How to Select the Best Shoes for Seniors

best senior shoes

Choosing shoes is easy, right? You just find something you like, try them on to make sure they fit, and go on about your day. It might be that easy when we’re younger, but when we get older and our feet start to age along with the rest of our body, choosing the best shoes for seniors requires a lot more thought!

The shoes you choose to wear matter much more than it might seem. They are a front-line defense against falls and injuries. That’s why it’s a little shocking to learn that up to 75% of seniors wear shoes that are too small[1]. Besides that, a third of the elderly have foot problems, such as bunions or hammertoes, that affect what shoes they should select to keep their feet comfortable.

The risk of falls can’t be overstated. More than 25% of older Americans fall down every year, and many of them fall down more than once, according to the CDC. The consequences of those falls can be enormous, with 20% of them leading to a serious injury, such as a traumatic brain injury or a broken bone.

You want to do everything you can to avoid this, such as wearing the most comfortable and supportive shoes possible. You also want to be able to mitigate the damage that might occur if you do fall, which is why a medical alert system with fall detection is so important. These personal emergency response systems allow you to reach out for help at the touch of a button. The alert devices with fall detection use tiny sensors to detect falls, alerting trained professionals without your even needing to press the button.

How to Choose the Best Shoes for Seniors

When you’re looking for the proper shoes that will help mitigate your fall risk and keep you comfortable day-in and day-out, there are some clear points to ponder[2].

·         The proper size. This matters for a multitude of reasons. If the shoe is too big, your foot can slip around inside it, which can affect your balance. You might be walking just fine and then suddenly your foot changes placement in the shoe and down you go. The excessive movement of the shoe against your foot, especially at the heel, can lead to blisters. And if the shoe is too tight, it can pinch enough to affect circulation or lead to pain, which makes it tough to walk and makes it more likely you will fall. University of Chicago Medicine points out that our feet widen as we age, so you may need shoes that are wide or extra wide widths.

·         The right soles. Look for shoes with excellent tread, as they will grip the ground as you walk and help avoid slips and falls. But if there is too much tread, or tread that is too pronounced, the shoes may actually drag on the ground, leading to potential injury. Hard and sturdy soles are much better for fall prevention than those that have lightweight and flexible soles. In fact, avoid soles that are flexible enough to allow you to twist or bend the shoe in half, as these soles provide very little support (if any) and can easily allow a senior’s foot to twist in the shoe, leading to injury.

·         The proper weight. Some elderly adults might have trouble lifting up their feet. They might shuffle when walking, and a heavy shoe means they could put a great deal of effort into each step. If this is the case, look for lightweight shoes but try to avoid those with flexible soles.

·         The stable and closed heel. Look for soles that are less than one inch thick at the heel. This provides the support you need but avoids the height you don’t want, as that height can lead to instability with every step. Stability is also a factor when it comes to open-heeled shoes, such as sandals. They might not fit as snugly as those with closed heels. And shoes that don’t have proper fit can allow the foot to slide, which can lead to falls.

·         The right material. The material of the shoe should include sturdy soles with good tread like we mentioned earlier, but they should also be easy to slip on and off. That means that the outside of the shoe should be a material that’s easy to grip, such as a canvas style, versus a patent leather or other style that can be smooth. Mesh or a moisture-wicking material can help keep your feet dry and comfortable. Check the inside of the shoe to ensure that it is free of any sort of protrusions that can lead to rubbing and blisters. Look especially at the seams, such as around the heel, and don’t wear a shoe that has the potential to rub your foot.

As you are choosing the best shoes for you, it’s a good time to also consider getting a medical alert device. These powerful little emergency button alarms for seniors provide peace of mind that if you do fall – despite your best efforts to find the right shoes – you can get help immediately.

Best Shoe Features for Seniors

Now you know what to look for in the soles of a shoe, but what about the types of shoe features that are best for seniors?

·         Velcro closure. These shoes have no laces and instead close with a sturdy Velcro closure. This is excellent for those who have issues with their hands, such as those with severe arthritis. They also allow a senior to easily slip the shoes on and off.

·         Lace-up shoes. These are the typical shoes with laces. Laces allow for careful adjustment of the shoe and thus, a better fit. If someone has trouble tying their shoes, elastic laces can be a nice alternative to Velcro.

·         Customized shoes. You can customize your shoes somewhat through over-the-counter means, such as gel pads and cushions that can prevent rubbing of one particular area of the shoe or give you a bit more support with every step. As we lose the padding of fat in our feet as we age, this extra cushioning can keep you very comfortable[3]. But for shoes that truly fit well, customized options are the best bet. Orthotics may be excellent for those who have arthritis, complications of diabetes, or other foot problems that typical shoes might make worse, and can be custom fit by a podiatrist.

·         House shoes. Footwear designed to be worn in the house should also be taken into consideration. Since 60% of falls happen in the home, it makes sense that the shoes worn in the home should offer strong fall prevention[4]. Look for shoes that have thinner soles and good traction, which will help seniors to grip hardwood floors. Though it might be very tempting to go barefoot at home or simply wear socks, a report in Science Daily points out that 52% of those who suffered a fall did so while barefoot, wearing socks, or wearing house slippers. And those who fell suffered more serious injuries, including broken bones.

How Long Should Shoes Last?

According to Very Well Fit, most shoes should last for between 350 and 500 miles of use. At this point, the cushioning and support of the shoes is probably worn out enough that they aren’t providing what you need to walk safely. However, reaching that level of mileage depends greatly upon how often you walk, and your feet could change well before you hit that point. So while it’s important to remember that 350 miles or more is a good rule of thumb, don’t let that be your definitive answer to when you need new shoes.

How Much Do Good Shoes for Seniors Cost?

According to Forbes Health, it’s never a good idea to go cheap on your shoes. Casual shoes for women can run between $80 - $150, while casual shoes for men are a little more expensive, at between $75 - $185. Expect orthopedic shoes to run about $100, on average. Remember that the more customized a shoe is, the higher the price tag will be – however, customized shoes might be your only option if you have certain medical conditions that make wearing typical shoes impossible or painful.

In addition to the right shoes, consider the affordable Alert1 Medical Alert options that can keep you safe and secure if a fall or any other accident does occur. Simply press the emergency button alarm when an emergency strikes and reach a caring professional on the line who will get you help fast, 24/7/365, whether that’s a friendly neighbor or emergency services. The small monthly service fee is quite affordable and worth every penny!

How to Try on Shoes

Though it might seem like a very simple task, trying on shoes to find the right one should take some time. That’s because you want to be quite certain you’re getting a shoe that will assist with fall prevention, keep your feet feeling comfortable, and even encourage you to walk more.

Begin by speaking to your doctor or podiatrist. You want to be sure of what sort of shoe you need, and they can assist with this. It might be as simple as a particular type of shoe with little to no seams for those who are suffering from diabetic neuropathy, or it might be a recommendation for custom shoes that take into account changes in your foot wrought by gout, arthritis, poor circulation, and more.

When you shop for shoes, always do so in person. Though it might be easier and even cheaper to go online, this doesn’t allow you to try on the shoe, and that can lead to serious problems. When you do try on the shoe, make sure to go to the store in the late afternoon or evening. That’s because feet can swell a bit during the day, and shopping when your feet are at their largest can help you find the right fit[5].

Don’t choose a shoe with the idea that you will “break them in.” This might have worked well when you were younger, but as senior skin ages it becomes much thinner and more prone to injury. A serious blister can sideline you for a long while! Make sure you have at least ½ inch between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe, but no more than that. If your usual shoe size feels too tight, it might be time to try a wide width shoe.

Finally, avoid things like wearing high heels, sandals, or flip flops. High heels bring a fall risk. And while sandals and flip flops might seem like the most comfortable options, they are among the types of shoes with the highest fall risk[6].

Alert1 wishes you comfort, health and safety!