Footwear and Foot Health

Footwear that fits well and offers good support is very important for preventing falls.

Many of us have a favorite pair of worn-out house slippers or walk barefoot in our homes, but having good support underneath us can make all the difference. Wearing unsafe shoes can put you at risk of a fall. Think comfort over fashion in this case! Studies show that there are a few factors that you should keep in mind when thinking about your feet and footwear: 

  • Barefoot versus wearing shoes: Wearing shoes can reduce the risk of a fall, even while inside, as shoes provide more grip and protect from changes in flooring surface.

  • Heels: The greater the heel height, the higher the risk, especially if the heel is higher than 1.75 inches. The narrower the heel, the less stable the shoe. 

  • Keep your shoes strapped on: Wear shoes with laces, straps, or buckles to keep your feet in place. 

  • Shoes are like tires – they have tread. Well-loved shoes with smooth tread have decreased traction and can increase the risk of a fall. Over time, the tread on our shoes tends to wear out. Replacing our shoes with worn tread is important. 

  • Wearing shoes with thin, hard soles can help us “feel” the ground underneath our shoes, making it easier to detect changes in flooring surface.

  • Foot health: As we age, our feet change! We may get thinner, dryer skin and may lose strength in our feet and toes, which we use for gripping as we walk. We may have less range of motion in our ankles, and be more likely to have dropped arches and flat feet. All of these factors can affect the way we walk or impact our balance, which can lead to a fall. Are you having problems with your feet? Don’t forget to mention any issues to your provider at your next appointment. 

I think people underestimate the importance of proper footwear.

Harriet (age 70)

Milwaukee County, WI

There are items that we can use during the icy Wisconsin winters to help make our footwear safer. Ice cleats, for example brands such as Yaktrax®, can help add traction and reduce your risk of falling. Ice cleats range in price from $10-$50+. 

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