Helping prevent falls
Footwear choice was found to influence ‘balance confidence’ to undertake daily tasks. Design recommendations for enhanced balance included a close fit with tight fastening, lightweight, substantial tread, and a firm, molded sole/insole. The hiking sandal was believed to be the most stable and safe shoe and was frequently worn as a walking aid to reduce fear of falling and boost confidence.
Despite falls being a major concern for people living with somatosensory deficit, little is known about the perceived impact of footwear and footwear features on balance. Clinical relevance is increased given that therapeutic footwear is often provided to people with diabetes to reduce foot ulcer risk.
This qualitative study aims to explore the experiences and views of people with diabetes and neuropathy who have recently fallen to understand whether footwear type is perceived to affect balance or contribute to falling.
Sixteen individuals (13 men and three women aged 44-83 years) were purposively sampled from a larger population of potential participants. Audio-recorded, in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted in participant homes or at a place preferable to them. Once transcribed verbatim, the data were themed, charted, and interpreted using a framework approach.
Although most participants did not believe that the footwear in which they fell contributed to their fall, most revealed how footwear choice influenced their balance confidence to undertake daily tasks. Most found their therapeutic footwear “difficult” to walk in, “heavy, or “slippery bottomed.”
Design recommendations for enhanced balance included a close fit with tight fastening, lightweight, substantial tread, and a firm, molded sole/insole. Complying with these recommendations, the hiking sandal was believed to be the most stable and safe shoe and was frequently worn as a walking aid to reduce fear of falling and boost confidence.
People with diabetic neuropathy have disease-specific needs and concerns relating to how footwear affects balance. Engaging with patients to address those needs and concerns is likely to improve the feasibility and acceptability of therapeutic footwear to reduce foot ulcer risk and boost balance confidence.
SOURCE: J Am Podiatr Med Assoc. 2013 Nov-Dec;103(6):508-15. PMID: 24297987 [PubMed – in process]
Does footwear affect balance?: the views and experiences of people with diabetes and neuropathy who have fallen.
Paton JS1, Roberts A, Bruce GK, Marsden J.
1School of Health Professions, Plymouth University, Plymouth, Devon, England.