According to research carried out by Age UK, every year in the UK around one-third of people aged over 65 will fall. Falls account for more than 4 million hospital bed days a year in England alone. Research shows that a significant number of falls are the result of wearing footwear that doesn’t fit properly or offer enough support.
Slippers are equally important to offer support and stability within the home
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that a multi-faceted foot care programme can reduce the number of falls by 36%. It stated that foot and ankle exercises, foot orthoses and wearing appropriate footwear are all key in preventing falls.
Older people should be advised about the importance of wearing well-fitting shoes and about the characteristics that can aid walking and gait. The NHS guidelines for safe footwear are very much in-line with those promoted by the Healthy Footwear Guide. They recommend:
Some footwear can increase the risk of slips, trips and falls. It can cause poor balance and gait or make it difficult to judge surface friction and distance from the floor. The NHS recommend avoiding:
What other factors can contribute toward falls?
Foot conditions such as bunions, claw toes, ingrown toe nails and general foot pain can all cause problems with gait and balance.
Older people should be advised to check their feet regularly and speak to their GP or podiatrist if they have any reduction in foot sensation or develop foot pain.
Following a simple foot care routine can help reduce the risk of falls by preventing some of the conditions that cause pain and problems. This includes:
Exercise also plays a vital role in falls prevention. Research trials have shown that a programme of strength and balance can be very effective in reducing the risk. Older people should be encouraged to carry out regular exercise to improve toe and ankle strength as this can help improve balance.
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