Should Seniors Wear Shoes in the House? (A Therapist’s Perspective)

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There are pros and cons to wearing shoes indoors, especially in the case of our elderly loved ones. So read on as we explore a therapist’s perspective if seniors should wear shoes in the house.

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Should Seniors Wear Shoes in the House

Many seniors living in the United States may live by the same motto when it comes to owning their own home, which is “I do what I want!”

This attitude applies to following their own made-up house rules, including whether it’s appropriate to wear shoes in the house or not. Wearing shoes indoors becomes more than just a courtesy issue as you age.

As you get older, there are health considerations regarding your feet as well as fall prevention. This article will discuss the pros and cons of wearing shoes indoors and if seniors should wear shoes indoors or not.

Plus, I’ll recommend several types of shoes seniors can wear indoors and tips for wearing shoes inside the home. 

Pros of Wearing Shoes Indoors

If you grew up with parents who harped on you about dragging mud into the house and made you take your shoes off at the door, that might not be a worry anymore in your older years.

In fact, there are a lot of great reasons to wearing shoes indoors, including:

  • Protecting your feet from stray shards of glass, fiber, metal, and plastics: Seniors have thinning skin and less fat padding on the feet, making their toes more susceptible to injury and infection (which is especially dangerous for folks with diabetes).
  • Keeping your feet comfortable: Because you have less natural padding, standing barefoot on hard floors for prolonged periods can become extremely uncomfortable.
  • Providing your feet with traction: If you’re wearing shoes with excellent traction, you may be able to prevent slips and falls on slick floors.
  • Keeping your feet extra warm: Some seniors, especially with poor circulation, like to have some extra material around their feet, and socks just don’t do the trick.

Cons of Wearing Shoes Indoors

Now, let’s look at the potential downsides to wearing shoes indoors:

  • Wearing shoes in the house that you primarily implement for outdoor use increases the amount of mud and debris you bring into the home, which creates a mess and potential fall hazard.
  • Wearing shoes with too much traction on hardwood floors may cause you to trip or catch your toes.
  • Seniors’ feet tend to swell up at the end of the day with prolonged shoe-wearing and standing, which makes wearing shoes a little tight and uncomfortable.
  • Wearing the same shoes all day decreases ventilation to the feet, increasing seniors’ risk for fungal infections in the feet.
should seniors wear shoes in the house indoors
Wearing shoes indoors may help decrease the risk of falls.

Should Seniors/Elderly Wear Shoes Indoors?

With the right routine modifications, it’s totally doable. There’s a slew of research about seniors wearing footwear in their homes and fall prevention.

For the most part, wearing some form of footwear seems beneficial to decrease the risk of falls. However, specific criteria need to be met. If seniors don’t want to wear shoes in their own homes, non-slip socks are available.

Non-slip socks provide traction for slick or hardwood floors while allowing seniors enough sensory contact with the surface. Sensing the floor beneath them aids in balance and strengthening their lower leg muscles. 

What Types of Shoes Should Seniors Wear Indoors

Seniors and their loved ones should select shoes for indoor use based on the types of surfaces the seniors primarily walk over in their home: tile, hardwood, vinyl, carpet, linoleum, etc.

Additionally, shoes should match seniors’ needs and physical capacities. Use the following tips:

  • Footwear needs to have a certain level of traction for slick floors.
  • Shoes should fit comfortably and not slip off with slight movements.
  • Insoles should provide enough arch support but not too much. Too much arch support may contribute to low back and hip pain. 
  • Avoid shoes with narrow or elevated heels since this can contribute to unnecessary joint pain and loss of balance. 
  • Shoes should be flat with a wide heel to provide as much surface area in contact with the floor as possible. 
  • Shoes should not feel too heavy to cause tripping and falling.
  • Footwear should be made from material that provides optimal ventilation.
  • Shoes should provide good ankle, heel, and toe support.

For some seniors, using flip-flops or cheap slippers with no heel support is extremely tempting. If at all possible, please avoid this type of footwear at all costs.

But slip-on shoes and flip-flops offer limited foot support and decreased traction and are a significant fall risk in the home no matter what surface you walk on.

Tips for Wearing Shoes Inside

If you want to avoid tracking in dirt and debris, select a pair of shoes that are indoor footwear only, and keep your outdoor/community-use shoes outside.

This will keep random rocks, shards, and other small objects from getting into your home and possibly causing injury to your feet.

Additionally, this will help both pairs of your shoes last longer and allow your feet to ventilate and get exposed to much-needed circulation. Keep your indoor shoes in an easy-to-access place, somewhere that’s within reach.

should seniors wear shoes in the house tips
Consult a physical therapist or a doctor first if you plan to wear shoes indoors with a walker or a cane.

If you are wearing shoes indoors for the first time, and this goes against your normal “barefoot” routine, take the time to read and apply some of the following tips:

  • Sensory stimulation to your feet is now limited, so you may not notice changes in the flooring, such as steps and thresholds. Be mindful and avoid tripping on thresholds or changes in your home’s flooring. If you need to, have a loved one place neon tape down or reminder cards to cue you to look down at the thresholds. 
  • If you are indoors all day, take breaks and doff your shoes. Elevate your bare feet to allow ventilation and circulation, so your feet don’t swell.
  • Remove all throw rugs! I can’t stress this enough. Shoes or no shoes, throw rugs in combination with any walking mobility is a recipe for disaster. When you’re barefoot, you may feel the rug coming, but when you are in shoes, you may not realize you are crossing over an unstable piece of material. Hence, get rid of the throw rugs!
  • If you are wearing shoes with a walker or a cane, consult a physical therapist or a doctor, especially if this is new to your routine. 

Summary and Final Recommendations

Are shoes appropriate for indoor use among seniors?

The research shows that seniors who wear the right footwear indoors are at less risk of falling. However, the footwear seniors choose must meet specific criteria to make it all work out.

If seniors opt to wear shoes indoors, we recommend purchasing footwear designated for indoor use only. Keep an extra pair of shoes for outdoor use to prevent tracking mud and debris into the house.

For seniors new to wearing shoes indoors, be aware of your surroundings and how your feet communicate with the environment around you now that they are covered.

If you have any questions or concerns about wearing shoes indoors, especially if you think it could impact any specific medical conditions you may have, consult with a primary physician for additional advice.

References:

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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