Arthritis is a bit of an umbrella term that describes a group of diseases that impact the body’s joints. The most common form is osteoarthritis, which affects many individuals, usually over the age of 45.
The cartilage between the joints, supposed to provide cushion, slowly erodes, causing horrible pain, increased inflammation, and limited joint range and mobility.
So, how does arthritis impact older adults’ abilities to put on their shoes?
This article will discuss how arthritis changes seniors’ capabilities to put on shoes, tips for putting on shoes with less pain, and tools that make it easier to put on shoes.
So keep on reading to learn more – or – we have video and audio-only options for you too!
How Arthritis Affects Your Ability to Put on Shoes
Arthritis works in stages of severity, wearing and tearing at the joints slowly until skeletal structures are just rubbing together bone-on-bone. This can cause excruciating pain for some individuals, especially during functional movement.
Since arthritis can affect any joint in the body, the possibilities are endless regarding how your movement is impacted by arthritis when putting on a pair of shoes.
Here are a few examples:
Arthritis of the Hands
- Tying and pulling laces
- Pulling shoes over the toes and heels
- Adjusting socks while putting shoes on
Arthritis of the Neck and Back
- Reaching and bending to don shoes
- Tolerating a bent-over position without pain
- Restricted bending at the neck and spine makes it difficult to see what you’re doing with your shoes
Arthritis of the Hips
- Bending at the hips to don shoes
- Crossing your leg over the other to don shoes
Arthritis of the Knees
- Stomping or stepping into the shoe
- Bending the knee to cross one foot over the other
- Bending the knee to don the shoe backward in a standing position
Arthritis of the Feet and Ankles
- Stomping or stepping into the shoe
- Wiggling the shoe onto the foot
- Tolerating the shoe with prolonged wear
- Maintaining a comfortable balance
Tips for Putting on Shoes with Less Pain
Putting on shoes during your daily routine shouldn’t be a painful process. Still, the sad reality is that many seniors have to live with the inflammatory effects of arthritis and have learned to work around the symptoms.
There are some ways to put on shoes with less pain, even if the pain isn’t completely eliminated:
- Give your joints some much-needed love before your dressing routine. Stay on top of your inflammatory medication, try your daily exercise and stretch routines, utilize heat pads or ice (if you find those effective), etc.
- Avoid shoes that don’t fit your feet well. Shoes that are too tight contribute to increased swelling and inflammation. Shoes that are too loose may contribute to your joints doing more work than they need to just to keep your shoes on your feet.
- Pick a donning routine that works for you. If bending to put your shoes on is too painful, it may be time to try out some tools or hands-free slip-on shoes that minimize the need for bending. If you have painful arthritis in your hands, throw out the laces and find comfortable lace-free shoes.
- Put on shoes while sitting to avoid overstretching your neck, spine, and hips. This can also be a great prevention measure against losing your balance or falling while donning your shoes.
- Select shoes that you feel comfortable wearing, especially if arthritis significantly impacts the joints in your feet. For severe cases, it never hurts to consult with an orthopedic specialist about specialized shoes or in-soles custom-made for feet riddled with arthritis.
- Wear socks with your shoes that have slick enough material that makes it easier to slide your foot into the shoe. That way, you’re not spending your whole morning fighting with your shoe and wearing out the joints in your feet, ankles, and knees. (See our sock recommendations here)
Tools that Make it Easier to Put on Your Shoes
These days, seniors have access to adaptive equipment and even alternative footwear to make their lives much more manageable. They do not need to deal with arthritis pain when putting on their shoes.
Many handheld adaptive equipment devices come with ergonomically-friendly grips so that seniors with arthritic hands can use them comfortably. Here are a few examples:
- Shoe horn: Shoe horns are easy to use and slide right into the shoe’s heel behind the foot. The heel slides down the shaft of the horn so you can place the shoe on the foot with absolute simplicity.
- Dressing stick: Dressing sticks are typically used to assist in pulling pants and undergarments up and over the legs. However, you can also use dressing sticks to help stabilize the shoe in combination with the shoe horn if needed.
- Reacher grabber: A reacher grabber is an elongated piece of equipment that prevents any need for bending at the hips and is excellent for retrieving shoes.
- Hands-free shoes: Hands-free shoes are excellent alternative footwear that provides the stability of any tennis shoe or sneaker without the need for bending down and tying shoelaces or fixing fasteners. We recommend Zeba Shoes here.
- Velcro shoes: Velcro straps eliminate the need for increased dexterity and fine motor coordination, which is required in tying laces. Velcro shoes help reduce pain in arthritic hands when putting on shoes in many ways.
Summary and Final Recommendations
Arthritis is a debilitating disorder of the joints. It can impact just about any body area, restricting the range of motion and general mobility.
Seniors with arthritis, depending on severity, can greatly struggle with putting on shoes due to pain, inflammation, and lack of movement.
Aside from staying on top of medication regimens and treating joints with at-home remedies, exercises, and modalities, seniors can adopt strategies and tools to minimize their risk for arthritic pain while putting on shoes.
Seniors with arthritis in the severest stages should consult with their physician or an orthopedic specialist regarding specialized footwear to minimize their risk for pain and further damage to their joints.
- Osteoarthritis (2022). National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/osteoarthritis#:~:text=Osteoarthritis%20is%20the%20most%20common,is%20more%20common%20in%20women.