Effects of Indoor Footwear on Balance and Gait Patterns in Community-Dwelling Older WomenMenz H.B.a, b · Auhl M.a · Munteanu S.E.a, b
aDiscipline of Podiatry, and bLa Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, School of Allied Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Vic., Australia
Hylton B. Menz
Discipline of Podiatry, School of Allied Health
College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University
Melbourne, VIC 3086 (Australia)
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Background: Footwear worn indoors is generally less supportive than outdoor footwear and may increase the risk of falls. Objective: To evaluate balance ability and gait patterns in older women while wearing different styles of indoor footwear: a backless slipper and an enclosed slipper designed to optimise balance. Methods: Older women (n = 30) aged 65-83 years (mean 74.4, SD 5.6) performed a series of laboratory tests of balance ability (postural sway, limits of stability, and tandem walking, measured with the NeuroCom® Balance Master) and gait patterns (walking speed, cadence, and step length, measured with the GAITRite® walkway) while wearing (1) socks, (2) backless slippers with a soft sole, and (3) enclosed slippers with a firm sole and Velcro® fastening. Perceptions of the footwear were also documented using a structured questionnaire. Results: Significant overall effects of footwear were observed for postural sway, the limits of stability test (directional control), the tandem walk test (step width and end sway), and temporospatial gait patterns (walking speed, cadence, and step length). No footwear effects were observed for maximum excursion when performing the limits of stability test or for speed when performing the tandem walk test. Post hoc tests indicated that performances were best while wearing the enclosed slippers, intermediate with socks, and worst with backless slippers. The enclosed slippers were perceived to be more attractive, comfortable, and well fitted, but heavier than the backless slippers. Most participants (n = 23; 77%) reported that they would consider wearing the enclosed slippers to reduce their risk of falling. Conclusion: Indoor footwear with an enclosed heel, Velcro® fastening, and a firm sole optimises balance and gait compared to backless slippers, and is therefore recommended to reduce the risk of falling.
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