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Fashion vs. Falling: For Seniors The Choice Is Simple

By Bill Case | In Fall Prevention | on September 20, 2013

Why Does Fashion Have to Hurt? It’s a question I’m sure women will be asking themselves frequently this Sunday as the 65th Annual Emmy Awards kicks off the Red Carpet fun.  Yes, it’s time to hook up with you favorite or often times famous designer who is just daring women to fit into that breathtaking dress and those cutting edge ostentatious shoes influencing the masses on the runway.   There has never been so much beauty and glamour in one night, destined to be overshadowed by the aches and pains lying just beneath those radiant curves.

So, how does the perfect starlet who is out on the night of her life, wearing her perfectly fit ensemble, overcome her fear of falling from her 6 inch mini-support shoes? This is the question I was asked by my friend Adryenn Ashley, who will be on the red carpet on Sunday and wants to make sure she stays upright, not toppled over.  The answer is easy, buy the right shoes.   The shoes you wear today, will be the pain you experience tomorrow.

Millions of women every year buy shoes which are too small for their feet.  According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, 88 percent of American women had worn shoes which were to tiny for their feet.  87 percent of women have suffered due to painful footwear.  Let’s think about it.  Every time we take a step, our feet are supporting 3 times our body weight.   So when your weight increases, so does the pressure on your feet leading to more pain.  How can you reverse this vicious cycle.

A few tips about about your shoes:

  • There is no substitute for fitting.  Get measured and  don’t buy a shoe just because the tag says it’s your size.
  • Shoe shop later in the day when your feet are at their largest size.
  • Round toes are best because it leaves room for your toes to move.
  •  Wedge shoes are more stable and supportive for your foot and ankle.
  • Even if the shoe is a little tight, have them stretched.

We all know to well the problems of too tight shoes.   Bunions, hammertoes, heel pain, aching feet, blisters, corns and calluses are just waiting around the corner.  Not to mention the most serious health problem with too tight of shoes and that is falling.

One thing for certain is that all is not lost.  I recommend stretching your toes back and forth each morning, during the day and in the evening to prevent the tendons of your feet from shortening.  Also, leaning against the wall with one leg back and the other forward to stretch your calf and Achilles tendon to prevent heel pain and calf cramps.  When sitting, if possible, slip out of your shoes and let your feet breath and increase your toe and foot circulation.

Standing calf raises at home during the day when out of your high heels will strengthen your calf muscles and ankle for support.   Also, when barefoot, try picking up one leg about an inch off the floor and balance on the standing leg for 5-10 seconds and repeat with the other leg, 5 times.  This will help your balance to prevent those unnecessary falls.  Similarly, try standing in your red carpet gown at home without shoes.  Now, stand on one foot to condition your leg, while body balancing with your red carpet dress.

A few tips to prevent falls:

Walk and see your surroundings like your driving a car at night with your headlights on.  Use your low lights to see what’s in front of you 6 feet away.  Use your bright lights to look at the ground ahead of you to check out steps, stairs or obstacles in your path.   This will help negotiate the red carpet walk and avoid those unnecessary cords, steps and exit out of the car in true red carpet fashion.

Theses tips will help decrease feet pain, prevent embarrassing falls and allow time to pick up your feet, your dress and be ready to move like a star.  Falling off your shoes isn’t an inevitable result of the red carpet walk. Although a long hem on a dress just might be!

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-Physical Therapist 32 yrs. with 19 years in private practice -University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston,TX. - Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy- 1982 -Post graduate Sports Physical Therapy Specialist --1987 -Inventor: Diagonal Rotary Patterning Machine, Patent 1988 -Lecture: on orthopedic injuries-nationally and internationally -Co-author: for SPORTS PHYSICAL THERAPY -Writer: for The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Self, Men's Health, Fitness and Prevention magazines

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17 Comments to "Fashion vs. Falling: For Seniors The Choice Is Simple"

  • Deborah Case says:

    September 20, 2013 at 6:12 pm -

    Great article! Very important for everyone wearing those high heels to keep their core strong!

  • bonyi says:

    October 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm -

    Great tips for those who love heels and often loose balance. Thanks for sharing. It is very informative.

  • mansawalta says:

    October 26, 2013 at 9:26 am -

    i think that it is absolutely important to be comfortable in whatever you wear, as much as style and elegance means a lot. If you do not feel comfortable in your clothing, i generally feel less confident and so i always try to got the balance. I love the article and so i think that this is a great and interesting read.

  • bonyi says:

    October 29, 2013 at 11:04 am -

    I love looking good but then comfort is the number one thing I consider. I think looking good and comfort should go together. Looking good and been comfortable is better than following the trend of fashion and falling. The later is more embarrassing.

  • brendamf says:

    October 31, 2013 at 12:46 am -

    This is great! I had no idea that the percentage was so high. It is more important to me, to be comfortable. I do admit, in the past I have worn shoes that were too small and walked around in the for hours. I am paying for that now. I rub my feet regularly and use a moisturizer on them all of the time. I take much better care of my feet, now. When I was younger, I was trying to impress the guys. Now, comfort is what is important.

  • Celeste says:

    November 1, 2013 at 2:17 pm -

    Awesome article! I will try the barefoot trick because this seems like a nice way to practice. I have not worn heels in ages and actually am frightened to even bother now because I fear I might fall. I probably wear something no more than a couple of inches and anything more than that hurts.

  • dieselfit says:

    November 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm -

    These are great tips and we should treat our bodies like something valuable that can’t be replaced. Checking our surroundings as we walk is a great safety precaution one can not underestimate. Thank you for this great article.

  • JoanMcWench says:

    November 22, 2013 at 10:02 pm -

    Wearing flats does not have to be the choice of the fashion impaired. I happen to own a lot of flats. Now, this is specifically because I am tall BUT I make it a point to get the cutest version of whatever flats help my mate to feel taller. The change from heel to flat also helped me with my posture. I know it’s a tough transition but it is worthwhile.

  • charlee felice says:

    November 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm -

    I am 51, and gave up heels a long time ago. I go for comfort. I cant imagine why I put myself through the misery of high heels for so long.

  • Fit4living says:

    December 30, 2013 at 11:33 pm -

    I have always loved heels, but I stopped wearing them about 10 or 15 years ago. I’m not willing to suffer the discomfort anymore. I’m short and would love to still wear them, but now that I’m closer to 50 than 30, I would not want to risk falling in them, even if I were willing to put up with the discomfort for a special occasion.

    I’m amazed at some of the high-heeled fashions that are so popular now, and I’m very relieved not to subject myself to them.

    I most definitely agree that if you are going to wear high heels, keeping your core strong is very important. A strong core is a great asset to all of us, in terms of balance, whether we wear heels or not.

  • Cosmic Debris says:

    January 13, 2014 at 8:50 pm -

    Some senior ladies wear shoes that are too small because they refuse to acknowledge a change in foot size. As we get older our feet often get longer, wider, or both!
    Assuming an elderly woman is wearing the right shoe size, what other precautions should she take when wearing high heels? Since high heels shift our weight forward and onto the balls of our feet, are there special walking techniques that should be practiced before wearing high heels?

    1. Bill Case says:

      January 13, 2014 at 11:48 pm -

      I would recommend a heel no higher than 1/2 or 1 inch, depending on the senior. Calf and heel cord stretches are beneficial for the muscles in the lower leg, which may become tight when wearing heels. Special walking technique ie. Take shorter steps for stability. Stand upright, core strengthening and no forward trunk.

  • Diane says:

    July 25, 2015 at 7:04 pm -

    I used to watch the show America’s Next Top Model, and have seen plenty of models on there and other shows tumbling off extremely high heels. Some of them were fortunate to have only twisted their ankles. I hope someday fashion progresses to the point where women are able to be considered sexy when wearing sensible heels, or no heels at all. Even if one chooses to wear shoes like that as a teenager and young adult, middle age is certainly past time to wake up to the damage they are doing to your body, and wear something attractive, but also comfortable and better for you.

  • Angel says:

    July 26, 2015 at 4:25 am -

    I’m petite so to look a little bit taller and fashionable without sacrificing comfort and health, I use shoes with wedge heels. The wedgies that I use are those that are light (definitely not made from wood and similar hard,heavy materials) and simply elevate my feet comfortably almost at a flat level. I can wear these even as high as 4-5 inches with ease and mobility. My posture is enhanced at the same time.

  • GemmaRowlands says:

    July 29, 2015 at 3:59 pm -

    I have a family member who is a doctor, and he says that the number of injuries he sees due to incorrect footwear is astonishing. It is not just about falls, but your entire foot can become misshapen if you try to squeeze it into shoes that you shouldn’t really be wearing. When you get older, I almost think that you owe it to yourself to try everything that you can to make yourself safer, and if that means wearing flat shoes instead of heels then I honestly believe that it is what you should be doing. Life will be a lot more enjoyable if you make sure that you are comfortable.

  • Tipes99 says:

    August 18, 2015 at 10:49 pm -

    This was a great help! I didn’t know that your feet can change size throughout the day. I have herd that your height can change, but your feet? Is that because as we walk throughout our day our feet get swollen due to over walking? I can’t stress enough about shoe size because my is very difficult to find. Not because my feet are too small or too long, no! My feet are short and super wide. So, when I go shoes shopping I like to try them on and walk in them a bit to see if I’m comfortable in them. I also learn the hard way when I bought a shoes that fits my feet perfectly. Over time my feet has widen them and so it became too big for me. I also would like to put it out there that if you are planning to go on a diet then you might want to prepare for a shoes shopping of a life time when you are finish with your diet. Do not and I mean do not buy any shoes while you are on a diet. Reason is because as you either gain weight or loose weight, base on your diet program, your feet changes size! The fats that were once in your feet is either going to reduce or increase causing the size different. (From personal experience, please don’t go through what I have.)

  • Celerian says:

    October 5, 2015 at 3:31 pm -

    Had no idea that feet change size through the day! I will take this blog post into consideration in the future.

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