Have your feet grown as you get older? Your feet can change in shoe size, but the structures haven’t grown.

As we age, numerous changes happen to our bodies our hair goes grey, or just goes. We slow down a little with the years. Aches and pains develop in places we never knew we had. The feet are no exception.

What are these changes and how can we help to alleviate the problems they very well may cause?

The feet are enormously complicated pieces of biological engineering. Each foot contains 26 bones, 30 joints, with over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The foot through its structure, is a dynamic-elastic masterpiece designed to absorb the weight of the body while walking and running and to also adapt to uneven surfaces so we can keep our balance. The foot absorbs roughly 120% of your weight with each step and up to 275% if you run.

As we age, there are several general changes that occur with these structures. Muscles age and can loose their strength. Ligaments and tendons lose their elasticity. This causes the apparent change in size of the feet, as the ligaments and tendons being used under stress for many years stretch. This allows extra wiggle room in the joints, which spreads out the feet causing the change in shoe size.

The extra movement in the joints can also lead to reduced shock absorption. As the foot loses its ability to absorb shock, that shock can transfer itself to the ankles, knees, hips and lower back. You may feel the jarring of each step and be heard coming from much further away as you thump along the floor.

Because of biomechanical changes in the functioning of the foot, problems such as osteoarthritis, Plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma and bunions can occur. Each of these problems can cause life to become problematic. Your activity level can be reduced through pain.  Then comes all the problems associated with inactivity, such as obesity, muscle wasting. In the elderly, this can lead to instability and falls, and the problems that can cause. Then there are cardiovascular issues that can arise in any age group from inactivity.

For diabetics it makes it harder to control your blood sugars, but those affects are for another article.

Another general change that happens is a gradual decrease in the adipose tissue thorough out the body. In this case, the fat pad on the bottom of your feet. This can thin out over time and cause issues with padding for the bones against hard surfaces.

Frightening as these things seem, there are ways to help prevent and treat these issues. Firstly, if you are having issues, it is wise to consult with your family physician to rule out any possible medical conditions you may have which may be affecting the feet. Such as arthritis, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, gout, to name a few.

Then consult a foot specialist such as a Canadian Certified Pedorthist, who is trained in all such matters. They may recommend a different brand of shoe that has the particular features your feet need, or perhaps an over-the-counter arch support or a custom orthotic made specifically for you.

All these things, if applied knowledgably, can help to alleviate painful feet. Keep in mind that if you start paying attention to your feet early enough, you may even be able to help prevent your feet from premature aging.

Remember the feet are not just there to prevent the ends of your legs from becoming frayed. They are there to literally carry you through your life. Look after them.


Written by Jaimie McVean, C. Ped (C)