Footwear influences balance and the subsequent risk of slips, trips, and falls by altering somatosensory feedback to the foot and ankle and modifying frictional conditions at the shoe/floor interface. Walking indoors barefoot or in socks and walking indoors or outdoors in high-heel shoes have been shown to increase the risk of falls in older people. Other footwear characteristics such as heel collar height, sole hardness, and tread and heel geometry also influence measures of balance and gait. Because many older people wear suboptimal shoes, maximizing safe shoe use may offer an effective fall prevention strategy. Based on findings of a systematic literature review, older people should wear shoes with low heels and firm slip-resistant soles both inside and outside the home. Future research should investigate the potential benefits of tread sole shoes for preventing slips and whether shoes with high collars or flared soles can enhance balance when challenging tasks are undertaken.
Key words: accidental falls, aged people, balance, biomechanics,
footwear, gait, heel height, insoles, rehabilitation, slips, trips.