Taking care of your feet and wearing safe footwear can help reduce your risk of falling.
Shoes with high heels and slippery soles, or wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, and not tying laces securely, can cause you to lose your balance or trip and fall. Foot problems can also affect your balance and change the way you walk, which may put you at risk of falling.
Improve your foot care and footwear:
- Look after your feet – If you have any foot pain or foot problems, see your doctor or podiatrist. Have your nails cut and deal with corns, calluses, bunions and ulcers. Maintain good circulation in your feet, ankles and legs by doing foot exercises everyday. Examples of foot exercises are moving your toes up and down, and turning your ankles in a circle;
- Wear safe footwear– Proper footwear is important to prevent falls;
- Wear footwear that fits snugly. Laces or Velcro fasteners are good choices as they allow you to adjust the shoe to your feet. Avoid slippers and flip-flops since they are poor fitting and can be dangerous;
- Wear footwear that has a lot of contact with the ground, such as shoes with a flat or low wide heel;
- The sole of your footwear should have a good grip. Wear shoes with a non-slip sole in your home rather than socks or slippers. During winter, wear boots that have good traction on ice and snow; and
- It is generally best to avoid shoes with high or narrow heels worn, stretched or loose shoes; and heavy shoes.
For more information on choosing footwear, read PROPER FOOTWEAR CAN PREVENT FALLS.
Here are a few things to look for in your footwear:
Sole – Pure rubber soles (bottom of your footwear) provide the best traction in winter. The softer the rubber, the better it will usually grip the ice. Softer rubber can however wear out more quickly, particularly if you are walking on dry cement so it’s best to wear your winter boots only in the colder temperatures on snow and ice (similar to not using your winter tires in springtime). Manufacturers often use a mixture of manmade rubber and natural rubber to provide a grippy sole that does not break down too quickly. You can tell the sole has good rubber content by trying to move the “lugs” with your fingers. Cheaper boots will have soles that feel more like hard plastic that will end up freezing in the cold and becoming very slippery.
New technology – Some manufacturers offer new features designed to prevent slips and falls. Look for:
Footwear that has metal shavings infused into the rubber. These shavings act like thousands of small teeth that bite into the ice and provide an elevated level of slip prevention that regular rubber cannot equal.
Retractable metal cleats that provide the ultimate grip in winter.
Lugs – Lugs are the grippy nubs on the bottom of boots that provide traction. An sole that has multi-directional lugs grips from side to side as well as front to back, giving you better traction. Sharper and deeper lugs help bite into packed snow and ice providing more grip on uneven surfaces.
Wide soles – Boots that have wider soles have a broader base of support and give more stability on slippery surfaces
Flat soles – Some boots, particularly winter hiking boots, have a more clearly defined heel that can act like a brake on snow and ice when walking down hills or on uneven ground. Flatter soles with no defined heel offer the most stability on slippery flat surfaces like sidewalks as you have more contact with the ground. People who are less steady on their feet should look for boots with flatter soles. Choose your boots according to the surfaces you walk on and your type of activity.
Ankle support – Having firm ankle support helps prevent foot and ankle fatigue when walking longer distances and provides an extra sense of security while walking in winter. In the case of a fall, the ankle support can help prevent injury to the ankle
Closure – Loose footwear can be a fall hazard. Lace-up boots offer more support and stability than boots that slip-on or have a zipper for closure. The more secure your feet are inside the boot, the less likely you are to stumble and fall. If you are unable to do up laces, hook and loop closure such as VELCRO® is the next best option.
Proper Fit – Be sure that your boots are the right size. A properly fitted boot is more stable than one that is too loose. Boots should not be too tight across your foot and must allow enough room to be able to wiggle your toes. A poorly fitting boot will not support your foot properly and can lead to a fall and ankle injury.
Do you wonder how your boots measure up on snow and ice? Check out what researchers had to say when they tested them on ice:
You can buy grippers that go on over your footwear to provide traction. These products may have names such as ice cleats, crampons, or ice grippers. They have spikes, coils or cleats on the bottom that help prevent slipping on snow and ice. It is best to sit down to put these on, and they must be removed when entering a building, as they become slippery on hard surfaces like tile.