As if gray, thinning hair, wrinkles and puffy eyes weren’t enough, we baby-boomers can also look forward to aging feet.

It’s not just that our feet seem to get bigger and wider as we age. They also develop problems, such as bunions, that make fitting shoes more difficult.

I came to a rude awakening within the past year or so that many of the pretty sandals and high-heeled shoes I’ve favored in the past no longer work for me. Even if a shoe fits, it doesn’t neces-sarily look good on my foot.

“A lot of people say, ‘as I’ve gotten older, my feet have gotten bigger,’ ” Mason City podiatrist Dr. Steven Brau explained. “Actually, the feet get more instable as they age. They flatten and roll out more,” a process called pronation.

Essentially, the ligaments of the foot weaken and muscles are no longer as toned, so the foot lacks the support it once had and spreads, Brau said. The natural padding under the heel and forefoot also thins as we age, bringing the bone closer to the skin.

Years of use flatten our arches and stiffen our feet and ankles.

Wearing shoes that are too narrow or too short can cause painful foot deformities such as bun-ions, calluses, corns, hammertoes or pinched nerves between your toes. Wearing better-fitting shoes reduces your chances of developing deformities or making them worse, the Mayo Clinic says.

The July issue of the Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource offers the following tips when selecting shoes:

* Try on shoes later in the day. Feet can swell as the day wears on.

* Fit shoes to your largest foot. Your feet aren’t equally matched, so have both measured.

* Make sure there is at least a half inch for your longest toe at the end of each shoe when you’re standing. You should be able to wiggle all the toes.

* Make sure your heel doesn’t ride up and down when you walk.

* Leave too-tight shoes behind. There’s no such thing as a break-in period.

* Look for shoes that are solidly constructed, conform to your feet and have cushioned soles that absorb the shock of hard surfaces.

* Try a lace-up style. A shoe that ties can be adjusted for better comfort and support.

* Look for a natural material, such as leather, on the upper portion of the shoes because it is usually softer and provides more flexibility than a man-made material.

* If you have diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions that put you at risk of foot problems, ask your doctor what other precautions are recommended.

Keeping your weight in check helps relieves stress on the feet and keeps them healthier longer, said Brau.

And, as with just about everything else, “staying active is good for the feet.”

Reach Kristin Buehner at 421-0533 or

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