One of the leading causes of injuries in the home are falls and the risk of falls increases as we age. Just the fear of falling can limit your lifestyle and freedom, so I believe it is a really important topic for our foot health. Here are my top 10 tips for keeping you safe from injury.
1. The American Podiatric Medical Association found the leading cause of falls is unsupportive and/or badly-fitting footwear. So, it important to look at your footwear to see if it is suitable for the job. For example, cheap flip flops and ballet pumps are known to be linked to falls and foot injuries. Footwear that is too big or too old and have become ‘sloppy’ can also cause trip hazards. I recommend you replace your footwear such as slippers regularly to reduce the risk. I recommend and sell Vionic and Strive footwear, but there are other good quality and supportive brands available. When choosing footwear, make sure it is sturdy, i.e. you are not able to bend or twist it, it has a good grip, does not cause pain, supports the feet and fits! I do not recommend walking in bare feet, especially on hard surfaces. Wearing socks or tights can cause slips.
2. Medication. Some side-effects of your medication can increase your risk of falling. If you think there may be a link to your medication and a feeling of unsteadiness, I recommend you make an appointment to discuss this with your G.P.
3. Health Conditions. Some health conditions, such as those affecting the ears, the eyes, numbness in the legs and feet, neurological disorders, etc., increase the risk of falls. An evaluation of your balance, gait and muscle strength may be needed. Maybe book an eye test if you haven’t had one for a while.
4. Keep Moving. My mantra! Physical activity helps with muscle tone, balance, strength, flexibility and coordination. It does not have to be very physical and you may need to do an exercise regime monitored by a professional, but all movement is good for you. Gentle exercises such as walking, Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, dancing (maybe not a Jive!), aqua aerobics, etc., are all beneficial for balance and mobility as well as mental health. Community centres often have classes for people who are less mobile to keep them fit and moving.
5. Remove any hazards in the home. Time to de-clutter maybe? Also check there are no electric wires, rugs/mats with curly/frayed edges, etc. Have a non-slip mat in the bath or shower. Wipe-up any liquid or grease spills immediately. Don’t leave objects on the stairs.
6. Better lighting. Use night lights on landings/bathrooms/stairways. Keep a torch handy in case of a power-cut. Have a lamp by the bed. Don’t be tempted to walk around at night in the dark, especially going up or down stairs.
7. Avoid situations where you have to climb, stretch or balance if you are unsteady.
8. Accept it may be time to add assistance devices to your home and daily routine. Maybe a stick is all you need to give you the confidence to go out and about? Perhaps add a grab rail in the shower. I often hear patients say they won’t go out for fear of falling but will not accept any assistance devices. This is such a shame as it leads to isolation and loss of independence. An occupational therapist can help recommend changes for you or you could visit your local mobility shop to see what help is available to you.
9. Take care of your feet. If your feet hurt, perhaps you have painful corns or maybe your nails are long, this will change the way you walk and can increase the risk of falls. See a professional if you are unable to look after your feet yourself or you are in pain.
10. Checkout my blog on Core Foot Exercises. There are some useful exercises you can do at home to help improve strength and balance.
Lorna Pullman (Foot Health Practitioner MCFHP MAFHP)
Please note, these are my own thoughts/experiences and based on articles I have read on the NHS and American Podiatric Medical Association websites.