said there are nearly a dozen foot problems the elderly regularly encounter. Leading the list is heel pain, or plantar fasciitis. Plantar fasciitis is the term commonly used to refer to heel and arch pain traced to an inflammation on the bottom of the foot.
Aging baby boomers’ feet are like cars. The more miles you have on them, the more things can go wrong or wear out.
Dr. Michael A. Sherwin, Family Foot Care podiatrist
Other common conditions include bunions and hammer toes, corns and calluses, fungal toenails, thinning fat pads, pinched nerves on the balls of the feet known as Morton’s Neuroma, ingrown toenails, stress fractures, Gout and arch pain associated with flat feet and diabetes, which can lead to neuropathy, a decreased sensation in the feet.
“Aging baby boomers’ feet are like cars,” Sherwin said. “The more miles you have on them, the more things can go wrong or wear out.”
As you maintain your car, you must also attend to your feet.
To that end, Sherwin provided 10 basic foot care guidelines:
1. Don’t ignore foot pain. It is not normal. If you experience any type of persistent pain in the foot or ankle, talk to a doctor.
2. Inspect your feet regularly. Pay attention to changes in color and temperature. Look for thick or discolored nails (a sign of developing fungus), and check for cracks or cuts in the skin. Peeling or scaling on the soles of feet may indicate athlete’s foot. Any growth on the foot is not considered normal.
3. Wash your feet regularly, especially between the toes, and be sure to dry them completely.
4. Trim toenails straight across, but not too short. Be careful not to cut nails in corners or on the sides; this can lead to ingrown toenails. People with diabetes, poor circulation, or heart problems should not treat their own feet, because they are more prone to infection. If you can’t do it yourself, visit a podiatrist. In many cases, insurance will cover the cost. A pedicurist you trust to have sterile equipment is also an option.
5. Make sure that your shoes fit properly. Purchase new shoes later in the day when feet tend to be at their largest, and replace worn out shoes as soon as possible.
6. Select and wear the right shoe for each sport or activity that you are engaged in (e.g., running shoes for running).
7. Alternate shoes; don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day.
8. Avoid walking barefooted. Your feet will be more prone to injury and infection. At the beach or when wearing sandals always use sunblock on your feet.
9. Be cautious when using home remedies for foot ailments. Self-treatment may turn a minor problem into a major one.
10. If you are a diabetic, contact a podiatrist and schedule a check-up at least once a year.