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Foot Problems in the Elderly

Taking the Right Steps to Understand Foot Ailments
Elderly Foot Problem

We expect a lot from our feet. They get us to all the places we need to go, while providing the anchor and balance crucial to physical activity. As we age, foot problems can become common. From aches and pain to bunions and corns, our feet are prone to many conditions that can cause discomfort and impact mobility.  This shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that the distance people walk in a lifetime would take them around the globe nearly six times. Yet, our feet are often neglected and foot pain is frequently written off as not a significant risk to health.  Researchers have also neglected foot problems when it comes to learning how they can affect overall senior health. 

The Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife is changing that with new work that specifically focuses upon foot pain and foot conditions. With the belief that foot ailments are not adequately considered as a possible root cause of disability that limits the activity of many older adults, researchers have focused on the significance of foot pain and its impact on senior health and quality of life.

For example, our researchers have learned that foot pain can cause difficulty with walking, and as one might expect, the pain influences an individual to move around less and often improperly, putting stress on other areas like knees or hips or even the other foot. Even if a foot disorder does not produce pain, it may still affect balance and gait in such a way as to impact other joints. When foot pain and disorders are ignored, seniors can be well on the way to eventual disability.

Since the first step to establishing the link between foot pain and disability is to understand how prevalent foot pain is among seniors, where it is most often located, and what conditions cause it, the Institute for Aging Research continues to focus on these very questions. They are also investigating the biomechanics of how feet with and without pain help us balance and walk. As we learn more, it becomes even clearer that seniors should understand that foot problems often require medical attention and should not be ignored as an inevitable part of aging. Discuss any aches or pains in your feet with your doctor. Proper, supportive footwear should also not be underestimated. Our feet are intricate structures, designed to take us where we need to go. We must take the right steps to ensure a pain-free journey.

Learn more about foot problems and senior health issues.

Marian T. Hannan, D.Sc., M.P.H.'s picture

About the Blogger

Senior Scientist, Research Interests and Teaching Activities

Primary research interests focus on understanding the etiology of musculoskeletal diseases and interventions for osteoporosis, specifically: 1) the epidemiology of age-related osteoporosis and arthritis; 2) the influence of foot disorders on physical function and falls; and 3) the influence of dietary and other risk factors on bone loss in elders. Dr. Hannan is the principal investigator on a number of NIH grants and has had continuous NIH funding since 1996. As an epidemiologist, Dr. Hannan collaborates closely with other investigators in the large musculoskeletal unit at HSL, using the...

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