As the years roll by, changes occur in every organ of our bodies, and the foot is no exception. At this stage, what would be the best shoes for seniors? Sadly, many seniors are by this stage suffering from one foot ailment or the other resulting from years of wearing incorrectly fitting shoes which caused conditions such as bunions, corns, heel spurs, plantar fasciatis etc. I wish I knew then what I know now! In fact, foot problems are more frequently encountered as we age.
Of necessity, our choice of shoes must change as we age but identifying and selecting the best shoes available for seniors and the elderly on the market can be a challenging exercise. That does not mean that you have to totally abandon style, especially in the earlier senior years – IF your feet are accomodating!
Other issues thrown into the mix are age-related health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and a host of other conditions that need to be carefully thought about while selecting the best fitting shoes.
What Are the Effects of Wearing Good Fitting Shoes?
Colino 2018 reported findings that 62% of older adults have an increased risk of recurrent falls. Furthermore, after the age of 45, 1 in 4 adults typically experience foot pain with about 60% suffering debilitating pain. There are therefore several benefits to be gained from wearing properly fitting shoes. Here are some of them:
1. Improved mobility with no discomfort to the feet – Our feet cannot sustain the same level of harsh treatment we subjected them to in our younger years. With aging, there is weakening in the bones and muscles What is the Process of Aging? Let’s Talk Mobility, thinning of the skin, and wear and tear of the joints. These all cause the feet to lose some strength.
As we get older, the fat protection under the foot which used to act as a cushion and shock absorber ( Foot Pain in Seniors) becomes thinner, making the bones in the feet have more direct contact with the ground, resulting in tired aching feet, along with a gradual spreading of the feet. Yes! This is the reason why shoe size and fitting slightly change with age. Wearing a good pair of comfortable shoes can relieve foot pain and discomfort as they provide protection and mechanical support to the feet.
2. Assist the body balance mechanism –. As we get older, we tend to lose our balance, leading to injuries and falls. Good shoes can help easily navigate different terrains, thereby reducing the number of injuries, slips, trips and falls.
3. Eliminate additional feet induced problems – Without proper fitting shoes, other parts of the body such as the back and knees will attempt to compensate for the weakening muscles and this could result in back and knee problems.
4. Promote an active lifestyle – If your feet are not screaming at you in pain, there is a greater probability of having an active lifestyle with exercise
5. Improve quality of life – Continuously wearing shoes that do not fit properly can easily turn you into “that cranky neighbor” as it adversely affects your mood and perception of life.
The Four Major Review Factors For Buying the Right Shoes
As we grow older, our choices for shoes should no longer be solely dictated by style. Your shoes can still be stylish – and comfortable.
Selecting which shoes to buy should be carefully based on thought and review of 4 factors (ICS 2020)
- Size (Length),
- Foot Volume (foot type – flat / high arch) and
- Foot Problems or ailments
May of us have tried on shoes in our perceived “size” only to find that they don’t fit. This is because manufacturer measurements are just “a rule of thumb”. Shoes are sold by their length and width. The depth of the shoe that you will require should be based not only on your foot type, but must consider any foot problem conditions you may have such as swollen feet, flat feet, bunions etc.
Let’s take a look at some common foot problems experienced by seniors.
Common Foot Problems Experienced by Seniors and the Elderly
While some foot problems like arthritis and circulatory changes are age related. Many foot problems in seniors result from wearing improperly fitted shoes. The good news is that there are generally a wide range of senior shoes and orthotics for almost every type of foot problem on the market.:
Arthritis – Causes painful, swollen feet, while rheumatoid arthritis and gout can cause painful foot deformities
Heel Pain – Commonly results from an inflammation of the thick tissue running along the bottom length of the foot connecting the heel bones to the toes. Flat feet or an overly arched foot can also lead to heel inflammation.
Bunions – A bony growth or a misaligned bone at the bottom of the big toe caused by years of added pressure on the underfoot balls. This forces the toes out of alignment, eventually causing the joint of the big toe to stick out. This creates a painful and unattractive bump. Women who wear pointy-toed shoes frequently and for a long period, commonly suffer from this foot problem.
Corns – Caused by friction from the skin rubbing against poorly fitting shoes on the top of the toes. This causes moisture and oil loss in the affected area with the resulting hardening of the skin.
Calluses – Caused by pressure or friction on the bottom of the feet usually from improperly fitting shoes
Problems with toenails – Toenail fungus and painful ingrown toenails.
Circulatory changes and swelling of the ankle and foot – Cardiovascular disease, certain medications, and hormonal changes are possible causes of swelling that occur in both limbs
Hammertoes – These are a deformity of the toe in which joints begin to curl up or under is a sign of a foot deformity called hammertoe. The abnormal bending can lead to a joint that is permanently dislocated and can be quite painful.
Insufficient cushioning on the bottom of the feet – The protective layer between the foot bones and the ground becomes much thinner and less able to absorb shock, which increases the chances for developing metatarsalgia and neuromas
Diabetes – Disrupt circulation to the feet and can decrease sensitivity in the feet. Patients with diabetes may also have ulcers on their feet that will not heal.
Best Shoes For Seniors – Selecting the Right Shoes For YOU
Harvard Health Publications provide 10 tips for finding the right shoes both in-store or online. These are summarized below under 5-bullet points with some additional tips based on personal experience.
SELECTING SHOES IN-STORE
- Take a tracing of your foot with you to the store. Place the shoe you want to buy on top of the tracing and If the shoe is narrower or shorter than the tracing, don’t even try it on. From personal experience, if you are really in love with the shoe, ask to see a half-size up. Sometimes, this works. .
- Feet naturally swell up a little as you go through the day. It is recommended to shop for shoes during the afternoon so that you avoid buying shoes that will “pinch your feet”
- Take along and try the shoes on with socks that you might be wearing with them
- Since you do not shop for shoes every day, it is helpful to get both feet measured. If one foot is larger that the other, buy a size that fits the larger foot. Pay attention to shoe width as well as the length and examine the soles to see if they are sturdy enough to provide protection from sharp objects
- Stand and walk around the store for a few minutes in the shoes to assess comfort and identify any pinch points. Shoe sizes can be misleading. Try another size if you feel uncomfortable.
- Finally (from personal experience) ask if you can return or exchange the shoes. This is important, because you should trying walking around the house in the shoes for at least 5-10 minutes to ensure that they fit properly. NOTE: Wear the shoes carefully so that you do not soil them in any way since you may have to return them.
SELECTING SHOES ON-LINE
This can sometimes be tricky but following these recommendations will help
1. Always first look for shoes that address your specific foot problem, and then check their comfort features. Orthopedic or adaptive shoes fall into this category
2. Check for information on the other 3 major review factors discussed above – foot size / width / volume
3. For the best walking shoes for seniors, check that they have the following:
- Non-slip sole – The sole should be light and shock absorbent to reduce impact on the ankles and heels. They must also firmly grip the walking surface whether it is wet or dry.
- A Wide-mouth foot opening for the foot – This is a good option if your foot tends to swell.
- Contoured orthotic insoles that will provide arch support, and relieve pressure on the joints and the bottom of the feet.
- An extra-depth design that can accommodate orthotics, as well as a wide toe box for extra room for the toes.
- A soft protective interior lining that does not constrict the foot, should be seam-free, soft, and padded with extra foam.
- Shoe uppers should be stretchable and breathable
- A high-back – If there is ample support in the back it will support the ankle as well.
4. Heels should be low or flat ( less than 1 inch) so that you are less likely to fall or twist an ankle.
As done with the in-store purchases, check to see if you can return or exchange your shoes if they do not fit properly without additional charges to you.
If you want to remain upward and mobile going into your twilight years, wearing the right kind of properly fitting shoes at all times is essential in your current lifestyle.
Having determined the “Why?:”which is your reason for wanting to buy a pair of shoes, the “How to do so: has been provided for you in this article. The next series of articles will assist you through research and review of various product comparisons so that you develop insight in what is currently available on the market.
If you have any “shoe shopping experience” you have had, and would like to share, leave a comment in the comment box below and I will certainly respond to you with a couple of my own experiences
1. Harvard Health Publications (n,d) 10 tips for finding the right shoes https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/10-tips-for-finding-the-right-shoes
2. Hoyt J (2020) Shoes for Seniors https://www.seniorliving.org/products/shoes/
3. Common Foot Problems in Your 50s and Beyond (2020) https://www.orthofeet.com/blogs/news/common-foot-problems-in-your-50s-and-beyond
4. ICS (2020) The Myths of Widths https://www.innovateistore.com/store/blog/2-Innovate-Blogs/The-Myth-of-Widths
5. Colino, S (2018) The Agony of the Feet as You Get Older. Health USNews