Footwear features to reduce your risk of falls

As we age, our risk and fear of falling during normal day to day activity significantly increases. Approximately 30-40% of elderly individuals fall each year with 5 -15% resulting in serious injury.


There are many factors that influence the risk of falls in the elderley and footwear is high on the list.

Understandably, for a lot of people the thought of having to wear shoes constantly is unappealing, however there are many benefits to wearing the correct footwear both indoors and outdoors.

Footwear has a big impact on your balance, and it decreases your risk of tripping and falling. Socks and slippers alone do not quite meet the standards required to prevent falls from occurring. Socks can also be quite slippery and move on the foot.


Features of INAPPROPRIATE footwear:

1.      Poor fit – If there’s too much room around the forefoot and toes it will decrease stability and balance of your feet because your foot will have a tendency to slide around in the shoe.


2.      Inadequate fastenings – Shoes without laces, buckles or Velcro are unable to be secured around the foot and may increase instability when walking, especially if the foot moves around too much.

3.      Narrow heeled shoes – A narrow heel decreases the surface area under your heel as it strikes the ground, therefore decreasing stability.


4.      Soft or stretched uppers – Contribute

 to poor fitting footwear.


5.      Shoes with slippery or worn-out soles will increase the chance of falling especially in wet weather or on smooth surfaces such as tiles.


Features of APPROPRIATE footwear:


1.      Soles - Thinner, firmer soles with a good tread increase the feeling between your foot and the ground and helps promote balance and stability. If you can feel the ground you will feel more stable.


2.      Heels - Low and square – to increase the ground contact and stability compared to narrow based shoes, especially high heels.


3.      Enclosed heel – shoes that support around your heel considerably increase support and decrease the risk of tripping compared to slip on style footwear.


4.      Upper:


a.       Laces or Velcro – fastened firmly, this will improve balance and support during walking.

b.      Firm/ supportive upper material – increases security within footwear.


5.      Weight – While it is important that the material supports the foot firmly, a shoe that is too heavy or stiff may also increase the risk of tripping, because long-term it can contribute to muscles fatigue.


If you, or someone you know has had a fall or is at risk of falling due to poor footwear or balance, a full assessment of their footwear and walking pattern should be completed.


Our podiatrist will make footwear recommendations and will refer you to the right footwear retailers based on your needs.


We work alongside some great physios and often recommend people. Check out some other great support groups like “strong & stable”.


Finally, and in addition to footwear advice, some patients will benefit from strengthening exercises to assist with balance and stability, which is why it is important to contact our clinic now and make an appointment.

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