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Choosing ill-fitting footwear is one of the worst things you can do for your feet at any time of your life. However, as we get older and our bodies become more delicate, it is even more important to take good care of the feet and choose footwear that is supportive and comfortable.
This guide covers the important factors you should consider when choosing footwear for aging feet. With this advice in mind, you will be able to choose the perfect pair of shoes that will allow you to remain active, as well as help keep painful foot conditions at bay and minimize the risk of slips and falls.
Importance of Choosing the Right Footwear for Seniors
You may think that putting on any old pair of shoes will be enough to protect your feet, but this is a common misconception. Wearing footwear that doesn’t fit correctly or that doesn’t offer sufficient support and comfort is a big mistake and can affect more than just how your feet feel.
According to one piece of research, decreased mobility because of foot problems is one of the first things associated with a negative quality of life. This study goes on to demonstrate that as well as pre-existing health conditions and physical impairments, ill-fitting footwear is one of the main factors that contributes to pain and mobility problems within the elderly population.
For this reason, it is essential that seniors are well educated on the best type of footwear. Wearing the wrong shoes can affect your gait making walking much more of a challenge than it otherwise would be. Moreover, shoes that don’t have good traction may increase your risk of slipping and falling.
You will also notice that you are more susceptible to uncomfortable and even painful foot conditions when you opt for the wrong footwear. Shoes that are too tight and don’t give the feet freedom as well as optimal support could result in the development of things like calluses, corns, and bunions. One of the most common painful foot conditions that results from bad footwear is plantar fasciitis which is an inflammation of the connective piece of tissue under the heel. This can be incredibly painful and take you off your feet for some time.
What to Look for When Choosing Footwear for Seniors
When shopping for footwear, there are several things that you should look for. Of course, the needs of each individual will vary, and you may require certain features more than others. But keeping an eye out for the following will ensure that you always have an excellent fit and great support.
1. Opt for Slip-Resistant Soles
Whether you are walking on a smooth, flat surface or tackling a challenging hike, one of the most important things to look for in a pair of shoes is a slip-resistant sole. The sole should be firm and feature a good traction pattern. The smoother the sole, the more likely you are to slip when wearing them.
By opting for shoes with excellent tread, your feet will be better able to grip the floor, and this will reduce the likelihood of becoming one of the 36 million older Americans that fall each year.
2. Ensure That the Shoes Provides Sufficient Cushioning
Every time you take a step, vibrations from the energy transfer of the step travel from the ground, through your body, and to your joints. As seniors, we are more prone to joint problems and pain, and preventing this starts from the ground up.
When choosing footwear, it is essential to opt for something with a good level of cushioning. Looking for an EVA midsole will provide you with excellent cushioning, which will feel great under your feet as you take each step. But more importantly, this cushioning will act as a shock absorber, preventing energy transfer and keeping your joints free from pain.
3. Ensure They Fit Perfectly
It is no good going into a store and picking out the first pair of shoes you stumble across; you cannot guarantee a good fit, even if the label displays your shoe size. The reason for this is every company makes their shoes slightly different, so sizes are likely to vary. The best way to avoid problems with the fit is to have your feet measured every time you buy a new pair. The process takes a few minutes and will ensure ultimate comfort.
If you don’t do this, there is a chance that the shoes will be too tight, and this can result in pressure sores which can affect your ability to walk comfortably during the healing process.
4. Wider Foot Opening
As we get older, things that we used to find simple suddenly become a lot more challenging. If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone. Problems with dexterity and balance are common among the elderly community, but choosing shoes that cater to these needs can help to lessen your problems.
One of the simplest yet effective features that you can look for in a pair of shoes is a wide foot opening. If you do have balance or dexterity problems, this will make getting your shoes on and off much more manageable, and more importantly, safe.
5. Choose Breathable Materials
Moisture building up inside your shoes can result in the fabric rubbing against your skin and causing blisters. On a hot day, when the feet are naturally going to sweat more, this problem is severely exacerbated.
But there is a solution in the way of choosing materials with breathable material. Gore-Tex is one of the most famous breathable membranes and lines many pairs of shoes offering great airflow and moisture control.
6. Opt for Shoes With a Wide Mouth
If the toes become squashed, this can lead to a multitude of problems. Most concerning is hammertoe which is a condition in which the ligaments that usually keep your toes straight become damaged, causing the toes to bend unnaturally.
To avoid this problem and others like it, you should wear shoes that have a spacious toe box. This front portion of the shoe should be wide enough to comfortably accommodate the toes and allow you to move them freely. People with wide feet are especially susceptible to problems in this area, so be sure to look out for footwear that is designed with wide feet in mind.
7. High Back Improves Stability
The back of your footwear is just as important as the front and needs to be stable enough to hold the foot and ankle in position. If the feet are allowed to move around inside the shoe, this can lead to blisters and sores. Having a high back and a stable heel counter (an insert in the back of the shoe) will ensure that your ankles have excellent stability.
On top of keeping the foot secure, this aspect will also ensure that you do not roll the ankle and provides additional safety when walking.
8. Avoid Backless Shoes
While they may allow the feet to breathe during hot weather and certainly look nice, sandals and flip-flops can be dangerous. They do not offer the support and stability that your feet need and are more likely to cause you to slip and fall.
9. Always Try Footwear on First
You should never purchase a pair of shoes without having first tried them on. This gives you a clearer idea of the fit and will help avoid issues down the line. There may be a breaking-in period, especially for things like walking boots and sneakers, but this isn’t a reflection on the fit.
When you are trying on footwear, always be sure to take a pair of socks with you, even if you aren’t wearing them for the rest of the day. Your socks will cause the shoes to fit more snugly, so you need to make sure that you choose a pair that fits while wearing socks.
You will also need to make sure that you try the footwear on different surfaces. If possible, walk around on tiled floors, wood floors, and carpets to give you a clear idea of how good the grip is.
10. Avoid High Heels
Shoes that have high heels should be avoided. These are more of a fashion statement than a practical shoe and are very likely to cause you to trip and fall. These types of shoes will impact your balance which, as we get older, deteriorates anyway, so the last thing you want to do is hinder this further by wearing unstable shoes.
The best way to remain steady on your feet is to choose a pair of shoes that have a heel less than one inch. There are many attractive lower-heeled pairs out there that allow you to retain a stylish appearance.
Best Types of Shoes for Seniors
The number of different types of shoes is dizzying, and even when you know what you are looking for, it can still be confusing. But knowing the right types of shoes for older adults will narrow down your choice and help you to make a practical and safe decision.
With age, our dexterity can worsen, and this can make tying laces much trickier than it once was. The good news is that there is a lot of lace-less shoes that are much easier to fasten. Velcro is a common option and requires very little dexterity to open and close securely.
There are also a number of slip-on shoes that may be suitable, but just be sure that they offer full support and fit securely.
Walking shoes are designed to be incredibly supportive for people who may be on their feet for long periods, especially on rough terrain. These shoes come with a range of features, such as additional cushioning, orthotic insoles, and excellent traction. Not only will they keep your feet comfortable and prevent conditions such as bunions and corns, but they will also provide you with better protection against slips and falls.
You will also find that a lot of these walking shoes are easy to take on and off and come with a wide range of fastening options for varying levels of dexterity.
Orthotic shoes are custom-made to suit your exact needs and are excellent for people with existing foot conditions. There is also the option to purchase an orthotic insole that slips inside your regular shoes providing the additional support you need.
People with flat feet may find these types of shoes particularly useful as they will support the arch of the foot, preventing pain and pressure. You’ll find that most well-made shoes will have removable insoles making it easier to choose stylish shoes and insert your own bespoke support.
Sneakers come in all shapes and sizes, but many of the higher-end sneakers are excellent for active seniors who need supportive and comfortable shoes. This type of footwear is designed for sports, and while you may be using them simply for walking, the features will give your feet the support they need.
As with any other type of shoe, it is important to check that the sneakers have good traction, heel and ankle support, and a comfortable, well-made midsole for extra support. There are some sneakers that are made for fashion purposes only and these should be avoided.
Diabetes is a health condition that can affect the feet, so wearing the right footwear is one of the best ways to alleviate problems. There are diabetic shoes that differ from regular shoes in that they have features that are specific to the problems that diabetics may face.
Things like poor circulation and edema can make wearing normal footwear uncomfortable and even painful. However, diabetic shoes feature things like a soft internal fabric to prevent irritation, as well as a stretchy upper. You will also notice that these shoes have additional cushioning to reduce shock and impact on the feet and a deep toe box to allow for free movement of the toes.
All of these features will help to improve circulation and your range of movement. In addition to this, wearing diabetic shoes will ensure that the skin is kept in the best condition and will reduce the risk of skin breakdown, which is a common side effect of the condition.
Where to Shop for Comfortable Shoes for Seniors
Finding the right shoes may be something of a challenge. With so many stores and websites selling fashion shoes as opposed to footwear that is supportive for the feet, many seniors are unsure of where to look.
The following footwear brands specialize in developing comfortable and supportive shoes that are particularly suited for seniors who may be suffering from mobility impairments:
Orthofeet is a company that offers footwear to support a more mobile and comfortable lifestyle. They cater to a range of needs and make shoes that are fully customizable in terms of fit since every pair comes with two sets of removable spacers so you can create the best fit for your feet.
The company specializes in various areas, but one of its most notable products is the Ortho-cushion system, which is designed to provide superior cushioning and contours to the shape of your feet. The biomechanical insole provides pain and pressure relief as well as helping to reduce the chance of corns and calluses developing.
Orthofeet shoes are seamfree for extra comfort and are made from stretchy material which is ideal for those suffering from hammertoe or bunions. What’s more, the shoes come with either a two-way strap system or a tieless lace system making them easy to take on and off.
Many seniors struggle with bunions, and this means that wider shoes are required. Sole Bliss is a company that was founded after the owner developed a bunion and needed to find shoes that would be wide enough and not cause her pain. After realizing that so many other women were suffering in the same way, she started Sole Bliss which is now one of the most reputable bunion shoe specialists in the world.
Sole Bliss makes a range of footwear that perfectly caters to the needs of bunion sufferers. With wide toe boxes, stretchy fabric, excellent arch support, and triple-layered memory foam, the shoes are extremely comfortable. What’s more, Sole Bliss works to create attractive and stylish footwear, so you don’t need to compromise on how you look.
Vionic is a brand that specializes in orthotic shoes which are designed to restore the natural function of the foot. If the feet don’t function correctly, this can lead to other physical issues such as joint pain and back pain. Wearing this type of footwear could work well if you experience these types of problems. Research has shown that these shoes are very effective in relieving heel pain.
The Vionic range of shoes offers functionality and arch support as well as excellent style. If you are a fashion-conscious individual, then this may be the company for you. They make a range of men’s and women’s shoes that you would never know were as supportive as they are!
Having suitable midsoles is essential in keeping the feet comfortable and absorbing the energy that results from each step. Sketchers make shoes with memory foam midsoles, which means that they make you feel as though you are walking on a cloud. All of their shoes feature a removable insole which makes them ideal for getting a customized fit.
The internal arch support ensures that your feet remain in a natural position and pain-free. What’s even better is that the company works closely with podiatrists to ensure that all of their products meet their exacting standards.
If you are looking for stylish, modern footwear that still offers excellent support then Sketchers will be able to provide this.
Much more than just a shoe manufacturer, Dr. Comfort has its very own orthotics lab that develops and designs shoes for diabetics, as well as modifications and inserts for a massive range of foot conditions. Your feet will be scanned allowing the company to create shoes that exactly meet your needs, and it isn’t as expensive as you might think. After all, your health and comfort are priceless.
Dr. Comfort makes an impressive selection of shoes including walking boots, ladies heeled shoes, sandals, activewear, and much more. Their focus is on providing the comfort and support needed to remain active.
Silverts makes a varied range of shoes that are ideal for seniors. In addition to this, the company offers a good selection of diabetic socks. They specialize in creating footwear for the elderly and disabled, so each product is designed with these needs in mind. The shoes and socks are suitable for temporary use for people who are recovering from surgery or who are undergoing physical therapy.
With slip-resistant shoes and those that are easy to fasten with Velcro and zippers, there is a wide choice. You will also find a range of shock-absorbing sandals that feature secure straps and are ideal for warmer weather.
The footwear comes in wide widths, making them ideal for people with bunions and other similar foot conditions. Moreover, this gives you the assurance that the footwear isn’t restrictive and that excellent toe movement is allowed.