Which Footwear Reduces Fall Risk in the Elderly? (Expert Therapist Advice)

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Our occupational therapist recommends shoes with flexible, non-slip soles, that provide heel support, and that are easy to put on and take off. Here is her professional advice.

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Best Footwear to Reduce the Risk of Falls in the Elderly

Your feet’s relationship with the ground has everything to do with your overall balance, coordination, and postural stability.

In other words, if your feet are happy, the rest of your body is happy, and you’re less likely to end up involuntarily on the floor.

That’s why investing in the proper footwear is essential as you age.

In this article, we will discuss features to look for in shoes and footwear that are the safest for seniors and the elderly and review therapist-based recommendations regarding safe footwear and fall prevention.

This Therapist’s Recommendation

Here are my three pieces of advice when it comes to selecting footwear as a senior:

  • Don’t jump the gun on your purchase, do your research
  • Assess your current physical activity (aka don’t buy a marathon-grade shoe if you’re more of a stroller)
  • Commit to a shoe that makes YOU feel comfortable

There is no one size fits all, and selecting the right shoe for fall prevention takes time and research. 

Choose a shoe that has flexible, non-slip soles, provides heel support, and is easy to put on and take off.

Review of Shoe Features

If you’ve reached that aging milestone where your balance has grown to be a little on the iffy side, or if you’re in desperate need of a shoe update, ask yourself the following questions before marching down to your local store or hopping onto your Amazon account:

  • What shoes have I been wearing lately? Do I like them? Do I hate them?
  • Have I had recent medical changes that have affected my balance?
  • Should I be talking to my doctor before buying shoes?
  • How active am I these days? Do I go on walks? Do I exercise?
  • Do I need more than one pair of shoes for more than one activity?
  • Have I lost my balance or fallen in the last six months? What was I doing that led up to the fall? What shoes (if any) was I wearing?
  • What shoes are “me”? What fits my personality?
  • What type of shoes would be convenient? What shoes would make my life harder?

Now that you’ve got those questions answered, consider the following features before selecting a shoe:

Arch Support

How much support are you looking for? Do you have an average or high foot arch? Too little arch support in a shoe means sorer feet with prolonged walking.

Too much foot support means your foot is locked into one position, which can cause increased joint pain in the legs, hips, and spine. 

Sole Malleability

Are you looking for a shoe with an orthopedic insert? Inserts with cushion and flexibility can help the shoe conform to the bottom of the foot, providing additional comfort and security.

However, too much cushion means your legs aren’t getting access to natural weight-bearing strengthening tasks. So, you’re potentially weakening your legs and feet.

best footwear to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly ventilation
Get a shoe that allows your feet to breathe.

Ventilation

Get a shoe that breathes, so your feet aren’t sweating and stinking up your house.

Sole Security

Find a shoe that securely straps or laces to the bottom of your foot. This immediately excludes scary shoes like flip-flops. Sandals are still okay if your choice has both efficient toe and heel support.

Coverage

If you have medical problems of the feet, including neuropathy or diabetic foot ulcers, you may want to find a shoe that covers the foot in its entirety to protect the skin from injury.

Ties, Straps, Laces, etc.

Pick something that won’t complicate your life. If you have the range and capacity to do so, stick with those laces.

If you lack fine motor coordination, bending at the hips, or dexterity, it might be time to switch from laces to large velcro straps or slip-on shoes.

Heel Support

Get a shoe with adequate heel support for postural stability. A shoe with a thick heel will only add to back and hip pain in elderly folks, so find a low-grade heel.

Weight of the Shoe

Seniors with leg and hip weakness may struggle to lift heavy shoes, especially during long walks. Find a lightweight shoe with excellent durability.

Color and Patterns

Find a shoe that you can love, not something you’ll never look forward to wearing. Do your research and select a style that fits your interests and personality.

Waterproof Material

Waterproof shoes are convenient because seniors can wear them to the bathroom and use them for multiple purposes without ruining the material.

best footwear to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly recommendation
It takes time and research to pick the right shoe for fall prevention.

Which Footwear is the Safest for Seniors/Elderly?

I’m not going to mention specific shoe brands; however, here are a few shoe types that are generally safe for seniors or elderly people to wear, along with a list of pros and cons for each:

Slip-on Sneaker or Tennis Shoe

Pros:

  • Slip-on means no laces, and you can slip on the shoe when standing or sitting
  • High-quality shoes with excellent traction mean decreased risk for slips and falls
  • Custom-fit shoes have moldable in-soles with excellent ventilation
  • Completely covers the foot, protecting the skin and structures of the foot
  • Can be worn multi purposefully
  • Helpful for seniors with an active lifestyle

Cons:

  • Low-quality slip-ones tend to wear, especially at the heel, which collapses when pushed on too much

RELATED: The Best Walking Shoes For Seniors


Sandal with Sufficient Heel Support

Pros:

  • Provides plenty of ventilation to the feet for long, hot summer months
  • Comes in many styles and patterns
  • High-quality sandals can provide decent arch and heel support

Cons:

  • Not as secure to the foot as tennis-shoes
  • Small straps with tiny buckles or buttons can be a hassle
  • Sandals with minimal heel straps can cause a tripping hazard

RELATED: Best Sandals for the Elderly


Minimalist Shoe

Pros:

  • Lightweight, meaning you don’t have to lug around a ton of material while walking
  • Increased sensory connection with the ground, enhancing postural stability
  • Less cushion tends to increase balance and coordination, reducing the risk of falls
  • Exposes leg and feet muscles to a natural strengthening process, improving overall balance

Cons:

  • Can make the wearer sore, especially in the hips and back, if not used to the make of the shoe
  • Not a great fit for everyone, especially seniors with moderate to severe medical problems of the feet and legs

RELATED: Should Elderly People Wear Barefoot Shoes?

Summary and Final Recommendations

Seniors should take extra care in selecting the proper footwear for their feet.

Their feet have been with them through thick and thin, and their bodies depend on them for stability and coordination.

Do your research, try out a few shoes, and select a shoe that fits your personality, healthcare needs, and activity level.

Meredith Chandler, OTR/L

Registered/Licensed Occupational Therapist

Meredith has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 years and as a content writer for 6 years. She primarily works with the geriatric population, focusing on their rehabilitative needs and instructing caregivers and family members for home care. Her specialties include ADL training, neurological re-education, functional mobility training, adaptive equipment education, and wheelchair assessment and mobility training. She is a painter, a musician, and a mother of 4 who loves spending time with her family,

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4 thoughts on “Which Footwear Reduces Fall Risk in the Elderly? (Expert Therapist Advice)”

  1. Great article! And for my purposes, those little black shoes with the 3 buttons and elastic loops would be perfect. Can you tell me the brand and model?

    • Hello Margaret! Unfortunately, I do not know the brand and model of that shoe. Thie image is being used for illustration purchases. Sorry I can’t be of more help! –Scott

  2. After years of recommendation from my mother, I finally tried on some SAS shoes and said “Aah!” They are perfectly secure and comfortable!

    • Hi Cecilia! Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to take a closer look at those! –Scott

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