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Footwear choices for older people

Feet and the way people walk change as they get older. Some find their balance and mobility are impaired. So is there advice for everyone to help them stay comfortable and stable (as well as looking good!) in later life?

We posed some questions we hear regularly to footwear retailer Brantano for their expert advice.

How does gait change as people age – and what does that mean for footwear choices?

Gait describes the pattern of how a person walks. This can alter over time, as a result of a number of factors. For example, an individual who suffers from arthritis may change how they walk to minimise pain.

Changes to gait can have a direct impact on our balance. When balance does become an issue, wearing wider flat shoes can help. They reduce the risk of falling and provide a greater level of comfort and stability while walking.

As it gets harder to get down and put shoes on or tie laces, are there any tips for choosing footwear that’s easy to get on and off? Are there any assistive tools to help?

Slip-on shoes may be easier to get on and off but they can be problematic when it comes to finding the correct width fitting for feet. Velcro is much more preferable, as it eliminates fiddly laces and allows for easier width adjustments. Long shoe horns are a useful investment too, as they make putting shoes on easier.

Are there points to think about when buying footwear for someone in a wheelchair?

Wheelchair users often require durable footwear, as they may drag their feet or scooter along. Look for shoes with strong soles — they will be able to withstand this type of use for longer.

If someone’s unable to get out of their home or their care home, how can they buy footwear?

The most obvious option in this scenario is online shopping. However, where an individual has special requirements, this can be challenging. Often, it’s a case of seeing, feeling and trying on a shoe to find out if it’s right for them.

We have a Brantano Community team which works to bring our range of footwear to those with limited mobility. By visiting retirement properties, care homes and day centres, the team provides a fitting service across a wide range of styles to help people find their perfect shoe.

Slippers are a perennial gift. Is there anything we should consider when buying them?

Mule slippers should be avoided, as they could slip off and cause an injury. Slippers with a Velcro-fastening are a better choice, as they can be adjusted accordingly to match a person’s needs. As well as fit, comfort and warmth are also priorities. Cushioned and fleece linings are great choices.

Visit Brantano for more information about its range of footwear and its community team.

This article was published in September 2016.

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