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  • Writer's pictureEngage PT, OT, SLP Therapy and Wellness

Research Review: Footwear and Falls

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

It’s well known among health professionals that worn or ill-fitting footwear can be a contributing factor in falls among older adults. Footwear affects balance and adds to the risk of slips, trips, and falls by altering sensory input to the foot and ankle and friction between the feet and walking surface.

Unfortunately, use of inappropriate footwear appears to be a common problem. A recent study of community-dwelling older adults by B. O’Rourke et al (2020) found that “72% of participants were wearing footwear that did not fit correctly on both feet, 90% had shoes with smooth, partly worn or fully worn sole treading, and 67% reported wearing slippers at home.”

Research evidence does not support recommending specific types of footwear to prevent falls but studies of older adults suggest going barefoot, wearing socks without shoes, and wearing slippers are associated with increased risks for falls, particularly indoor falls.

The take-aways:

  • Wear properly fitting footwear. Shoes with Velcro fasteners are a good choice as they allow the shoe to be easily adjusted to the foot. Consult a podiatrist and a physical therapist for shoe recommendations if you experience foot pain or numbness.

  • Wear shoes with a non-slip sole in your home rather than socks or slippers.

  • Avoid shoes with high or narrow heels ; worn, stretched or loose shoes; and heavy shoes.


Do footwear styles cause falls or increase falls risk in healthy older adults? A systematic review.

Annette Davis, Terry Haines and Cylie Williams

Footwear Science Pages 13-23 | Received 16 Mar 2018, Accepted 01 Dec 2018, Published online: 04 Feb 2019

Does the shoe really fit? Characterizing ill-fitting footwear among community-dwelling older adults attending geriatric services: an observational cross-sectional study

B. O’Rourke et al

BMC Geriatrics volume 20, Article number: 55 (2020)

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