ED: The mobility of our ageing population is important. What happens when something goes wrong with the feet?

Matthew Keating, Senior Podiatrist, Wembley Downs

Imagine waking up tomorrow and find it difficult to walk, or you suffered immense pain in your feet with any extended walking. Daily life becomes a challenge with even the simplest of tasks. You park closer to the shop entrance to limit walking; your beloved pet looks at you in angst for not being walked as often; or your grandchildren leave you looking for the closest seat!

By 80 years of age, most people take over 215 million steps, equivalent to over 250,000 kilometres! Our feet are the “work horses” of our body. Like the rest of the body however, the foot with all its bones and moving joints eventually wear out and stiffen.

The ageing foot

This is often attributed to “osteoarthritis”. As the arthritis worsens the joints may exhibit stiffness, pain or even noticeable deformities.

The foot joints are engineered to take our body weight during standing and movement. This intricate design allows weight (as a load) to start at the heel when it hits the ground and smoothly flow through the foot until it leaves the ground (or toe off).

With time, foot joints are more likely to develop osteoarthritis simply due to the excessive amount of work they perform throughout our lives.

Functional orthotic insoles are a very useful, especially when managing osteoarthritic changes in the feet. The primary Well-designed orthotics in these circumstances, can literally change how much loading certain joints take when weightbearing.

Redistributing forces in joints, generally relieves pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis.

CASE REPORT: Joan aged 74 years still enjoyed 3-4 rounds of golf per week. Over the last couple of years, she had progressively lost the ability to walk the golf course due to painful feet and she spent more time in a motorised golf cart, whereas walking the course was part of her love for the sport. Her quality of life was declining.

She trialled various medications without much success. X-rays and various assessments by the podiatrist showed problems.

The x-rays showed degenerative changes in some of the mobile foot joints, explaining why these joints were painful with use. Joan’s walking on video showed these joints moved excessively because her walking style was due to flat feet (ankles roll inwards, arch collapses below a normal threshold).

Functional orthoses controlled some of the excess movements as well as supporting the arthritic joint zones. She was told to wear them during golf and as desired any other time. Within weeks she was walking the golf course with minimal pain.

Author competing interests: nil relevant.

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