How Often Should Seniors Replace Their Walking Shoes?

In most cases, new shoes provide seniors' feet with renewed support and better foot protection. Here an occupational therapist explains often should seniors replace their walking shoes.

Registered Licensed Occupational Therapist
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How often should seniors replace walking shoes
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Like a used car, your walking shoes may be hard to give up. You’ve grown accustomed to the shape, the wear, and the comfort your shoes bring you.

You may also find it a big hassle to go shopping for new footwear because you’re not sure what to get and if you really want to go through all that trouble breaking a new pair in.

However, seniors replacing their walking shoes may be just as important as any precautions associated with balance and fall prevention.

But, on average, most older adults should replace their walking shoes every six months – and more frequently if they start showing the following signs of wear.

This article will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of replacing walking shoes, how to know when it’s time to replace them, and how often you should replace them.

We’ll also give you some quick tips on selecting the best walking shoes.

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Benefits of Replacing Walking Shoes

Now that those old shoes are ragged and worn, it’s time to take a trip to the store or pull up a chair and do a little online shopping.

Here are a few perks or benefits to replacing your walking shoes:

  • New shoes provide your feet with renewed support, adding to your balance and postural stability.
  • New shoes run less risk of slipping off during your walk and tripping you up.
  • New shoes may be more weather-proof than your old ones due to fewer holes and wear and tear.
  • New shoes offer better foot protection from sharp objects or other debris.
  • Shopping for new shoes may be a little fun if you’re looking to update your footwear style.
how often should seniors replace their walking shoes drawbacks
Frequent replacement of walking shoes can be costly.

Drawbacks of Replacing Walking Shoes

Concerning seniors who like their old shoes, let’s go ahead and acknowledge the apparent drawbacks to replacing walking shoes:

  • Replacing your walking shoes regularly costs money.
  • Breaking in new walking shoes can be bothersome, especially for sensitive feet and lower legs.
  • Finding the right shoes may feel like shopping for a new car or a new mattress. It takes time that you may not feel you have.
  • New shoes take getting used to when making contact with various surfaces. Breaking in new shoes can be problematic for seniors who already struggle with balance.

How to Know It’s Time to Replace Your Walking Shoes

Walking shoes should provide optimal support during the most obvious task: walking.

If the material or structure impedes your mobility or gait pattern, it’s time to replace your shoes.

Here are a few clues that it’s time to replace your walking shoes:

  • The traction is completely worn, and you’re slipping and sliding on various surfaces.
  • The heel support is worn or broken, providing absolutely no support and making the shoe appear more like a slip-on shoe.
  • Any eyelets for the laces or straps are broken and can no longer hold the shoe properly to the foot.
  • The shoe is full of holes. Debris, mud, and water are easily getting into the shoe.
  • The insole causes wounds or blisters to form.
  • The shoes are causing physical pain to the feet, lower legs, hips, and back.

How Often Should Walking Shoes Be Replaced?

Suppose you walk approximately 30 minutes daily on average. In that case, you may be looking at replacing your walking shoes once every six months.

However, there is wide variability depending on the senior (body weight, gait pattern, etc.), the shoe, and the type of walking surfaces they tend to tread daily.

Rather than religiously replacing their shoes once every six months exactly, seniors may want to pay attention to the signs that their shoes need replacement.

The most apparent signs should be that:

  • The shoes are causing pain to the feet, back, hips, and legs.
  • The shoes aren’t sufficiently staying on the feet and are becoming a tripping hazard.
  • The shoes are doing more harm than good when it comes to fall prevention.
how often should seniors replace their walking shoes quick tips
Shoes with great heel and toe coverage are a great choice for seniors.

Quick Tips on Selecting the Best Walking Shoes

Once you’ve determined that your current walking shoes are no good, let’s start selecting some new ones that fit your style, comfort levels, and daily routine.

Consider the following tips before committing to a new purchase:

  • Consider customized walking shoes that fit the unique structure of your feet. This includes length, width, stance (pronation, supination), arch support, etc.
  • Select a shoe with excellent weather-proof material that still provides sufficient ventilation. Providing air to the feet is essential to prevent fungal infections.
  • Find a shoe that provides sufficient arch support with a happy medium: not too cushy and not too firm. Too much arch support locks the foot into place and can lead to hip and back pain. Not enough arch support leads to foot pain.
  • Find a shoe with great heel and toe coverage to protect the skin from wounds, blisters, or cuts that lead to dangerous infections.
  • Get shoes that work with your fine motor needs. If you find it challenging to tie laces, consider hands-free walking shoes or Velcro straps.
  • Find shoes that provide decent traction for both indoor and outdoor surfaces to prevent loss of balance or falls. 
  • Don’t be shy about getting a shoe that fits your personality and style

You can see our recommended walking shoes for seniors and the elderly here.

Summary and Final Recommendations

Used walking shoes are hard to let go of, especially when you think you’ve finally broken them in and they’ve hit that sweet spot.

However, shoes that have essentially become rags on your feet should probably be replaced. New shoes will provide your feet with appropriate support and help prevent unnecessary falls and injuries.

Although it may feel like a minor annoyance to break in new shoes, the numerous benefits for your walking pattern, postural stability, and balance make it worthwhile.

If you have unique medical conditions that impact your feet (diabetic foot ulcers, bunions, edema, etc.), consult your primary physician about specialty footwear.

You might even benefit from an orthopedic specialist’s input. Select shoes that fit your unique needs and provide you with long-lasting comfort.

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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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