Aging is an inevitable process that can feel quite taxing on the body. Circulation, nerve conduction, muscle strength/flexibility and balance are all factors that are negatively affected as we age. As these processes change with age, our risk of falling and acquiring disease/infection may increase.
What is Happening?
As we age, our bodily processes begin to slow down or function at a less optimal level. The nerves that send messages to the feet and the extremities do not send electrical messages as efficiently as they used to. This may lead to a loss in sensation. A loss of sensory feedback in one’s feet can lead to injuries, wounds, ulcers and ultimately an increased risk of falling. In addition to losing sensation, the body’s blood vessels tend to lose elasticity which leads to cardiac issues. When the elasticity of the vessels deteriorate blood is more likely to pool in the veins which causes the feet and ankles to swell. Having proper blood circulation throughout the body is of paramount importance to one’s overall heart health. In addition, our skeletal system may also take a negative impact. Our body’s composition changes over time, developing musculature imbalances and weakening. Some common foot pathologies that develop include flat feet, bunions, claw toes, diabetic ulcers and calluses.
Having a health care provider routinely inspect your loved ones feet can help ensure they maintain their independence and health for as long as possible. Custom foot orthotics help by redistributing the pressure and providing support, we are able to stabilize the feet, preventing falls.
- Compression stockings help improve the blood flow from the feet back to the heart, limiting the swelling and fluid retention in the lower leg regions.
- Properly fitting shoes will ensure no blisters, wounds or infections occur due to ill-fitting shoes (too big or too small). Wearing the proper size and width will also limit the risk of tripping and falling.
- Foot orthoses are helpful for individuals with sore feet/legs, dropped arches or has decreased fat pads under their metatarsals or heels. Foot orthoses can be used for increased comfort, proper alignment and support.
What To Look for in Comfortable Shoes for the Elderly.
Shoes that properly support your feet allow the muscles of your feet to work less and can result in fewer injuries. Here are a few features you may want to look for in seniors’ footwear:
- A non-slip sole: This is essential to ensure stability & prevent falls. However, people with conditions like Parkinson’s may want to look for smooth soles that will accommodate a shuffling gait.
- Lace-free closures, such as Velcro straps: Flip-flops and other types of shoes that don’t anchor to your feet could easily slip off or cause you to trip. Many seniors want their shoes to stay firmly on their feet without having to bend down and fiddle with laces. Velcro shoes for elderly ladies & men are easier to fasten and come in various styles.
- A wide mouth: A wider opening makes it easier to get your foot in and out of the shoe, especially if your feet tend to swell. If you wear compression socks, make sure the shoe has enough space to fit them.
- Adequate padding: Cushioning absorbs and disperses the shock of your foot impacting the ground, thus reducing the effect of the impact on your hips & back. If you tend to bump your feet against objects, you may want a shoe with more padding in the upper (the part that encloses your foot).
- The right material: Shoes with uppers made of sturdy materials offer more support and insulation. On the other hand, a softer upper made of mesh will be more lightweight and provide more breathability. Some shoes feature a breathable mesh upper combined with a supportive overlay, which allows the shoe to bend with your foot without causing you to lose control.
- Removable insoles: If you plan to use either over-the-counter or custom orthotics for shoes, you may need to be able to take the insole out.
- A high back: This can help stabilize your ankle. A hard insert in the heel gives the shoe a firm structure and can help keep you from falling. However, it can also scratch or irritate your Achilles tendon if it doesn’t have enough padding.
- A low heel: Heels that are higher than about an inch and a half place undue strain on your toes and the balls of your feet by shifting your weight forward. But a shoe that is totally flat can also be uncomfortable. Look for a wide, slightly raised heel that can help take the strain off your feet and legs.
- Adequate traction: Good grip is critical, especially in shoes for elderly people with balance problems. Look for groove patterns on the bottom of the shoe that extend right to the edge. These grooves allow water to escape and help keep you steady in wet conditions.
A Few Reputable Shoe Companies:
- New Balance
- Dr. Comfort