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The impact of footwear on fall prevention

  • Podiatry Practice

safe-shoe-featureAs featured in Arcare Five Stars Magazine

One thing that does not shrink when people get older is feet; they also change shape and lose some feeling and flexibility. This can impact the way we walk and can also affect balance. Swollen or painful feet can make it difficult to walk. The shoes we choose can impact this situation as well as assisting with fall prevention.

Falls are the single biggest reason for admission to hospital and presentations to the emergency department in people aged 65 years and over. In fact, one in three older people over 65 in the community will have a fall this year.

A fall can have a huge impact on your ability to stay independent for longer. 95% of hip fractures occur as a result of a fall, and they can also result in impaired mobility, disability, fear of falling, and reduced quality of life.

In a research study by Irwanto et al (December 2014) a fall is the cause of most fractures in older people. Footwear is one of a number of risk factors in the prevalence of falls. Some shoes or slippers can make you more likely to slip, trip or stumble.

What makes a safe shoe?

A correctly fitting, supportive shoe can help reduce your risk of falling. Look for:

  • A high, firm heel collar to give support when walking and provide stability
  • Heel height should be <2.5cm
  • Laces, buckles or Velcro fastening to ensure the shoe ‘holds’ onto your foot when walking
  • A low, wide heel with a rounded edge to give more contact with the ground and help prevent slipping
  • A wide and deep toe box allowing plenty of room for toes and comfort
  • A thin, firm midsole with a tread so you can ‘feel the ground’ underneath and prevent slipping.

 

A safe shoe looks something like this:

 

safe-shoe

 

Shoe shopping tips:

  • Try both shoes on and buy for fit, not size
  • Feet tend to swell during the day, so try shoes on mid-afternoon, with your usual socks or stockings and orthotics
  • Make sure the sole is not slippery
  • Walk around in the shop to ensure that the shoes fit properly and the heels don’t slip
  • Ask your podiatrist about specialist shoe stores if you have trouble finding suitable shoes because of foot problems.

Older people who fall are more likely to fall again (Stubbs et al 2014), so it is recommended that you reduce all modifiable risk factors for falls and a great place to start is to choose the right shoes so you don’t go head over heels!

 

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