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Saving your sole - Adaptive footwear for seniors that can help prevent falls

One of the biggest causes of falls comes from the footwear that we wear as older adults.  Flat, stable and supportive footwear on your feet is essential to remaining upright and avoiding falls. Finding the right adaptive footwear for you is critical in keeping you safe and preventing falls both in the house and outside.

There are plenty of fashionable, flat soled shoes on the market these days to choose from so there is no excuse to say that you can’t find the right pair!  Here are some tips on what to look for when purchasing a pair of shoes to keep you safe:

recommendation for soft rubber soles to help prevent falls
Rubber soled footwear offer seniors the most stability

Soles – Rubber soles can help absorb impact but also have give in them to allow you to correct from any missteps that you might accidentally take.  You want to look for a sturdy and not too flexible midsole.  A flexible shoe that bends too easily can often lead to a twisted ankle which would keep you off your feet for prolonged periods.  Make sure that you have good tread and immediately get rid of shows whose treads have worn out.

Arch support and cushioning – running shoes normally have good cushioning and medial arch support. As we age we lose the natural cushioning/ fat pads on the soles of our feet – which means we need our shoes to gives us that support, eg walking barefoot on a hard surface may become uncomfortable and change our gait pattern and stability as a result.

A closed heel shoe can help seniors prevent falls
Closed heel shoes can help seniors prevent falls

Closed Heels – Avoid sandals, slides and straps when looking for a stable pair of shoes.  These features may look good and be trendy and fashionable, but they normally do not fit snug enough and there is a great chance that your foot could slip out easily as well as changing your gait pattern (heel-toe gait pattern is not possible with slides).

Lightweight – Stay away from heavy hiking or working boots or other types of footwear that is heavy and clunky.  With heavy footwear, your legs can get tired and cause you to start dragging your feet more.  When you don’t pick up your feet when walking, it increases the risk of tripping on something and causing a fall.

high heels are a seniors falls hazard
High heels can cause falls for seniors

Low heels – We cannot stress this enough!  Narrow heels and increased heel height (greater than 4.5cm/1.75in from the ground) are an accident waiting to happen.  You want to create as solid and as wide a platform to be on as possible without increasing the height of the heel.

Other things to think about include:

1.      Laces or no laces?  People lacking dexterity in their hands might want to look for slip on, Velcro or elastic shoes.  Be sure to make sure that they feel safe and secure if you do not use laces, as they may be less stable without laces and more likely to slip off or create an perfect opportunity to roll an ankle.

2.      Customized Orthotics.  Over the counter orthotics can help to soften pressure and pain of everyday walking, however if you have structural foot problems that need to be addressed (sometimes from diabetes or arthritis) you may need to see a professional to get customized orthotics that can insert straight into your shoe and help to alleviate some of the problems when walking.  Normally custom orthotics run in the $400-$500 range but price can vary depending on the vendor. ( Check your insurance policy if you have one).

3.      In house shoes.  We usually think about proper footwear when walking outside, however often we need better support than just socks or slippers can provide in the house.  Think about purchasing a second pair of shoes that are just for inside your house so that you don’t track dirt from outside and so you have the stability and proper footing whilst walking around the house or carrying out your exercises.

If you haven't already got a pair or two of shoes like those described above, don't wait...go get them and keep yourself safe.

Stay Safe Out There!!!


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