Through our work at Natural Footgear, we frequently come into contact with older individuals who are wondering about this very question. In most cases, these folks have worn conventional footwear for many decades and are now dealing with deep-seated foot issues, including toe stiffness and misalignment, among other problems, that are challenging to resolve. Many of these people have tried conventional foot care approaches and found that they were unhelpful in addressing the underlying problem or in providing lasting relief for foot pain and discomfort, and they find us when searching online for new and novel approaches to foot care and foot health or in an attempt to avoid undergoing foot surgery.
To those of you who are wondering if it might be too late to start working on your feet (i.e., to those of you who fear that your feet are “too far gone”) I say this: While it’s true that ingrained foot problems can be challenging to treat, and that, in some cases, full and complete foot rehabilitation may not be possible, almost always there is something noninvasive that can be done to improve the situation. In fact, in most cases, there is a lot that can be done to help restore foot form and function and reduce or eliminate foot pain or discomfort. Those who are willing to put some time and effort into strengthening and rehabilitating their feet will undoubtedly make foot health gains using the tools and techniques that we discuss in greater detail in this post from our Educational Articles blog.
Indeed, almost all sets of feet, regardless of age or current condition, can become stronger and more resilient if worked properly and with the right amount of care and consideration. For most older people, as well as for those who have entrenched foot problems or who have undergone one or more foot surgeries, the foot rehabilitation process may be slower, more patience and diligence may be required, and the results or changes in foot form and function may be less obvious, but plenty of beneficial foot adaptations are still possible even in these situations. Making the switch from conventional footwear to more foot-healthy models is an important step in this process and, along with adopting corrective toe spacers and other helpful footgear, can help get your feet (and overall musculoskeletal system) back on the path to health and provide your body with the solid foundation it needs.
Some may ask: Are there certain people for whom there is just no possibility of improvement through the application of natural foot care approaches? In our experience, we have found that, apart from those who are simply unwilling to change their footwear (for whom the likelihood of foot improvement is almost zero), there are few, if any, individuals who cannot enjoy at least some degree of favorable return from adopting the foundational concepts of natural foot health. We put this same question to Dr. Ray McClanahan—renowned sports podiatrist, the inventor of Correct Toes, and a leader in the field of natural foot care—to draw upon his many years of practice in this discipline and get his take on it, and here is what he said:
I cannot think of a single person or medical condition that has no possibility for improvement through the application of natural foot care approaches. I have seen certain bunions and arthritic joints that do not have sufficient flexibility to be able to wear Correct Toes, but these individuals can still benefit from the many other positive applications of natural foot health principles, such as footwear changes, foot strengthening exercises, proprioceptive training, etc.
Even if complete foot rehabilitation never occurs, adopting natural foot care approaches offers most sets of feet the possibility of improved foot function and can help prevent new foot problems from occurring. If you’re older or struggling to address a longstanding foot problem, take heart in the fact that, in many cases, you don’t need to have perfectly aligned toes in order to make significant gains in terms of your gait, balance, circulation, foot function, and pain levels; in other words, even small amounts of progress can make a big difference in foot (and musculoskeletal) health that compounds over time. It’s true that starting the foot and toe rehabilitation process early is always better and that prevention is great, but much can still be accomplished even later in life (or deeper into a condition) to improve your feet and ensure that you can continue participating in your cherished leisure activities. So, while the best time to begin working on your feet may have been 10, 20, or 30 years ago (or even further into the past), the second best time, certainly, is right now!
A special thank you to Ray McClanahan, DPM, for sharing his experience and insight on this important topic.