As the years pass by, do you ever wonder how long it’s been since you’ve touched your own feet? Do you think you can bend down to touch your toes or even lean far enough to put on socks or shoes?
For many seniors or elderly folks, this is not even a remote possibility due to lack of range, pain, or fear of falling.
This article will discuss common causes of difficulty in putting on shoes and how older adults can put on shoes more safely.
I will also share some tools to help put on shoes more easily, and advice on how to help seniors or elderly individuals put shoes on.
Common Causes of Difficulty in Putting on Shoes
Putting on shoes is a little different for everyone. Some of us like to sit and bend forward. Some of us are “criss-cross applesauce” people.
Some of us “slip n’ stomp” the shoes on while standing, even though we know it will probably break down the heel of the shoe eventually.
Here are a few anatomical reasons why putting on shoes may be challenging for seniors or elderly folks:
- Lower back pain
- Recent hip surgery
- Recent knee surgery
- Swollen feet
- Poor sensation in the legs and feet
- Limited range in the spine and hips
- Limited flexibility in the hamstrings
- Lack of flexibility in the ankle (can’t get that rolling and wriggling effect to work your foot into the shoe)
- Fear of falling
- Fear of injury
Here are a few shoe-related reasons why shoes are difficult to put on:
- Ill-fitting shoes (shoes that are too tight or too loose or even too narrow)
- Too many laces (which is awful for someone with arthritis in the hands)
- Smooth-soled shoes with zero traction (slip n’ stomp turns into slip n’ slide)
- Sweaty or sticky feet won’t slide into a shoe properly
How to Put on Shoes More Safely
Every senior or older adult will have reasons for struggling with putting on footwear, whether it’s because of a health condition or a poor-fitting shoe.
In any case, it’s essential to maintain your safety, wear the proper footwear that keeps you comfortable and happy, and practice habits that will keep you off the ground.
Here are a few tricks to putting on shoes more safely:
- Sitting instead of standing to put on shoes
- Maintaining a straight back with any bending at the waist
- Only cross your foot up on one knee if you have the hip flexibility to do so. For hip patients, this is an absolute no-no!
- If you would like, sit on a chair and prop your foot up on a footstool or sturdy box to bring your foot closer to you. This prevents excessive bending while donning your shoe.
- Sprinkle a small amount of talc powder into the in-steps of your shoes. This will help your foot slide into the shoe a little easier.
- If any bending is out of the question due to low back pain, hip surgery, or spinal surgery, consider using adaptive equipment such as a sock aid, a reacher, a shoe horn, or a dressing stick.
Tools to Help with Putting on Shoes
There are a few ways seniors can tackle getting shoes on without even bending over. Read the following scenario:
Janet is a 76-year-old female who lives at home with her husband and daughter. Recently, Janet underwent a total hip replacement. The doctor recommends that Janet not bend forward at her hips for the next 4-6 weeks to adequately heal the new hip joint.
Janet likes to wear velcro tennis shoes for indoor and outdoor use at home. During her stay, she received occupational therapy services. She learned how to use several pieces of adaptive equipment, including a sock aid, a shoe horn, a dressing stick, and a reacher.
If a senior is medically unable to bend forward (or doesn’t want to for fear of experiencing pain or falling), several adaptive tools help prevent any need for bending at the hips:
- Shoe horn: a metal or plastic piece of equipment with an extended handle that slides into the shoe’s heel. The user just slips their heel down the arch of the horn, and the foot glides right in.
- Reacher: a reacher grabber is handy for anything, especially for retrieving shoes and socks from the floor.
- Dressing stick: dressing sticks are generally helpful for donning pants and underwear. However, dressing sticks are also helpful for stabilizing the shoe while using a shoe horn at the same time.
Suppose you want to eliminate the need for any of these tools.
In that case, some seniors like to invest in hands-free tennis shoes where they just slide their feet in without compromising the heel support. We recommend these from Zeba Shoes:
How to Help Seniors/Elderly Put Shoes On
Some senior couples have it worked into their relationship that they help each other put their shoes on when one is experiencing medical ailments.
In other situations, seniors and elderly individuals are accustomed to receiving help from children, grandchildren, or even official caregivers.
If this is your situation, here are a few safety tips for caregivers in helping seniors to put their shoes on:
- Do not compromise your back by doing all the bending instead. Make sure the senior is sitting or lying down so that you can access their feet while you are in a sitting position.
- If it’s helpful, prop their feet up on a footstool or box to bring their feet closer to you to prevent you from bending too far.
- Don’t be too forceful when putting on shoes, especially if the senior has compromised skin, blisters, open sores, or unkempt toenails.
- Talk to the senior about any discomforts they experience with their shoes because it may be time for a fitting for a new pair.
Summary and Final Recommendations
Putting on shoes doesn’t have to be terrifying or a hassle for seniors or elderly individuals. Some circumstances call for seniors to put on shoes with limited bending at the hips.
In these circumstances, adaptive tools and shoes are available to accommodate their needs.
Loved ones can help put on seniors’ shoes by taking care of their own bodies, minding their backs, and paying attention to the seniors’ comfort levels with their current footwear.