Out of all the clothing items you could wear, shoes seem to be the most difficult for seniors and elderly people to put on.
If you think you’re alone in this fight with your feet, no worries. You’re not, and there are lots of ways to get around the issue.
This article will discuss common causes of difficulty putting on shoes and how seniors can put shoes on more easily. Plus, I’ll share some tools that help and some easy options for lacing shoes too!
Common Causes of Difficulty Putting on Shoes
Why are shoes such a problem for older adults? Well, if we break it down and judge the situation fairly, it’s not just the shoes’ fault. It’s a combination of three things:
- The senior or elderly individual
- The senior’s immediate environment
- The shoes
Here is a common scenario to put this interaction into a better perspective:
Lucinda is a 71-year-old woman who lives at home alone but often spends time with her neighbor. They like to eat lunch together at her house and go on weekly shopping trips. Lucinda has a history of low back pain due to degenerative disc disease, which is a breakdown in her spine. This causes her to struggle to bend forward to put on her shoes. She also has arthritis in her hands, so lacing her tennis shoes is extremely challenging.
Lucinda has been thinking of changing out her laced tennis shoes for new shoes, but she’s not sure what to get. She has hardwood floors in her home and likes to go on walks in the community with her neighbor, so she wants sturdy shoes with good traction. She’s terrified of wearing sandals or slip-on shoes because of her recent history of falling.
Putting on shoes can be a struggle for any number of reasons. Anatomical or medical conditions may include:
- Low back pain
- Arthritis in the spine, hips, fingers, or hands
- Fear of falling or injury
- Poor balance with bending
- Limited range due to post-surgical conditions (total hip replacement)
- Limited dexterity of sensation in the hands
- Limited finger strength
- Swollen feet
- Sweaty or sticky feet
Sometimes, it’s the shoe that’s to blame:
- Ill-fitted shoe (too narrow, too short, too tight)
- Too much lacing
- Laces are too thin, too short, or too slick
How to Put on Shoes More Easily
Figure out the problem first: Is it a medical limitation? Is it the shoe? Is it a combination of both? Once you’ve contemplated your specific situation, apply some of the following tips that could be relevant:
- Get a better-fitting shoe, maybe something customized to your foot. Shoes should never be too tight or too loose.
- Sprinkle a small amount of talc powder into the bottom of each shoe to make sliding your foot in a little easier.
- Instead of the “slide n’ stomp” routine, take a seat and put your shoes on in a safe sitting position. If you have the hip range, bring the foot up to your knee in a criss-cross applesauce fashion. For others, you may want to prop up your foot on a footstool or a sturdy box.
- Always keep your spine straight when putting your shoes on. Hunching forward is rough on the shoulders, neck, and back muscles, which can cause unnecessary strain and injury.
- If bending forward is entirely out of the question, consider using adaptive equipment such as a shoe horn, a dressing stick, or a reacher.
- Eliminate the need for laces and invest in hands-free sneakers like these:
Tools to Make Putting on Shoes Easier
Do you have medical restrictions that prevent you from bending forward, or do you have extreme fears of falling? You can always try out adaptive equipment to don your shoes:
- Shoe horn: A shoe horn has an extended handle, and the wide end slides into the heel end of the shoe. You slide your heel along the shoe horn arch and push your foot in, preventing you from pushing down or breaking the heel support on sneakers or tennis shoes.
- Reacher: A reacher grabber is handy for steadying any shoe while slipping it on, without the hassle of bending forward.
- Dressing stick: Dressing sticks are primarily used for donning pants and underwear. But they are also helpful for keeping your shoes in place when combined with the shoe horn.
- Suppose you struggle with handling adaptive equipment or laces due to severe arthritis in the hands or limited sensation/dexterity. In that case, hands-free sneakers we mentioned earlier are an excellent footwear alternative.
Easy Options for Lacing Shoes
If you find yourself annoyed with your shoes because the laces are completely at fault, then consider some alternatives:
- Wide laces: Wide laces help seniors better grasp the laces, especially if they have limited grip or dexterity for thin laces.
- No-tie laces: No-tie laces spare seniors the struggle (and time) of tying their shoes or having to stop and re-tie shoes to prevent falls or loss of balance.
- Hook and loop fasteners: Also referred to as Velcro shoes, these fasteners completely eliminate the need for tying, and there’s no excess worry about tripping on untied laces.
- Slip-on shoes: Slip-on shoes include sandals, flip-flops, or any slipper that can slide onto the feet without the hands even touching the shoe. Some slip-on shoes are safe, while others are terrifying, so seniors need to exercise caution when selecting slip-on shoes. See our recommended sandals for seniors here.
- Hands-free sneakers: Remember the hands-free sneakers we mentioned earlier?
Summary and Final Recommendations
Donning shoes can be a daily struggle for seniors and older adults, especially if the wrong combination of medical issues and ill-fitting footwear match up.
With the right pair of shoes, adaptive tools, and modifications, seniors can wear their desired shoes daily with minimal struggle and decreased anxiety over falling.