Research a step in the right direction

A group of seniors has stepped out in a selection of shoes in the name of science.

The women have put their best feet forward to help La Trobe University podiatry researchers investigate ways to prevent falls among the elderly – the leading cause of injury-related hospitalisation and mortality in older people.

Aged 65 to 83, the group performed a series of laboratory tests while wearing a variety of footwear.

The researchers analysed the women’s balance and gait as they stood and walked in socks, slippers, Dunlop Volley sneakers, their own footwear and a hiking-style shoe designed by the researchers.

Lead researcher Professor Hylton Menz said the aim was to identify whether footwear could reduce the risk of falls.

“Our footwear has the potential to influence our balance,” Professor Menz said.“Wearing the right shoes could prevent what is a serious public health issue among older people.

“One in three people in the community aged over 65 falls each year and up to 15 per cent of falls result in serious injury, such as head trauma and fractures. As our population continues to age, we need to find ways to prevent falls and footwear is a key consideration.”

The research found enclosed slippers with Velcro fasteners and firm soles were best for balance compared with backless slippers or walking only in socks.

In a second test, the researchers’ prototype shoe rated ahead of participants’ own shoes and Dunlop Volley sneakers for balance.

“Our prototype is based on an existing shoe manufactured in America that we have made some modifications to. It has a firm rubber sole, laces and Velcro fastening and high collar to support the ankle,” Professor Menz said.

“Sixty percent of women said they would consider wearing the shoe if it reduced falls, but most felt their own shoes were more attractive, comfortable and easier to put on and off.

“Our shoe is functional, but not fashionable. That’s something we’ll have to work on if we want to get older women to wear it.”

Media contact Anastasia Salamastrakis 0428 195 464