How Can I Help My Older Parents Look After Their Feet?

Seeing our parents slow down in their older years is hard for many adult children to see, especially if we were used to a very active childhood with our parents up for almost every adventure. While their bodies are going through many age-related changes, there’s one thing that stands true: having confidence on their feet and staying mobile plays a significant role in their quality of life throughout their golden years. It means that they can keep enjoying activities they love, can stay living independently, and can best maintain their health through the cardiovascular fitness that mobility allows. So what can you do to help your parents effectively and safely look after their feet? Quite a lot actually - here’s what our podiatrists have to say.

Start by helping them trim their toenails

The ease with which most of us can bend down to reach our toenails is something that is easily taken for granted while we’re young and flexible. For older adults it can actually quickly become quite a challenge, especially if they struggle with their vision, fine motor skills, hand or wrist strength, flexibility - and if aging has caused their nails to thicken, as it often does.

Using sharp and clean tools, trim their nails straight across (this helps reduce the likelihood of an ingrown toenail) and follow this with a gentle emery board to smooth the edges of the nail to stop it catching on socks or hosiery. Avoid cutting too close to the skin to prevent injuries. If you have trouble or need a hand, book them in with a podiatrist.

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Next, moisturise their feet

As we age, our skin tends to become drier, and this includes our feet. The downside is that it can mess with our sensation and make the skin more prone to cracks and calluses. The good news is that the fix is pretty simple - use a moisturising lotion on your parents feet every time you visit to help keep their skin feeling soft and flexible. Just steer clear of slathering lotion between the toes - too much moisture trapped between the toes can make the skin there more fragile and open the door for pesky fungal infections.

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Check their feet regularly

Ageing naturally brings with it several changes to the feet (like the circulation) and the integrity of the skin on the feet. This puts our parents at risk of healing delays and infection risks when they accidentally injure their feet, such as through a cut, sore, blister or the like. We always recommend that older adults check their feet daily for any changes or anything unusual, but this can be quite difficult when they can’t see or reach the soles of their feet, or if their vision has deteriorated in general. Hence, having you check their feet can be incredibly valuable - and can even save them pain and hassle in the future through early detection. Look for:

  • Skin problems: cuts, wounds, open sores, blisters, cracks in the skins (such as cracked heels), bruising, rashes, changes in the colour of the skin (very pale or blue)
  • Redness, heat and other signs of inflammation or infection
  • Corns on the feet 
  • Foot deformities such as bunions or claw toes, especially if they are accompanied by redness or pain
  • Swelling, whether it’s localised to one area or involves the entire foot or leg
  • Signs of poor circulation, such as the colour not returning to the toes in a timely manner when you blanch the toes (press down on them)
  • Fungal infections on the skin or nails
  • Foreign objects like splinters embedded in the feet
  • Pungent foot odour
  • Changes to the toenails including ingrown nails, overgrown or thickened nails, brittle or damaged nails
  • Dark spots or streaks beneath the toenail

If you detect one or more of these signs, it’s a good idea to book your parents in with a podiatrist who can take appropriate, timely action to support your parents long-term foot health and wellbeing.

How Can I Help My Older Parents Look After Their Feet?

Make sure they’re in good footwear

Wearing the right comfortable and supportive shoes is a game-changer for helping your parents maintain optimal foot health - and keeping them happily mobile. Look out for shoes with non-slip soles to minimise their risk of falls - a very serious situation and consideration for older adults. Consider the convenience of velcro closures in place of laces, which can make your parents daily life significantly easier when it comes to putting on and taking off shoes. Additionally, consider the use of orthopaedic slippers indoors – they often bring great relief from foot aches or pains while keeping feet comfortable throughout the day. If you're uncertain about the most suitable shoes for your parents, especially considering their specific circumstances and foot conditions, consulting with a podiatrist is a good idea.

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Give their feet a lovely massage

A gentle foot massage is a simple yet fantastic way to promote blood circulation to the feet, which is very important for foot health. Complete the massage while keeping their feet elevated, which can help reduce any swelling in the feet while supporting their circulation. While you’re at it, check if it is easy for your parents to be able to move their feet up on their own, and consider how you can help here too - such as by purchasing a foot rest or getting pillows for their existing foot stool to best support the elevation. Encourage them to keep their feet up when they’re resting or watching television to minimise any swelling in their feet and ankles.

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Discuss what tools may help them

If your parents are up for it, have a discussion about what aspects of foot and leg care they may be struggling with, and consider if there are tools or services available that can help them. Often it can be quite simple - such as a shoe horn or a long-handled bath brush. Other times, it may be a visit to a podiatrist every 2-3 months to keep any long or thick nails, corns, calluses, cracked heels (and more) under excellent control so it doesn’t interfere with their daily life and mobility.

Get out and about with your parents

Maintaining an active lifestyle, especially as we gracefully age, plays a pivotal role in overall health, with notable benefits extending to foot health. Consider incorporating leisurely walks or outings into your routine with your parents. Depending on their mobility, engaging in joint-friendly exercises like yoga can be a wonderful shared activity. Don't underestimate the power of a good stretch session together. These activities contribute significantly to preserving mobility and fortifying muscle strength in the feet and lower limbs. Beyond the physical advantages, staying active as we age enhances mental well-being, boosts energy levels, and fosters a sense of connection, making it an invaluable investment in your parents overall quality of life.

Gift them a podiatry appointment

A visit to a podiatrist means that your parents will have a comprehensive assessment of foot health, including the examination of structural concerns, identification of potential risk factors, and the development of a tailored plan for ongoing care. Podiatrists treat issues ranging from common foot ailments like corns and calluses to more complex conditions like the effects of diabetes on the feet or ankle pain. They provide valuable insights into maintaining mobility, preventing injuries, and managing chronic conditions. By giving the gift of an appointment with a podiatrist, you are offering the gift of proactive and personalised foot care, contributing to your parents' overall well-being and ensuring that their mobility and comfort are prioritised as they navigate the journey of ageing.

To book an appointment with our experienced podiatry team, call us on 03 355 9481 or email our reception team at