HAPPIER TOES: Taking better care of your feet will ensure you have pain-free movement.
HAPPIER TOES: Taking better care of your feet will ensure you have pain-free movement. Bill Oxford

Tips for much happier feet and toes

IF YOU keep your feet healthy, you will be able to do so much more to stay active and have better overall health.

But when you can't easily see what is happening down there with your feet, chances are you will ignore the problems with them until the road back to good foot health is painful and expensive.

Australian Podiatry Association ambassador and podiatrist Charlotte Bodell has some top tips for seniors for better foot health, with the help of your local podiatrist.

General foot health

  • Be very careful when cutting your nails that you don't cut your skin and expose your feet to infection.
  • Recognise that as we get older our nails thicken, which makes them harder to cut. Your shoes will press on the thickened nail, which can cause the nail bed to become sore and a corn to occur under the nail bed.
  • The fat pad on the ball of your foot and heel wears out over time which can lead to hard calluses on the metatarsal joints on the balls of your feet. The podiatrist can remove the hard skin for you.

Bunions

In the '50s and '60s men and women squeezed their toes into fashionable pointy shoes. Even footballers and boxers were squeezing their feet into tight shoes. This has led to seniors having problems with their nails, and with bunions and retracted curly toes.

"If they have a bunion, the big toe comes over (the second toe), but also sometimes the second toe overrides," Ms Bodell said.

"When this happens, a corn happens on top, so you need to make sure your shoes are deep enough."

Other causes of bunions can be hereditary or your foot's biomechanics.

The bunion can be fixed by a podiatrist if it is painful. This can be done by surgery, orthotics, wearing night splints and doing daily feet exercises, and wearing suitable orthopaedic footwear.

Type 2 Diabetes

University of South Australia researcher Dr Helen Banwell said there has been a 30 per cent increase in the number of lower limb amputations in the past 20 years.

"About 85 per cent of these are preceded by a foot ulcer and could be prevented with appropriate care," she said.

"When the blood level goes above seven, the extra sugars sit at the end of the nerves." The nerves at the top of your fingers and the top of your toes get killed off, which results in neuropathy disease and no feeling.

The extra sugars also stick to the inner walls of the arteries, which affects your circulation and leads to vascular disease.

"Also, if you have a cut it will take longer to heal," Ms Bodell added.

A very serious side-effect of all of this is if you have a blister on the bottom of your foot and you have nerve damage, you won't know the blister is there.

It can become infected and form into an ulcer, which can then go deeper and become an infection in the bone. Hospital IV antibiotics will be needed, and amputation is a possible outcome.

An amputation can increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack.

If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, make sure your GP refers you at least once or twice a year to a podiatrist where you will get neurological and circulation testing.

Pedicures

Relying on a pedicure isn't the best choice for managing long toe nails.

  • You need to ensure the equipment is sterile and the soaking sink is free of flaky skin that might have tinea or wart skin on it, which your feet can pick up.
  • When your big toenails are cut, they may be not shaped to avoid you getting an in-grown nail, especially if a spike of nail is left behind.
  • When your nails are painted, don't forget the brush has been on other people's nails, which means you can pick up fungal infections.

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