Best walking shoes for seniors: How to find a safe, comfortable shoe for older people.
Okay, the jury’s still out on this one…
There’s some conflicting information about the best walking shoes for seniors. We’re going to delve further into this issue, but for now, here’s what we’ve found:
According to the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Australia, more than 80% of older people report foot problems. As a result, they tend to wear soft, unstructured footwear that molds to their deformed feet.
Not a good idea.
While these unsupportive sneakers are considered comfortable, they have been shown to contribute to falls and hip fractures in the older population. Plus, shoes that don’t offer enough support and are thin-soled typically lead to heel pain, especially in older adults.
Point: So, the best walking shoes for seniors usually have substantial, relatively stiff soles. Not like running shoes.
According to the Australian study, hard-soled shoes positively influenced balance control whereas soft-soled shoes were detrimental to balance. Furthermore, older people displayed a more conservative walking style when they wore soft-soled shoes, particularly when the postural control system was challenged, such as when walking and stopping on wet surfaces.
Wearing shoes with a high collar lead to reduced postural sway and choice reaction time-stepping, increased maximal balance range, and had a positive effect on balance control. The study also said that open-back shoes had a negative effect on the gait of older females due to the need for increased control of the ankle muscles to keep these shoes on their feet.
1 Bridget J Munro, 1 Karen J Mickle, 2 Jasmine C Menant and 1, Julie R Steele 1 Biomechanics Research Laboratory, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, web: www.uow.edu.au/health/brl 2 Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, NSW, Australia, web: www.powmri.unsw.edu.au/fbrg
One thing’s for sure, walking poles are a good idea. Click here for our Post about Walking with Poles.
Counterpoint: Use Running Shoes for walking.
According to Cary Zinkin, DPM, podiatric sports physician and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), running shoes might be a good stand-in as walking shoes for seniors. As we age, we lose the fat pad protection on the bottom of our feet. The heel presses harder against the floor and it can get irritated or inflamed or you can get a heel spur.”
Therefore, running shoes that have that extra bit of heel cushioning, might be a good choice for senior citizens. (Note: This finding is contrary to what we have recommended to the general population. We believe that shoes specifically designed for walking are best.)
Use your judgment. I’d recommend a sturdy, task-specific walking shoe with a little extra heel cushioning. That way, you cover all the bases. But they have to feel right for you. Order four pairs online, and return all of the brands that you don’t feel absolutely stable, comfortable and confident in.
According to Grandparents.com, these are a few good choices of walking shoes for seniors:
Good for walking (or running) long distances
Shop Online! Ordering shoes online is easier than driving all over town trying to find the right fit.