Choosing the Best Shoes for Senior Fall Prevention

Choosing the Best Shoes for Senior Fall Prevention

Do you lose your balance a bit more these days?

Unfortunately, there are many factors that can cause us to lose our balance and stability as we get older, including weaker muscles, visual or hearing issues, and medication side effects. Sometimes there is a specific medical reason, such as problems associated with gout, diabetes, arthritis, and other physical issues. The foot pain that can arise from these conditions can significantly affect a person’s mobility, making them a much higher fall risk than they would be otherwise. In fact, studies have found that up to 87% of older adults have some sort of disorder of the feet that makes them more likely to fall down.1

And while keeping chronic conditions under control and working with your doctor to find the best relief for foot pain can help, there is one potential problem with your feet that is much easier to address: the shoes you choose to wear.

The Importance of Finding the Right Shoe

Did you know that 83% of older adults are wearing shoes that are the wrong size?2 That’s usually because we tend to buy the same size shoes throughout our adult lives, but our feet don’t actually stay the same. As you get older and the bones of your feet gradually shift, you might find that you wear a larger size than you used to. And you might even find that one foot is bigger than the other!

When you do choose footwear, it’s usually for the purpose of going out in public, such as to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment. But you should also be wearing shoes in the comfort of your own home, too.  

According to a study in Footwear Science, the elderly who went without shoes at home tended to have a higher risk of falls than those who wore well-fitted shoes around the house. Whether they were barefoot or in socks, the rate of falls went up.3 But not only is it important to wear shoes when you’re moving around, it’s just as important to wear the right footwear.

We’ll take a look at tips for choosing the right shoes, from the soles to the laces. And we’ll look at the types of shoes you definitely should not rely on if fall safety is a concern.

As we get older, safety becomes more and more of a concern. A fall detection device for seniors is a very good idea for peace of mind. If you do suffer a fall, getting the help you need right away is crucial to ensure the best possible medical outcome.

With a panic button right at your fingertips, you can reach out to an emergency monitoring center with a single touch.

The Shoes You Want to Avoid

Though no shoe can actually prevent a fall, the right shoe can definitely lessen the odds that you will stumble. According to the National Council on Aging, these shoes heighten your risk of falling and suffering a serious injury:

·        Shoes with high or narrow heels

·        Those that are too loose on your feet (flip flops are very risky)

·        Shoes without laces, straps, or buckles that you can tighten for a better fit

·        Shoes with smooth soles that don’t have much traction4

And while it might be very tempting to hold onto an old pair of shoes because they are worn in just right and feel so comfortable on your feet, keep in mind that an old, trusty pair of shoes might fit too loosely or even be coming apart, such as the sole separating from the upper part of the shoe. In that case, those worn-in shoes become an enormous trip hazard that can leave you injured on the floor, wondering how you fell down with such little warning.

When it comes to getting help in the event of a fall, technology for the elderly living alone can be an enormous help. A personal emergency response system with fall detection can not only provide you with the opportunity to summon help the moment you need it, but the device can actually summon help automatically if it detects a fall. That’s why a medical alert wireless device can help you stay safe and secure at home or on the go.

Tips for Choosing the Best Shoes for Fall Prevention

It makes sense that you would avoid shoes that meet the criteria listed above. But which shoes are actually best for fall prevention for seniors? These tips will help you choose the right footwear for you.

·        Look for good arch support. Shoes that have flat bottoms and no support in the arch can lead to pain in your feet, knees, hips, or back. Try on shoes that have strong arch support; if you have a favorite shoe that doesn’t have support, you can try inserts that change the contour of the inside of the shoe and give you the support you need to walk without pain.

·        Make sure the shoes fit properly. Shoes that are too tight can cut circulation and lead to blisters, calluses, and other injuries to the foot. But shoes that are too loose can not only lead to injuries but also allow the foot to slide around inside the shoe, making every step unstable. If you aren’t walking in stable shoes, the odds of falling increase dramatically.

·        Choose the right shoe for the occasion. If you will be walking or jogging, look for athletic shoes that have excellent shock absorption and traction. If you are hanging around at home, make sure your shoes have non-slip soles (even if you have non-slip flooring) and that they fit properly. Though it might be tempting to wear flip-flops or slippers, these aren’t at all stable and can lead to a fall risk. In fact, studies have shown that among the elderly who suffered a hip fracture, slippers were among the most common shoe they were wearing when the accident happened.5

·        Ensure you can put them on and take them off with ease. Though shoes with laces tend to be quite stable, those with arthritis or other mobility issues might find it tough to use shoes with laces. Shoes with Velcro straps are a good alternative, as are those with easy-to-fasten buckles.

·        Pay attention to your toes. Shoes with pointed toes or narrow boxes at the top can easily constrict your toes and feet, leading to pain in the foot, ankle, knee, and even further up the body. Besides that, you run an increased risk of falling down as you try to gingerly move in such a way that doesn’t hurt – and you could simply suffer an injury to your toe, such as a blister. Though this might seem like a minor issue, keep in mind that if you have any problems with circulation, no matter how minor, a small injury on the foot can turn into a very big deal.

·        Replace shoes when they become worn. Yes, those shoes you’ve had for years might feel incredible because they are so “broken in.” But they might also be lacking in the support they once offered. Over time, cushioning in a shoe will deteriorate or “pack down,” leaving you with a shoe that might feel good but doesn’t fit quite the right way.

·        Go with practical over fashionable. Though it might be very tempting to wear that pair of gorgeous high heels, there are few things that could more easily contribute to a serious fall. Before you choose that perfect set of heels to go with the ideal outfit, consider the consequences if you turn an ankle and go down hard.

Bonus Tips for Those Who Have Diabetes

If you suffer from diabetes, finding the ideal shoe to help prevent falls and other injuries becomes even more important. Diabetic neuropathy is just one of the many ways that diabetes can affect the feet, and the numbness, pain, or tingling of the condition can make it difficult to walk as steadily as you used to. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, about half of those with diabetes will develop neuropathy.6

In addition, wounds that would normally heal quickly, such as blisters rubbed on the feet from ill-fitting shoes, won’t heal as effectively among those who have uncontrolled diabetes.

Here’s what you need to know about finding the proper footwear if you have diabetes:

·        Choose shoes with a wide and deep toe box. It’s a good idea to protect your toes and the ball of your foot from stress and pressure. A deep toe box ensures that your toes have room to move inside the shoe. Wider shoes will also ensure that the ball of your foot (where the foot is usually widest) has plenty of room to avoid blisters and calluses from forming.

·        Avoid open-toe shoes. While shoes like sandals might seem like a good idea (and could be, if you are nursing an injury and your doctor recommends them), the fact that your toes are open to the elements means they are also open to scrapes, cuts, and bruising. As someone with diabetes, the circulation in your feet might not be the best, meaning that those wounds will take longer to heal. And the longer it takes, the greater your risk of infection.

·        Go with soft materials. Soft, breathable materials like leather or suede can allow the feet to get some air, which can help you avoid sweaty feet. When your feet sweat, not only could you deal with odor problems or fungus, you could also feel your feet begin to slip around inside the shoe, rendering every step unstable.

·        Removable insoles are a big help. As your foot changes over time, the typical insoles might not be comfortable for you anymore. To remedy that problem, look for shoes that have removable insoles that you can then replace with something your doctor recommends for more comfort and safety.

·        Avoid seams or stitching inside the shoe. Those seams and stitches form tiny ridges that can rub against your foot and lead to injury. To make matters worse, if you have diabetic neuropathy, you might not feel the damage being done by those irritating seams until you already have a significant wound on your foot. When choosing a new shoe, put your hand into the shoe and feel how smooth the inside is. Are there any seams that immediately stand out? If so, that might not be the best choice for you.

·        Be open to orthopedic shoes. These shoes, often created specifically for you by prescription, once had a reputation of being clunky and ugly. Today’s models of orthopedic shoes can be quite attractive – so much so that it’s impossible to tell that your specially-modified shoes are anything but today’s most popular styles. If your doctor recommends orthopedic shoes, get excited about having a shoe tailored so well to your feet that you might feel like you’re walking on air!

If you have diabetes, it is vitally important to check your feet right before you put on shoes and right after you take them off. This will allow you to catch any blisters or sores right away, which can help you get faster and more effective treatment.

Whether you are walking around your house, taking a leisurely trip to the mailbox, or strapping on your athletic shoes for a vigorous hike, take an Alert1 medical alert device along as your constant companion. A fall alarm can get you the help you need, when you need it, especially if you suffer a fall. Remember, the sooner you get help for a medical emergency (the so-called “Golden Hour”), the better your outcome will be, and that means you’ll be back on your feet much sooner!