Many factors contribute to falls among older adults, from medical problems like arthritis, osteoporosis, poor eyesight, Parkinson's disease, and drowsiness caused by medications, to environmental conditions like poor lighting, slippery floors and unexpected obstacles. Falls can also be the result of weak muscles, but the biggest contributing factor to falls are shoes.
Never wear shoes with slippery or worn outer soles. Avoid shoes with smooth leather or plastic soles, which can be slippery on carpets, wood and tile floors, and wet surfaces. Some fitness or athletic shoes made with synthetic soles, which may be ideal for exercising in a gym, can be extremely slippery on a damp or wet surface. Avoid heels.
Avoid wearing shoes and slippers that are loose or ill-fitting. Never wear slip-on shoes or flip-flops. I recommend always purchasing shoes that tie or fasten with buckles or Velcro. Shoes can stretch after they are worn even a short amount of time allowing your foot to slide or slip in the shoe. Laced shoes or shoes that fasten can be adjusted to accommodate orthotics, braces and swelling of the feet.
When walking on carpets, avoid wearing shoes with heavy rubber lugs (lug soles are a type of outer sole found on heavy-duty and utility shoes such as hiking boots or work boots) that can catch on carpets, especially if you are one of those people who barely pick up his/her feet when walking. The rubber tips on the toes of running shoes can also cause a stumble on a carpeted surface.
For an all-around shoe, consider walking shoes, which provide good traction and support but do not have heavy soles or rubber over the toes. I recommend you visit shoe stores like Fleet Feet and ask them to fit you in a good walking shoe. Shoe size often changes with age as feet swell and spread. The shoes you are purchasing off the shelf may not be the correct size any more.
Although shoes with a lot of cushioning can make you feel as if you are walking on air, they can also make an older person unstable and are best avoided.
For more information about safe shoes, talk to a physician that specializes in foot care.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.