How can the right footwear prevent falls?

Each year in the UK about one-third of people over 65 will fall. There are some simple things people can do to help themselves stay steady on their feet. One of these is wearing the right footwear. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that a multi-faceted foot care programme can reduce the number of falls by 36%. It stated that foot and ankle exercises, foot orthoses and wearing appropriate footwear are all key in preventing falls.

Which sort of shoes are unsafe?

Some footwear can increase the risk of slips, trips and falls. It can cause poor balance and gait or make it difficult to judge surface friction and distance from the floor. Examples of unsuitable footwear include:

  • Loose, worn or backless slippers - there are one of the most common causes of older people falling
  • Slip-on shoes such as sling backs or flip flops which can slip and trip you up
  • Shoes with slippery or worn soles can cause you to slip up, especially in wet weather
  • Shoes with a heel higher than one inch or with a narrow heel as they make your foot unstable and can cause your ankle to turn

What are the characteristics of a safe shoe?

Older people should be advised about the importance of wearing well-fitting shoes and about the characteristics that can aid walking and gait. These include:

  • A high back or collar to support the ankle
  • A hard, slip-resistant sole
  • Heel height lower than one inch

Safe shoes need a supportive collar, slip-resistant sole and stable heel

It is also recommended that older people wear well-fitted, slip-resistant slippers or house shoes indoors rather than walking barefoot or in socks or tights. When buying indoor footwear look for:

  • A strong touch-fastening strap on the front to ensure they won't slip off
  • A wide opening to make it easy to get your foot in and out of the slipper which is important if you have restricted mobility
  • A house-shoe (such as the blue style pictured below) which can offer the comfort of a slipper but with the stable support of a shoe

Some examples of safe indoor footwear