A strikingly high percentage of elderly people experience chronic foot problems, many of which can be attributed to harmful habits and behaviors, including wearing the wrong shoes. While ill-fitting footwear can easily be overlooked by most people at a younger age, as we get older, balancing our feet to sit comfortably inside a shoe without slipping and sliding can become more difficult. For this reason, it’s important to talk to a health care professional or even a specialized podiatrist about any pain or discomfort you are experiencing in order to isolate the problem and choose what to buy accordingly. Some feet can develop problems with the skin, such as normal thinning, corns, or callouses, which can require additional padding. Others can develop problems with the bones or joints, such as hammertoe, bunions, and fallen arches, calling for a more personalized fit. Additionally, more serious problems, such as arthritis or diabetes symptoms, can lead to serious swelling, pain, and circulation problems, requiring specially tailored footwear.
While it’s best to acquire medical-grade or custom-tailored shoes for more serious issues, there are some tips you can follow to choose footwear that can prevent or even soothe some lower-grade pain or discomfort:
· Check the insoles and the bottom for adequate grip.
This will depend on the way you walk and the terrain you normally walk on. For example, people who tend to shuffle due to Parkinson’s or structural abnormalities may choose a rougher insole and smoother sole, while those who struggle with balance will need more ridges for much-needed friction.
· Compare brands and models for the best fit and level of padding.
While it’s best to do your research online, comparing features, styles, reviews (be sure to read through some positive and negative feedback in detail), and prices, you are safer making the purchase in-store, where you can try on several sizes and options, if possible. Because width and fit can vary slightly between different models, a shoe that’s technically your size will not always have an ideal fit. Depending on your concerns, be sure to choose the right level of cushion to absorb shock from impact and prevent pain and injuries.
· Choose Velcro closures over laces or closure-free shoes.
This may not apply to more active seniors choosing athletic shoes, but for those with pain and discomfort issues, we highly recommend staying away from open-toed shoes, flip-flops, and shoes with no laces or Velcro as they tend to do a worse job of keeping one’s foot in place and can cause unnecessary movements and friction that lead to callouses and exacerbated injuries, or, even worse, tripping and falling. Velcro, specifically, tends to create the most consistent fit, as laces can loosen their grip throughout the day and require more effort and flexibility to re-adjust.
· Wide mouth, high back, low heel.
For the most comfortable fit, choose a shoe with a wide mouth for easier slipping into, a higher back for ankle support, and a low, but slightly arched heel to prevent undue stress on your toes and the ball of your foot.
Finally, it’s important to invest in a variety of shoes for different activities, and that includes lounging at home. While a lot of people tend to focus their research and spend their money on outdoor footwear, walking barefoot at home, especially on tile, hardwood floor, or even thin carpet, can worsen the condition of your feet. A lot of orthopedic companies make soothing, stylish indoor shoes that you will want to wear!
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