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Choose the right shoes for fall prevention

A woman's feet walking away, wearing athletic shoes.

Aug. 24, 2023—Falling is a serious health risk, especially for older adults. Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 million older Americans are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries.

Falls can result in broken bones and head injuries, which can be especially dangerous for older people. Even if you don't hurt yourself, you may become afraid of falling. This fear can cause you to become less active. That can weaken your body—and raise your risk for a future fall.

To stay on your feet, it may help to take a look at your shoes. Wearing the right pair can help prevent falls, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and other experts.

Choose the right shoes

According to the APMA, the right footwear can help improve your balance and stability. Well-fitting shoes also can reduce foot pain and help you walk more comfortably.

Here's what to look for:

Buy the right size. Have your feet measured every time you shop for shoes, preferably late in the day. Your feet can change in shape and size over time. Wearing shoes that are the wrong size may cause you to trip and fall.

Bring socks and inserts. Try on the shoes with the socks you usually wear, plus any insoles or prescribed inserts you use.

Walk around the store. If the shoes aren't comfortable right away, don't buy them. There should be no break-in period to make the shoes more comfortable.

Watch for red flags. The wrong shoes can lead to foot problems and raise your risk of tripping or slipping, warns the NCOA. To help reduce your risk of falls, avoid footwear with:

  • No straps, laces or buckles—for example, bedroom slippers.
  • Smooth soles.
  • Heels higher than 1¾ inches (the length of a standard paper clip).
  • Narrow heels.

Once you have a well-fitting pair of shoes, wear them indoors as well as outdoors. Walking around the house barefoot or in socks or slippers can increase foot pain and fall risk. If you must wear slippers indoors, choose a supportive pair with a closed back and a non-slip sole.

Ready to take the next steps?

Learn more ways to protect yourself in our Fall Prevention topic center. And make sure to let your doctor know if you've had a fall—even if you weren't injured. They can suggest other ways to improve your stability and prevent falls.


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