Choosing the Right Shoes for the Elderly

Choosing the right shoes at any age is important but as one ages it becomes even more important. According to a recent paper by Science Daily entitled, Elderly People who Choose the Wrong Shoes have a Lower Quality of Life,’ a staggering 83% of individuals are wearing the wrong shoes. (The study in its originality is published in the Brazilian Medical Association journal – Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira).

What happens as one ages however, is that changes occur in foot morphology. If shoe sizes are not adapted to these fluctuations, then the elderly (the majority of whom are not wearing the right shoes) can be subject to balance issues, falls, anxiety and apathy among other things.

Two years ago a research team from the University of A Coruña undertook a study with people of an average age of 80 years old. They examined the impact of foot morphology among the study participants, to see if this resulted in them purchasing the wrong shoes. It was found that many actually need a different size for each foot.

Scientist & study leader Daniel López López explained, “In this stage of life there are changes in foot morphology involving increased width and length, as well as changes in pain tolerance, linked to age, and the loss of muscle mass and fatty tissue on the feet.”

Now, López’s findings have shown the results of shoe misfits for the elderly.  Lopez says, “Because of people’s lifestyles at this age, they can use shoes that are harmful to their feet. This, combined with the appearance of chronic diseases such as obesity, vascular diseases, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, causes a worrying increase in foot problems in elderly people of between 71% and 87%. This means having to seek medical and podiatric attention more frequently, as it affects their functional capacity and quality of life.”

Ultimately, given that the study found a decreased quality of life in the elderly who are using the wrong shoes, it is important for elderly to get diagnosed with foot morphology and purchase shoes accordingly. Their results demonstrate that elderly people who use the wrong shoes have a lower quality of life in all areas related to pain, foot function, footwear, food health, general health, physical activity, social capacity and vitality.

The most common disorders are foot bone deformities, bunions, toenail malformations, plantar keratosis and flat feet. “This often leads to chronic pain, infections, limited mobility when walking, anxiety, apathy, social disturbances, changes to pressure distribution in feet related to loss of balance and falls, which as a result negatively impact upon health, independence and well-being,” López informs us.

These individuals should use proper footwear, in other words generally wide-fit shoes, adjustable using velcro or straps, rubber soles to prevent slipping and falling and, in turn, reduce the impact on joints and pressure when walking.

“Additionally, regular visits and monitoring on the part of a podiatrist helps to prevent, control and reduce the appearance of foot diseases and deformities, increase autonomy and, in summary, improve people’s quality of life,” López concludes.