Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Wearing athletic shoes can help prevent falls

September 19, 2004


I worry a lot about my mother falling. She's in her 80s, and still insists on wearing dress shoes with a pretty slippery sole. Are there some recommendations about the best footwear for older folks?

Well, first of all, no one wants to be "older folks." That's part of the problem. I'm only 65, but I can tell you from personal experience that giving up style for practicality and foot health was a hard step for me.

Interestingly enough a study on this subject was just completed by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. For what it's worth, here are the results:

Senior citizens wearing canvas athletic shoes (sneakers) were the least likely to suffer falls, while those going shoeless fell the most. Falls are the most frequent cause of fatal injury to older adults, and non-fatal falls, which also are common, can curtail mobility and quality of life.

The study involved monitoring 1,371 Group Health Cooperative enrollees age 65 and older for a two-year period and determining what kind of shoes were being worn when a fall occurred. Of the 327 reported falls, those wearing other kinds of footwear were 30 percent more likely to experience a fall.

Athletic shoes and canvas shoes have a relatively wide rubber or crepe sole, low heel height, and a large area of contact between the shoe sole and the walking surface. While being barefoot has been associated with good balance performance in the laboratory, walking without shoes leaves the foot more vulnerable to painful injury, and stocking feet provide poor tread with the walking surface and make one more prone to slipping.

So, urge your mom to talk with her doctor about the best kind of footwear or to see a shoe specialist -- not one of the untrained department store clerk types. She may not like this advice, but in her 80s, safety should be thought one. Easy for me and you to say -- harder for her to accept. Good luck.

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