Consider all that your feet endure throughout your life, literally carrying you through your day, every day. To accomplish this Herculean task, these tiny appendages rely on a complex support system made up of dozens of bones and connective tissues that each contribute to the effort. And just as your favorite pair of shoes eventually begin to break down, so too can the components in your feet, causing them to change size and shape.
At Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center, our team of experienced podiatrists believes that patient education is one of the most important steps in maintaining great foot health. Because of our location here in Colorado, plenty of our patients lead active lives up in the mountains, putting their feet and ankles through some rigorous paces. And one of the results may be a change in size and shape, especially as you get older.
Here’s a quick look at why your feet change size over time.
One of the primary drivers of changing foot shapes as you get older is simple wear-and-tear. Each of your feet is made up of two dozen or so bones that are supported by various ligaments, tendons, and muscles. When you were younger, these soft tissues were highly elastic, stretching and bouncing back easily with use.
As you get older, however, this constant use can wear down the elasticity in these tissues, leaving them more lax. Think of it like a sock that’s lost its elasticity because of constant use and washing. Eventually, those tiny little elastic bands begin to snap, leaving the sock limp and unable to retain its shape. That same process can happen in the tendons and ligaments in your feet.
On the flip side of the coin, your feet can also change shape because of excessive tightness in your supporting ligaments and tendons, especially if you’ve spent a good amount of time in footwear that throws the inner structures of your feet off balance. A good example of this are hammertoes and bunions, which develop because of imbalances in your tendons and ligaments that cause your feet to change shape.
Adult-acquired flatfoot is fairly common and typically develops because of wear-and-tear in your supporting tendons (namely your posterior tibial tendon). This tendon is responsible for supporting your arches and when it malfunctions because of stress, it loses its grip on your arch, causing it to collapse and your feet to flatten.
A weighty issue
As people age, they tend to carry more weight, which can cause structural changes in your feet as their burden increases. With gravity and the extra weight at work, your feet can become larger as your support tissues begin to become more lax.
A loss of fat
When you were younger, the pads of your feet enjoyed a healthy layer of fat that acted as a barrier between the ground and your inner structures. As you age, this fat tends to dissipate, which is why older people complain of tender feet. Though tenderness is certainly one side effect, the loss of the extra padding can also change the size of your feet.
If you’d like to learn more about changes in your feet and steps you can take to minimize them, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices in Wheat Ridge, Granby, Evergreen, and Arvada, Colorado.