04 Apr How Good Shoes Can Prevent Falls in Older People
As we get older, our feet change. We lose the fat padding on the soles of our feet; our joints get stiff, our arches get flatter and our feet spread out more; we may have conditions like arthritis, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases that cause our feet and ankles to swell; or we might have painful corns, calluses and bunions.
All the more reason to wear shoes that suit us as we age. Some of us may need footwear with extra cushioning; others may need wider shoes; still others might need shoes with adjustable straps and fasteners.
Due to decreases in strength, balance and spatial awareness, older people are more susceptible to falling due to balance and mobility issues. Here’s where wearing proper footwear can make all the difference between staying on our feet and having a fall.
Having a fall is traumatic; physically, it can injure us, especially if we have conditions like osteoporosis; psychologically, it can make us anxious about walking/moving around for fear of having another fall. However, knowing our risks of falling and how to prevent them is the best way to mitigate serious injury.
How to Prevent Falls
- Join a strength/balance exercise class to increase balance and strength
- Go for an eyesight and hearing check-up
- Ask your doctor if any of your medications increases your risk of falling
- Make sure your home is free from tripping hazards
- Fit our your home with handrails, railing and bars
- Use a walker or cane, if needed
- Wear shoes that fit well, with good support and cushioning
Shoes for older people don’t have to be boring and boxy. While it’s better to stay clear of shoes with high heels and backless shoes without ankle straps, many shoe manufacturers nowadays are keeping fashion and function in mind when creating shoes for seniors. The challenge lies in finding the right pair for your type of feet.
What to Look for in a Pair of Shoes
- A non-slip sole: This prevents falls and helps keep you stable.
- Straps and fasteners: If mobility is an issue, don’t wear shoes with laces that are hard to tie up; instead choose shoes with Velcro straps that can be easily adjusted. Also don’t wear thongs/flip-flops as your feet can slip in them and cause you to trip.
- A wide opening: This allows you to put on and take off your shoes more easily, especially if your feet tend to swell.
- Cushioning and padding: Older feet have less fat padding to absorb shock as you walk and move. This can be rectified if your shoes have sufficient cushioning.
- Good quality materials: Wear shoes that are made from natural material (leather) or shoes that are lightweight, soft and offer breathability (shoes with an upper mesh).
- Removable insoles: If you need over-the-counter or custom orthotics, you need to be able to take out the insole.
- Good grip: Shoes with proper traction are so important if you have issues balancing or keeping steady.