They are our main mode of transport, covering 128,000km in an average lifetime — all the more reason to pamper our ageing trotters, says Margaret Jennings.

WE ARE used to scrutinising our face for those tell-tale ageing signs and have been well warned about slapping on the moisturiser and the sun screen. 

But when you leg it down to the shop for your latest lotion, do you ever think about your poor — older — feet, which have been getting you around since you first learnt to walk?

It’s usually only when our tootsies come on display for the summer that we pay them some attention, whipping out the sandals — regardless of the weather. 

It’s a no brainer, but our feet age too — the skin grows thin, they lose their protective fatty pads and they are not immune to melanomas when you stretch them out blithely on the beach, or indeed go about your daily business, sans socks.

But as we moan about the frown lines, the dry skin, the thinning hair — or indeed the hair sprouting where it shouldn’t, we forget to focus on what is “the most neglected and forgotten part of our bodies,” according to the experts at the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists in Ireland (SCPI).

“Research has shown that people are more likely to have their car serviced than to have their feet checked by a podiatrist,” they say. 

“Yet our feet are our main mode of transport — carrying us on a journey of 128, 000 kilometres in a lifetime.”

It makes sense then, as we clock up that mileage, that there has to be wear and tear, at the very least. So let’s take a closer look at your well-worn trotters:

SIZE MATTERS

Have you noticed your feet don’t fit snugly into the same size shoes you wore in your younger years? 

It happens gradually, but they flatten out; the arches lengthen, your feet get longer and they splay out and widen. 

For fun, draw a template of your foot on paper, then place your shoe over it and see how they match. 

But seriously, when buying shoes make sure to get your feet measured every time.

SOLE NURTURING

Our feet deserve respect. They contain a quarter of the bones in our body, as well as a network of muscles, ligaments and joints. 

By the age of 50 though, we have lost up to half of the shock-absorbing capability of our natural foot pads. 

They are those built-in meaty cushions of collagen and elastin on the soles, giving padding for the weight we carry.

Though we are clued into how loss of collagen affects our ageing face, we pay little attention to the thinning of these pads, which still bear the weight of our whole bodies. 

If your shoes are ‘uncomfortable’ this may be one reason why. 

Adjust by wearing cushioned comfortable shoes — with additional insoles if needed. Thankfully we now don’t have to sacrifice being fashionably cool, to be comfortable, with loads of chic shoes on offer.

ILL AT EASE

Sometimes our feet tell us we have an underlying illness like diabetes, or show the first symptoms of arthritis. If you want to find out more check out www.podiatryireland.com 

Meanwhile, we asked Emer Dooley, college principal with The Beauty Institute in Athlone, for some advice she gives to older clients about common issues.

CALLUSES

They are large areas of thick dry skin caused by repeated friction or pressure.

The fast fix: You can have them removed by a chiropodist or podiatrist, or use a blister pad. Scrub daily with a bristle brush, a regular nail brush will do, and apply a specially formulated foot cream such as Scholl Dry Skin Foot Cream.

The long-term solution: Find out why you have them. They may be caused by the metatarsals, the five long bones in the arches, being out of position, or flat feet, which overload the soles, in which case you need arch support or cushioning insoles. 

Try Boots Pharmaceutical Advanced Footcare Pressure Relief Insoles.

What not to do: Don’t scrub with one of the cheese-grater-like devices (a foot file). This can create inflammation and often can make the callus worse.

CRACKED HEELS

A common complaint often referred to as heel fissures. Skin is dry, white, cracked and often painful.

The fast fix: Scrub feet with a bristle brush to loosen trapped dirt or grime. Then slather on a good foot cream overnight.

The long-term solution: Thudding down hard on your heels when walking makes the skin crack. Stretch out the calf muscles and Achilles tendon a few times daily, even while sitting and elevate the heel with small to medium heels. 

Avoid mules or backless styles as they put more weight on the heels. Use a foot scrub and cream, such as Flexitol Balm, daily. Try making your own scrub from natural ingredients such as rock salt and oil.

What not to do: Don’t let the heels get so dry that the edges split open and cause infection. Dooley suggests that just like other parts of our body, we should exfoliate and moisturise our ageing feet regularly.

They’ve worked so hard for us so long — they deserve the pampering.

Remarkable age

Want the secret to living to 106? 

Ageing with attitude: Simple steps to keep your feet on track

“Plenty of fresh air, good food, and an 11am coffee to set me up for the day,” revealed Dublin-based Elizabeth (Lizzie) Dempsey, recently.

A resident of Ailesbury Nursing Home in Sandymount, Co Dublin, Lizzie, pictured, shared her formula for living to such a remarkable age with Minister for Older People Helen McEntee at a presentation that took place in her honour. 

Lizzie is one of more than 40 centenarian nursing home residents across the country who are being presented with special commemorative certificates by Nursing Homes Ireland to mark them being 100 years or older on this commemorative year. 

The cert features a copy of the proclamation and a commendation for reaching such a significant milestone.

Middle years

The Middlepause: On Turning Fifty, Marina Benjamin, €12.43

Ageing with attitude: Simple steps to keep your feet on track

When the author was catapulted suddenly into menopause it spurred her on to write this personal meditation on the losses and gains of facing the middle years, aged 50, on the brink of her second half of life.

She looks to philosophy, psychology, and literature for explanations of what she is experiencing as she re-evaluates every aspect of her life including attending to ageing parents, the shock of bereavement, parenting a teenager, and her own health woes. 

But although she does not resort to sentiment or delusion, she emerges into a new definition of herself as daughter, mother, citizen and woman, offering hope and heart to others facing the same life transition.

Ageing quote

“Don’t worry about failures; worry about the chances you miss if you don’t even try."

— US entrepreneur, Jack Canfield, 71

Silver surfer

Tips for older people travelling solo http://bit.ly/29zv476 


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