Are your shoes killing you?

A new study of 185 men and women shows a direct link between shoes and injuries sustained from falls in people over the age of 65. Falls in the senior population can result from a variety of medical, environmental, psychological and social factors — conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis, poor lighting, lack of carpeting and even drowsiness brought on by prescription medication

The study aimed to identify if certain shoes or characteristics can be identified as the cause of a fall. Of those participating:

  • 57 percent of seniors had suffered a fall over the past year; of them 88 percent sustained injuries.
  • 28 percent said a shoe problem was the cause of a fall.
  • 70 percent of the seniors who fell were wearing athletic shoes, oxfords or loafers — commonly recommended as ideal for seniors because of their sturdiness.
  • 60 percent of the sneaker-clad seniors suffered a fall because their athletic shoes dragged or caught on the floor.
  • 40 percent said their athletic shoes were too slippery.

Researchers at Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital point out that not all athletic shoes are dirable in all environments. For instance, bulky rubber soles worn on carpet can be hazardous while athletic shoes that are flat or worn are dangerous on wet surfaces. It is impossible to make footwear resistant to slipping under all conditions.

^To avoid many of the shoe problems that lead to falls, the study’s authors offer the following tips:

  1. Do not wear shoes with slippery, worn outer soles.
  2. Do not wear shoes that are loose or ill fitting such as slippers and clogs. They can slip off your feet and cause falls. Shoes that are too large are a hazard; the heel of the shoe should fit snugly without slipping.
  3. Avoid shoes with heavy rubber lugs on the outer sole. Try to avoid shoes with lugs or rubber material that rolls over the toe area — these are common on most running shoes.
  4. Shoes should be changed depending upon the walking surface.
  5. Avoid heavy rubber lugs or running shoes on carpet.
  6. Avoid smooth leather soles on wet or slippery surfaces. Also avoid smooth rubber outer soles such as seen on court shoes, particularly on smooth surfaces.
  7. In general, use shoes that provide traction but do not have heavy rubber soles like walking shoes.
  8. Shoes that tie are safer than those that don’t because they don’t fall off the foot and fit can be adjusted for swelling, orthotics or braces.
  9. Fit yourself for new shoes at the end of the day.