These days, the anti-aging industry tells us that we never have to grow old. New technologies, medical treatments and lifestyle trends can of course help us to look and feel youthful well into the latter decades of life.
But our feet are ruthless timekeepers.
Some of the reason has to do with a substance that many people battle for decades: fat. While we never want it around our middles, the fact is that we need it as part of our foot structure. And as we age, just as our fat changes consistency and migrates toward the belly (a hormonal fact, even for the otherwise lean and fit), the comfortable fat pad on the soles of our feet begins to thin out. This loss of cushioning can result in Plantar Fasciitis and other painful foot injuries as we get older.
It is essential to robust aging to not let foot problems reduce your mobility. Good times are active times, so here are a few tips to keep feet in top condition, no matter how many candles blaze on your birthday cake:
1. Support your feet. This means wearing shoes with thick, padded soles to absorb shocks and inner structure that lifts your arch and stabilizes your heel. Sloppy, floppy shoes, unstructured flats and heels are for special occasions only.
2. Age-proof your home and office. Just as we “baby-proof” when a little one joins the family, make accommodations for changes in your mature feet. Invest in gel-pads (mats filled with squishy, but supportive silicon gel) and place then in areas where you stand often, and longest: in front of the kitchen sink, or in your workshop, studio or garage, for instance.
3. Don’t go barefoot. OK, the beach is an exception. But simply standing and walking around your house, not to mention your driveway and sidewalks around your home, puts pressure on your feet and their thinning protection. Your arches in particular need a boost whenever you place weight on them.
4. Re-assess your workout. This does not mean that you should stop exercising—au contrare! But, for example, if you feel sharp pain in your heels first thing in the morning, it may be time for a fitness makeover, replacing high-impact sports like tennis and running with activities requiring long, slow duration (swimming, bicycling) which are easier on the feet while still working heart, lungs and muscles, and providing opportunities to socialize.
5. Cleanse and massage your feet daily with essential oils. This is a ritual which is both sensual and healthful. Submerge feet into a pan of comfortably warm water to which you have added a few drops of essential oil (Peppermint and Citrus are exhilarating, Lavender and Pine are soothing—make your own blend). For those of you to remember “Madge”, the television manicurist who soaked client’s nails in dishwashing liquid, this is NOT a good idea (never was).
For the pan, purchase a small plastic tub used for hand-washing dishes. Don’t make the water too steaming-hot – just warm enough to instantly submerge your feet up to the ankle. Use a gentle scrub and a soft brush, or a pumice stone if you prefer, on heels and pads of big toes. For added massage: purchase some mechanically smoothed “river stones” or river rocks at a garden supply store. These are silky-smooth pebbles in various sizes. Place 10 – 12 of these smooth stones in a small saucepan of water on your stove until the water starts to steam. With a slotted spoon, remove the stones from the pot and place in your pedicure tub— and practice gripping the heated stones underwater with your toes to stretch and tone feet.
Soak for five minutes, then pat feet dry with a plush towel. Using a massage oil or cream of your choice, slowly circle your thumbs beneath the arch of your feet, moving outward toward heels and toes in circular motions. Then move to the instep, moisturizing skin and feeling for any areas of pain, as well as rough, callused areas which may require the attention of a professional pedicurist. Consult with a podiatrist regarding anything that doesn’t feel good. Put on a pair of clean white cotton socks following this treatment, hop into bed, and wake up with baby-smooth feet.