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Better foot health – one step at a time

Something as simple as wearing the wrong shoes can cause chronic pain and even falls. Ageing feet demand that we love them more.

  • Health
  • Read Time: 5 mins

Safe footwear for seniors

Low heel height

High heels can make you less stable and unbalanced. A safe heel should be broad and less than 2cm in height.

Mid-sole cushioning

A foam material in the middle sole area of shoes can provide comfort. A good shoe will have thin and firm sole cushioning; not too much that the foot is unstable and cannot feel the ground.

Textured sole

The slip resistance of the outer sole of a shoe is essential, and the amount of tread a shoe has can increase the likelihood of tripping. Too much tread can cause the shoe to grab the ground, while a smooth, slippery sole will increase your risk of falling.

Bevelled or rounded heel

A rounded heel improves slip resistance by increasing the surface contact area of the shoe as the heel strikes the floor, which can help lessen slip-related falls. 

Heel collar height

The heel collar is the back of the shoe that holds your heel. A high, firm, and supportive heel collar helps to support the foot.

Our feet are the only part of our body that keep our grip on planet Earth. So, it’s surprising how little attention is paid to their health, especially as we age and are at greater risk of life-changing ailments, stumbles, and falls.

Podiatrists say feet are mirrors to our general health and can underpin our entire well-being. Foot problems can influence everything around, including your freedom, relationships, mental health, physical health, activity, travel, independence, mobility, happiness, work, and income.

The condition of our feet provides early indications of conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and circulatory disease.

Warning signs include dry skin, brittle nails, burning and tingling sensations, feelings of cold, numbness, and discoloration. Seek the opinion of your podiatrist when any of these problems occur.

As we age, our feet tend to spread and we lose the fatty pads that cushion the bottom of our heels and the balls of our feet. If we are carrying extra weight, our bone and ligament structure may also be affected.

Podiatrists say common foot problems include:

  • Diabetic foot ulcers.

  • Infections.

  • Foot, ankle, knee, hip and back pain.

  • Painful arthritis.

  • Heel spurs.

  • Tendon pathologies such as Achilles tendonitis.

  • Progressive flat foot deformities.

  • Sciatica with referred pain down your legs.

  • Ingrown toenails.

  • Balance and instability problems.

All these, if untreated, can immobilise older people, lead to lack of independence, and cause falls. The good news is many age-related foot problems can be treated successfully and painful conditions relieved.

Foot health tips

  • Properly fitted shoes are essential. The older you get, the more you need shoes that hold your foot firmly in place and provide adequate support. Flip-flops (or thongs) can make you unstable and should be thrown out as they can lead to falls. 

  • A shoe with a firm sole and soft upper that can be laced, buckled, or strapped to the foot is best for daily activities. 

  • Walking is a good exercise option for most people’s feet. 

  • If you have reduced circulation, diabetes, or reduced fatty padding under your feet, avoid going barefoot even in your own home. 

  • Never cut corns and calluses with a razor, pocket knife, or improvised device. Don’t use over-the-counter corn products unless they were recommended by your podiatrist, as they may do more harm than good. 

  • Bathe your feet daily in lukewarm (not hot) water using a mild soap, then use a moisturiser separately. 

  • Trim or file your toenails so they are slightly curved just short of the end of the toe. 

  • Inspect your feet every day or have someone do it for you. If you notice any redness, cracks in the skin or sores, consult your podiatrist. 

  • Have your feet examined by a podiatrist at least once a year. 

You can find a local podiatrist at and more information about foot health care is available here.

Related reading: Injury Matters, Australian Podiatry Association, Health Direct 

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