A Guide To Finding The Best Shoes For The Elderly
My mum has always had foot problems – I have spent hours with her in shops trying to find the widest, most comfortable yet still stylish shoes, so this is a topic very close to my heart. Luckily, the world of “old people shoes” has come on and there’s now a real selection to choose from. This buying guide includes what to look for and our top choice of shoes for the elderly, from supportive brands such as Friendly Shoes and CosyFeet.
We’ve teamed up with our favourite podiatrist, Felicity Burnell from Oxfordshire Chiropody here to understand more about what happens to our feet as we age, and what she recommends when shopping for shoes.
Our feet are quite amazing – did you know that they contain more than a quarter of all the bones in the body, and the skin on each foot has 7,000 nerve endings?
It’s thought that a whopping 80% of older adults experience issues with their feet. When you consider that this could be anything from bunions to swollen feet, foot drop, neuropathy and more, it makes you realise just how important it is to treat our feet right by wearing the right footwear. We shouldn’t underestimate the difference a decent pair of slippers or shoes can make to our parent’s comfort and mobility.
What The Right Shoes Can Offer
Our feet can change as we age, so finding new footwear that fits well is so important (your parents shouldn’t be wearing the same shoes as 30 years ago!). The right orthopaedic shoes can help with:
Less Foot Pain
Painful feet can affect balance and prevent them living their daily life to the best of their ability. Some older adults live in slippers instead of shoes. Not only does this limit them to the house and decrease their activity levels, it can actually make things worse as slippers encourage you to shuffle rather than strengthening the joints in the feet.
Reducing Fall Risk
As we get older, the likelihood of falling increases. Falls can be caused by ill fitting shoes, walking barefoot or in socks and have huge consequences for our loved ones’ mobility.
Increasing Social Contact And Activity Levels
Painful feet can stop people from increasing their social interaction and moving more. Finding comfortable shoes can reduce foot pain, help people feel more confident and get out and about more.
Shoe Buying Guide
So what should you be looking for (and what should you avoid)? Follow our do’s and dont’s.
|What To Do||What Not To Do|
|If your parent won’t consider buying new shoes (or the right size shoe), this exercise could help. Draw around their foot on a piece of paper, then place the shoe on top of the drawing. It should clearly show their foot doesn’t fit the shoe.||Don’t just buy a larger size for swollen feet. The shoe won’t fit correctly, will move around and rub the foot. As feet are less swollen in the morning, shop for shoes (or try them on if ordered online) later in the day. And look for shoes with stretchy fabric, like these from Friendly Shoes.|
|Make sure the foot is held in place by the shoe and there isn’t friction on the toes. This could cause a corn or irritate a toenail (that then turns into an ingrown toenail).||Don’t choose backless or slip on shoes, even if they’re easier to get on. Backless slippers are a real cause of elderly falls.|
|Always get a shoe with a fastening – velcro, laces etc. We’re also big fans of CosyFeet that makes strap extenders. This extended fastening is great for swollen feet and diabetic foot concerns who might otherwise have chosen a backless slipper.||Avoid shoes that have hard plastic uppers, they don’t allow the foot to breathe or stretch to fit the foot shape. Mesh and fabric allow the foot to bend whilst still keeping control.|
|Look for a non slip sole for elderly with balance problems. A good grip is necessary – you ideally want groove patterns across the whole sole, unless your parent is prone to shuffling (e.g. with Parkinson’s disease) where a smooth sole may help them move more easily.||Don’t just wear the same old socks. Bamboo socks (like these) absorb up to 30% more moisture, don’t cut off blood supply and are anti-fungal.|
|Encourage your parent to check their feet regularly (or do it for them). Especially if they have neuropathy or diabetic foot problems as they won’t be able to feel rubbing or discomfort.||Don’t struggle to get into a pair of shoes. Consider a long handle shoe horn so they don’t have to bend down.|
Foot Problems In Elderly
Swelling (also known as edema) is common in old age and occurs when there’s excess fluid that is pulled down the body by gravity. Extra wide shoes for swollen feet for men and women really help, and we’ve listed our favourites below.
Bunions (the bony bumps that can form on the joint of your big toe) can make walking and exercising painful. When buying shoes for bunions, look for options with a wide toe box. It also has to allow enough depth for crooked toes. Avoid any shoes with a round, square or oval toe as they will squash the bunion and toes – ouch!
The Best Shoes For The Elderly
Here’s our recommendation for the best adaptive shoes on the market. Suitable for people with swollen feet, bunions, foot drop and more.
Ladies Shoes For Swollen Feet
Friendly Shoes makes great quality shoes for swollen feet. They’re wider, deeper and roomier than anything you’ll find on the high street and can also accommodate bunions, problem toes and bandaging.
The Force slip on shoe is what you need for everyday shoe ease. There’s no laces but the shoe is much more secure than a slip on.
Instead, there’s a deep zip that runs down the side of the shoe. It literally opens the shoe up wide so you can see to the toe box and see where to place the foot. As there are no laces on the style, the Force is slightly roomier at the ankle opening and it is lined there with neoprene for added comfort.
The upper is made from flexible and breathable fly knit – but unlike other trainers that use fly knit, there’s a few layers of it so the foot is not visible through any gaps in the material.
The Force (like all Friendly Shoes) has an E toe box and it is deeper and more cushioned than the average shoe too. That’s because the brand was created by an occupational therapist who wants to help people put their best foot forward (and understands how hard it can be to find the right shoe).
Friendly Shoes all have removable memory foam insoles. You can take them out to create more space in the shoe (1.3cm extra added overall) and they accommodate orthotics, an AFO etc.
If you’re looking for lightweight shoes for swollen feet that are also safe (they’ve been rigorously tested for anti-slip) then the Force is the answer!
Yes, trainers can be suitable for swollen feet! Introducing the Voyage from Friendly Shoes.
These padded shoes feel like “walking on air” according to a recent customer (my mum!). They’re supportive but roomy enough for feet that need more give in their shoes.
These come with laces – the first time you wear them, unlace the shoes and then tie them according to the best tension for you. Then once that’s done, you just rely on the deep side zip to get them on and off.
Why else do we rate these shoes for wide feet? Again, there’s a wide toe box, removable memory foam insole and they are so comfy. Plus they have anti slip soles.
If you’re looking more for a shoe than a trainer, then the classic Darcy shoe from Cosy Feet works. Wide enough to accommodate swollen feet, its roomy toe box is suitable for bunions and arthritic toes. The insole can be swapped out for an orthotic and it comes in a few colours (although we like the red!).
These CosyFeet ‘Hop’ sandals are a winner for a fashionable summer shoe. Featuring a slightly raised heel (taking the strain off your feet and legs), they have a strap at the front to accommodate problem toes. You can also get a strap extender making these a great option for bunion sandals. Plus, if you’re looking for lightweight sandals that fit orthotics, this is it.
Women with wide feet and problem toes will find sandals with a strap much more comfortable (especially if wearing on a warm day, when feet will expand even more). Which is why we like these Hotter sandals. Available in black leather and a light suede, these open toe sandals offer support and style.
Looking for wider fitting shoes for men? Friendly Shoes has the answer! We really rate them as they look so stylish so you’re not having to choose either comfort OR style.
We love their Excursion shoe in navy. This shoe has a discreet back zip so your parent has more space to navigate it onto their foot, yet no one would know that the shoe is more accessible. The zip really is part of the design.
The zip handle is larger than the average so easy to be held with hands that are losing dexterity. And like all Friendly Shoes styles, there’s a removable insole for extra space (for swelling, or for an orthotic). Plus it comes with an E toe box.
The Voyage shoe (like we mentioned above) is available in larger sizes in white and black. We love this shoe as it looks so neat, and it’s popular with all ages. Again, you slide the zip all the way down the side and the foot goes inside. Think about how hard it is for your parent to wiggle their foot in when such a wide opening isn’t offered on their shoe – it really limits them wearing the correct footwear doesn’t it.
These sturdy walking shoes by Merrell have a wide toe box and a cushioned sole. Available in wide widths for both men and women, they also have good arch support.
DB Wide Fit Shoes are one of the most popular brands of wide fitting shoes. These outdoor shoes are snug and secure with the velcro straps, open up for easy access and have cushioned insoles (which can be removed for orthotics).
The Jim shoe from Cosyfeet is great for anyone who has bandaged feet, lots of swelling, hammer toe or bunions but wants more than a slipper. Super soft and stretchy, with a secure heel and lace tie, this could be the shoe your elderly father is looking for.
And did you know that shoes can sometimes be made on the NHS? If you think your family member could be eligible, ask your parent’s podiatrist. They should be able to write a letter to the GP and put the wheels in motion.
Wide Fitting Slippers For Elderly
Backless slippers are a major cause of falls at home – people choose them as they’re easy to get on and off swollen feet. Please don’t buy them! Here’s our pick of the best slippers for elderly to prevent falls.
If you’re looking for women’s slippers for very swollen feet then look no further than the Emma slipper from CosyFeet. It opens up fully thanks to adjustable straps at the front and the back, so can be snugly fitted to the foot and is easy to put on. This ladies slipper has a cushioned footbed (which is removable if you need orthortic slippers) and it’s roomy enough for bunions, hammer toes and more.
Supportive Longbay slippers are podiatrist approved (Felicity recommends them to her clients). Memory foam cushioning makes them super comfortable, the cushioned insole supports and relives pressure on the foot and the thick strap makes them ideal slippers for elderly with balance problems. You can find them for men and women on Amazon.
The Reggie slipper from CosyFeet is super cushioned yet supportive. It comes with a strap extender – we bought these for a client who had previously struggled to find any extra wide men’s slippers that fit, and he was delighted!
CosyFeet really cleverly offers some of their slippers for swollen feet in just right or left – so you can get different sizes, or just one (for example if your parent is wearing a diabetic boot). The Richie slipper has a rubber sole so can be worn inside or outside, is machine washable and made from Trilobal fabric which is great for fitting in swelling or bandaging. Choose the pair or just the single slipper.
Insoles And Custom Orthotics
Insoles and orthotics can make a real difference and lots of the above shoes accommodate them, but how do you know what to choose? Felicity gave us the low-down:
- Always see a podiatrist before self-diagnosing and getting any insole that offers arch support. Without proper assessment, you could put something in your shoe that will inappropriately alter your biomechanics (alignment and the way you walk) and give yourself a hip, knee or back problem that may be more difficult to recover from if you have age-associated conditions such as osteoarthritis.
- Comfort insoles are fine though! Go for gel or foam – I recommend Diaped Duosoft Insoles to my patients.
- Bespoke orthotics (prescribed and issued by a podiatrist, orthotist or physiotherapist) should be reviewed every 18 months to two years. The way you walk can change over time and the insoles can wear out. If your parent has had the same pair for years, chuck them out! e
Our feet change in later life, and we need supportive footwear that is comfortable, sturdy and will prevent falls. This round-up of the best shoes for the elderly, featuring velcro slippers, shoes for bunions and more has been put together to be helpful for you and your parents. Thanks to Felicity for her input – she provides much-needed foot care at home, if you live in Oxfordshire get in touch her!