While most older adults’ primary concern when buying shoes is comfort, stability should also be at the top of the list. This is especially important as the risk for falls and fall-related injuries increases with age.
So, what are the criteria for selecting great footwear that will provide needed support and stability and reduce the risk of falls? Here are 10 tips that will help make choosing the right shoe a ‘cakewalk’.
- Proper Size / Proper Fit
Buying the proper size and width shoe will ensure that feet stay healthy and happy. Shoes that are too big can be troublesome to walk in. Shoes that are too small can cause blisters, calluses, corns or even worse.
It’s always a good idea to have feet measured occasionally, since they tend to change over time. So, get help with fitting at a good shoe store to ensure feet get the proper support and stay comfy for hours.
- Wider Stable Base
A broad stable base—wider in the forefoot and heel—can be extra insurance against slips and trips. Shoes with a larger contact area with the ground are more stable and can provide more grip. In addition, shoes that feel stable and secure will keep the wearer active and ensure they continue to stay on their feet.
- Sturdy Midsole
A thinner, firmer midsole ensures the wearer can feel the ground underneath the feet, but has enough support to provide a solid, stable base. Shoes that are too flimsy or have too much flexibility in the midsole can impair balance and create more risk of tripping.
- Lightweight Outsoles With Good Traction
Heavy, thick-soled shoes can be a problem for older adults even though this type of footwear may provide some degree of stability. Lightweight outsoles make a shoe much easier to walk in.
A great all-around walking shoe can be a good choice for many seniors. Walking shoes provide good traction and support but typically do not have heavy outsoles.
- Adjustable Closures
Adjustable closures ensure that shoes fit snugly to the foot, but can be adjusted as needed for sock thickness, to accommodate custom orthotics or based on time of day (feet tend to swell towards the end of the day). Lace closures are great options, but need to be tied securely to provide a comfortable, secure fit. Hook and loop closures can be ideal for seniors with dexterity problems, but these should never be left unattached as this could cause a poor fit and result in a fall.
- The Right Type Of Comfort
Always look for a shoe that feels good from the first wearing. If it’s uncomfortable now, it’s always going to be uncomfortable. In addition, avoid excessive cushioning as this destabilizes feet and impairs balance.
- Lower Heels
The higher older adults are from the ground, the more they are at risk of falling. In fact, shoes with lower heels, lower profiles and wider bases are associated with the lowest risk of falls, according to a 2004 study in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society. Therefore heels should be no higher than 1-1 ½ inches.
- Avoid Worn Out Shoes
Foot specialists say older adults are especially prone to hanging onto a few trusty pairs of shoes long after their sturdiness, support and traction have worn out. Shoes should be discarded at least every two years, if not sooner, based on how much use they get.
Ideally, shoes should be alternated every day so that they are allowed to dry out between wearing. This will also ensure that shoes hold up better and last longer.
- Look For Accommodative Styling
Bigger, roomier toe boxes can be a godsend, especially when wearers suffer from bunions, hammer toes or other conditions that require a little extra space. Custom orthotics can also require extra room.
- Choose Safe Styles For Summer
While older active adults may love sandals, it’s probably best to get them to trade up from a flip-flop to a more secure sandal with a back strap. Athletic-style sport sandals are a great choice—especially those with built in support.