It is often a combination of foot problems and unsafe footwear that increase an older adult’s risk of falling.
Foot problems can impair an older adult’s balance and change the way they walk, putting them at increased risk of falling. Footwear styles that have minimal contact with the ground, such as high heels, or that have poor grip can also upset an older adult’s balance and contribute to falls.
Characteristics of safe footwear include:
- Shoes with thinner, firmer soles may improve foot position and sensation
- Slip-resistant with tread (grip)
- A low square heel improves stability
- A high and supportive collar
- Shoes should fit well and not be too loose or too tight on the foot
People with diabetes may be at an increased risk of falling due to damage to the foot’s nerves and blood supply. For more information about the link between diabetes and foot health, please refer to Diabetes Australia and Diabetes WA.
How can I assist older adults to wear safe footwear?
There are three key factors to consider when assessing an older adult’s risk of falling in relation to footwear and foot problems:
- Footwear – Do the older adult’s shoes fit well and are they safe?
- Foot problems – Does the older person have foot pain or a different foot problem?
- Referring – Do you need to refer the older adult to a podiatrist who may be able to assess these problems further and make recommendations for footwear?
Consider using the Stay On Your Feet® Shoe Safety Checklist with older adults to start the conversation about their shoe safety.
Who can help?
There are a number of podiatrists and other organisations who can assist with assessment or interventions for foot conditions. Podiatrists can provide advice on which footwear is suitable for an older adult and can make recommendations that they can take with them when purchasing new shoes.
The following sites can assist you in finding a local podiatrist:
- Podiatry WA : Find Podiatrist
- Department of Health and public funded podiatry services WA Metro and Rural
- Moorditj Djena is a podiatry and diabetes education program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Perth metropolitan area.
Find out more about falls prevention for Podiatrists, including the role of podiatry in falls prevention, falls assessment and screening tools, falls referral pathways in WA and Podiatry interventions. Download the Falls Prevention for Podiatrists Resource.