Walking is one of the very best forms of fitness and exercise for seniors of all ages and abilities. Whether you walk several miles a day, around the block once or twice, or up and down the hallway of your home, walking is a terrific way to keep your body moving and healthy. As with any other fitness activity, though, you should be sure to have the right equipment to enjoy the activity in safety and comfort. When it comes to walking, the most important equipment you need is a good pair of shoes.
What to look for in a walking shoe
Seniors have very special and specific needs when it comes to shoes. Their feet tend to be more sensitive to discomfort and poor fit and various medical conditions can impact the health and sturdiness of the feet at well. When you go looking for a good walking shoe there are several things to consider:
- Sole of the shoe – Look for a shoe with little or no heel that has a broad sole. This will help you be more stable while you’re walking and cut down on the chances of injury or discomfort.
- Ankle support – Shoes come with various levels of ankle support; the lower the top of the shoe, the less ankle support it provides. Look for a shoe with medium to high tops if your ankles need some extra support.
- Laces or Velcro – More and more shoes are available with your choice of traditional laces or Velcro closure. Laces allow you to adjust the snugness of your shoes with more finesse, but they can be difficult to tie for those with arthritis or other limitations to their hands and fingers. Velcro closures allow you to adjust snugness in a more general way, but they are much easier to handle for people with hand and finger issues.
- Arch support and width – Your feet are unique in their shape so your shoes should fit accordingly. Look for a shoe with the right amount of arch support for your size arches, and also for a shoe that is the proper width for your foot. A shoe that is too narrow will pinch and be uncomfortable, while a shoe that is too wide will slip around and cause instability.
- Shoe tread – The shoe tread can have a big impact on the stability and safety of your shoes. Deep treads can be a good choice to help prevent slipping, but for many seniors a deep tread can actually make them more prone to falls because the tread can get caught on carpets or soft surfaces. If you don’t pick up your feet all the way, you shuffle, or you drag your heels, look for treads that are smaller and smoother to avoid these kinds of problems.
- Shoe size – It’s very common for your feet to change size both up and down over the years. Weight gain, weight loss, changes in posture, medical conditions, and simple age can all lead to changes in the size of your feet. This is why it is important to always get your feet properly measured every time you go to buy shoes. Shoes that are either too big or too small can lead to pain, discomfort, injury, and even falls.
With all of these things in mind, consider shopping for your walking shoes in a store where the shoe department has trained employees who know how to properly measure your feet and evaluate the fit of each shoe you try on.
Running, cross training, fitness, or walking?
There are many different types of shoes on the market, so many in fact that it can be confusing. Walk into any shoe store and you’ll see shoes labeled as being specially designed for running, cross training, fitness, aerobics, hiking, walking, and nearly anything in between. How are you supposed to know which of these different types is best for your needs?
The truth is that almost any of these types of shoes can be great for walking, but it depends on the shape of your foot and the specific needs of your foot. Some people find a walking-type shoe provides the best fit and support while others find a running or cross-training type shoe is much better suited to their feet. The best approach is to pay less attention to the label and more attention to the factors listed in the previous section. It doesn’t matter what the manufacturer designed the shoe for, in only matters that it gives you the proper fit, support, and stability.