Footwear Safety for Seniors

By: Christine Namey, MPT, Lutheran SeniorLife Rehabilitation Services

The footwear, including shoes, slippers, or lack thereof, that seniors choose can affect their fall risk.

In one study, almost 52% of those that fell said that at the time of the fall they were either barefoot, or only wearing socks or slippers. In addition, those that fell with inappropriate footwear had more serious consequences and injuries than those with proper footwear.

Shoes should be worn both indoors and outdoors.

The sensory feedback information that is provided to your feet can be adversely affected by poor footwear. Shoes with a softer sole can alter balance control during walking. If seniors have poor sensation, poor circulation, and/or poor healing such as with diabetes, wearing shoes is extremely important to prevent wounds as well.

A safe shoe includes the following features:

  • Shoe body/upper should be firm and high to enclose the foot for stability.
  • Laces or velcro should be snug to hold the shoe onto the foot while walking.
  • A beveled heel is best to prevent slipping and a low, broad flared heel will maximize contact with the ground.
  • A textured sole prevents slipping. Soles with greater contact area provide more grip. This is also important to consider with slippers as they are often worn in bathrooms which may have a slippery floor.
  • A thin, firm mid-sole will allow the wearer to feel the ground underneath.
  • If the toe box, or portion of the shoe that holds your toes, is too tight bunions, hammer ties, corns or calluses can develop.
  • A leather shoe will stretch over the foot and form to its shape. Leather can also be shaped to accommodate bunions or hammer toes.
  • Avoid footwear that is designed to just slip on. They are unsafe and it is too easy for the foot to slip out, causing a fall.

If you are having difficulty putting your shoes on, medical equipment stores, the internet and pharmacies carry elastic shoelaces, sock aides and long-handled shoe horns.

Occupational therapy can help you learn to dress more easily, including putting on your shoes.

The Lutheran SeniorLife therapists are available on an outpatient basis by calling (724) 452-3492.