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How to Choose Safe Footwear for Older Adults

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According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the most dangerous health and safety risk older adults face today. Falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among Americans over the age of 65, and of those who fall, two-thirds will fall again within six months.

Even older adults who are relatively strong and healthy are at risk for falls and fall-related injuries. Falling—and the fear of falling—can cause older adults to miss out on activities and social interactions, which negatively impacts their quality of life.

Thankfully, falling is not an inevitable part of the aging process. There are many ways to prevent falls, including choosing the right footwear. Shoes that are ill-fitting, uncomfortable, or have a slippery sole can cause seniors to trip or stumble. However, wearing the right shoes can help seniors maintain their balance, improve their gait, and ultimately reduce their risk of experiencing a dangerous fall.

Here’s what to look for when choosing safe footwear for an older loved one:

Fit and comfort

As we grow older, it’s natural for our feet to change shape. Older adults often have a lowered arch, but wider insteps and ankles. For this reason, shoes that fit comfortably a few years ago may no longer be right for your loved one. Ill-fitting shoes may cause pain in the toes, arch, or heel, and cause your loved one to walk with an irregular gait.

Because our feet naturally expand throughout the day, it’s a good idea to go shoe shopping in the afternoon hours to ensure the best fit. Have your loved one walk around the store in the shoes before purchasing them. Are the shoes sturdy and supportive? Do they stay on your loved one’s feet, or do they slip off? Are they too tight? Take your time when selecting a pair of shoes to be certain they fit correctly and don’t cause any pain or discomfort.

Non-slip soles

Look for shoes that have a non-slip sole to prevent the risk of falling. Typically, non-slip shoes have a softer rubber sole that grabs onto the surface of the floor, making it safer to walk on floors that might be wet or slippery. When the tread on the bottom of the shoes is worn out, it’s time to replace them.


Shoes made from lightweight material are optimal for older adults, who may have trouble lifting their feet off the ground. Because some seniors shuffle their feet when they walk, heavy shoes can increase their risk of falling. Look for shoes that are designed to be sturdy yet lightweight. For example, running shoes are leading the way in lightweight footwear technology. Even if your loved one doesn’t plan on running anytime soon, running shoes can be a comfortable choice for everyday walking.

Flat or low heel

It’s best to choose shoes with heels that are less than one inch tall for maximum safety and stability. For special occasions, wear shoes with a low, broad heel. Shoes with tall and narrow heels may contribute to poor balance and gait, which only increases the risk of a fall or injury.

No laces

Untied shoelaces can pose a tripping hazard, especially for older adults with balance problems. Likewise, if your loved one has trouble bending over or arthritis that makes tying laces difficult, choosing footwear with velcro straps instead of laces is a good solution. Elastic slip-on shoes are another safe option—just be sure they have a snug fit.

You can help prevent falls

Falls are dangerous, but fortunately, most are also preventable. Today’s senior living communities, including Bethany Village, recognize the importance of taking a proactive approach to reducing falls among residents. At Bethany Village, we’re proud to offer evidence-based fall prevention programs designed to help residents reduce their fall risk and overcome fears of falling.

If you’re worried about the risk of an older loved one falling at home, it may be time to consider moving to a senior living community that’s focused on fall prevention and safety. To learn more about Living at Bethany Village, please contact us today.  

Written by Bethany Village

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