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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Importance of Footwear for Older Adults

For decades and decades your feet have taken a beating - carrying you over a hundred thousand miles in your lifetime, literally! As we age, a few things can happen that affect foot health including losing feeling in the feet, developing an illness that affects blood circulation to the feet (like diabetes), or incurring an injury or ailment the requires treatment and recovery.

In addition to basic foot care like washing and drying feet regularly, moisturizing them, exercising ankles and toes, and monitoring foot sores, one of the most important things you can do for your health is to wear proper footwear. Here’s why:

Helps Prevent Falls

1 out of 3 seniors will experience a fall, and falls can lead to serious injury including fractured hips, lacerations, broken bones, and bruising. Footwear is a crucial factor in preventing falls in the home and other places because it provides stability and support when walking or standing.

Open-toed shoes that can catch corners of rugs or items on the floor are a recipe for disaster, while closed-toe shoes that are too large and let your foot slip out easily are just as bad. Shoes with larger than a 1-inch heel can also affect balance and coordination, and lead to a fall. Proper fitting shoes should be snug but not too small, hug the heel, provide good arch support, have decent heel cushioning and ankle padding, and be flexible to allow for bending while walking.

Addresses Pain

Foot pain is an increasingly common complaint of older adults with 87% of seniors reporting experiencing at least one foot problem. Foot ailments can include bunions, hammertoes, corns, calluses, heel pain, arthritic affliction, athlete’s foot, and discolored or ingrown toenails. Increased pressure or irritation from any or all of these ailments can be extremely painful, while others can lead to infection if not treated.

Appropriate footwear that does not rub and cause sores or blisters on any part of the foot is super important. Custom orthotics or inserts like plantar fasciitis insoles can take footwear to the next level too by providing added support and pain relief which addresses muscle strain and improper gait.

Promotes Activity

Well-fitting walking shoes can empower regular exercise which is vital to senior health, aiding in preventing hypertension, fighting osteoporosis and heart disease, as well as combating bone loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Depending on your stride, gait, weight, and level of activity (i.e. are you taking brisk walks on a flat road or hiking), the type of walking shoe you need will vary.

So how you do find a great shoe that is going to support you and keep you mobile for years to come? If experiencing a problematic foot issue, visit your doctor or a podiatrist first to seek treatment and discuss footwear needs, i.e. if you experience over pronation (or an exaggerated inward rolling of the feet when you walk), you will need to look for motion control shoes.

On your own, you can do a simple “wet test” to check out what your arch or lack thereof is. Step out from a shallow pool of water (say, in your tub) onto a towel or piece of paper to make a visible footprint. If your footprint is flat, you are lacking an arch (over pronation), if it is crescent shaped, you have an arch (neutral), and if there is barely a crescent shape, you have a high arch (supination).

Visit a local shoe store to find the right shoe for you based on what you know and simple reminders like:

    Ask the salesperson to take an accurate foot measurement

    Request velcro shoes over ones that tie, easier to manage

    Look for wider based shoes that provide more stability

    Make sure there is room for additional inserts if needed

    Avoid backless shoes for walking

    Remember thick rubbery soles can get caught on some surfaces

    Choose lightweight footwear that won’t wear you down

Remaining mobile and staying active as you age is dependent on a combination of factors and actions you take in life. Proper footwear plays such an important role - make sure you have the right shoes for your feet, and happy walking!

This is a guest blog entry.

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