Slippers increase fall risk in elderly

  • Deborah Condon

With the current hot weather, many people may choose to go barefoot in their homes. However a new study has found that going barefoot, wearing slippers or wearing socks with no shoes may contribute to falls among older people.

US researchers found that over half (52%) of older people who reported a fall were barefoot, wearing socks without shoes or wearing slippers at the time of the accident. These people also reported more serious injuries, including fractures, sprains, dislocations and pulled or torn muscles, ligaments or tendons as a result of their fall.

"Our findings show that older people going barefoot, wearing only socks, or wearing slippers may be at considerably increased risk of falls in their homes," said senior study author, Dr Marian Hannan of the Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) in Boston.

Study participants underwent a comprehensive falls assessment, including a home visit and clinic examination. During the assessment, they were asked what type of shoe they usually wore. Options included athletic shoes, flat-sole canvas shoes, loafers, sandals, pumps, slippers, socks or stockings only, or barefoot.

Participants were followed for an average of 27.5 months and were asked to record each day whether they had fallen. Those who reported falls were asked about the shoes they were wearing at the time of the accident.

According to the researchers, ‘older people should wear shoes at home whenever possible to minimise the risk of falling'

Of those who reported falling, almost one in five were barefoot, while at least one in four were in slippers.

"On the basis of this and other studies, we suggest that advice about wearing shoes whenever possible be included in fall prevention programs. More research is needed on the design of acceptable and comfortable footwear that provides optimal safety for older people," Dr Hannan said.

Details of these findings are published in the journal, Footwear Science.


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