RANDWICK, NSW, AUSTRALIA. Hip fractures are a serious health problem among older men and women. It is estimated that by age 90 years, as many as 17% of men and 32% of women have suffered a hip fracture. A hip fracture is usually a consequence of a fall and it is estimated that 1 in 3 older people fall at least once a year. Researchers at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute now report that the type of footwear worn in the home may be a crucial factor in determining the risk of a fall. Their study involved 95 older people (average age of 78 years) who had suffered a hip fracture as the result of a fall. The researchers found that 22% of the study participants had been wearing slippers when they fell, 17% had been wearing walking shoes, and 8% sandals. The majority of participants (63%) wore shoes with no fixation, that is, no laces, straps, buckles, zippers or Velcro fastenings. Forty-three per cent wore shoes with excessively flexible heel counters, i.e. low-cut or too little support to the back of the heel. Other problems identified involved worn soles with no grip and soles with excessive flexibility. The researchers conclude that the ideal shoe for older people would have a low, sturdy heel, high, non-flexible heel counter, a textured sole and a thin, firm mid-sole.
Sherrington, Catherine and Menz, Hylton B. An evaluation of footwear worn at the time of fall-related hip fracture. Age and Ageing, Vol. 32, May 2003, pp. 310-14