Best Shoes for the Elderly Reviewed & Rated

Buying shoes can be difficult for people of all ages, but buying shoes for the elderly can seem like a daunting task. Of the millions of shoes out there, many don’t come with the features that suit the needs of an elderly person. As we age, our feet age with us and as our overall health needs change, our footwear needs also change.

Last Updated: March 30, 2018
By Alice Frutis:

This update includes listing complete reviews of the top ten best shoes for the elderly along with an explanation of the importance of good shoes for the elderly. A Criteria for Selection section has been added to provide the reader with relevant information that will help them in their search for the best shoe. A frequently asked questions section has also been added to address some frequently asked questions. A terminology section has been added to provide the reader with definitions of some key shoe terms and a sources section has been added to provide the reader with resources to do more research on the topic if desired. Links to relevant content on our site have also been added to further aid the reader in their search for the perfect shoe for any occasion.

When shopping for shoes for yourself or an elderly relative, it’s essential that you make a good choice. Improper footwear can cause serious damage to your feet, legs, and back. At best, wearing improper footwear or footwear that isn’t designed to provide the right amount of cushioning and support for your feet can result in prolonged discomfort for you or your elderly relative.

Featured Recommendations

Hush Puppies Gil
  • Hush Puppies Gil
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Removable footbed
  • Hook-and-loop closure
  • Price: See Here
Propet W3851 Wash & Wear
  • Propet W3851 Wash & Wear
  • 4.4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Lightweight midsole
  • Padded stretch collar
  • Price: See Here
Propét TravelActiv Mary Jane
  • Propét TravelActiv Mary Jane
  • 4.4 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Flexible outsole
  • Stretchy strap
  • Price: See Here

There are a number of things to consider when you are shopping for a pair of good shoes for the elderly. You must take into account their illnesses, such as diabetes or chronic back pain, their foot support needs, and what kind of activity they will be participating in while wearing the shoes. To make this endeavor easier for you and to promote the foot health and overall well-being of the elderly, we have curated a list of the ten best shoes for the elderly.

 

10 Best Shoes for the Elderly

 

1. Hush Puppies Gil

The Hush Puppies Gil isn’t an eye-catching shoe, but it provides a number of essential safety and comfort features that can greatly improve your quality of life. The leather upper is firm so it can provide your foot and lower ankle with enough support to prevent ankle or foot rolling. The outsole is a slip-resistant material complete with slip-resistant grooves.
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ZeroG Elon Midsole
In the Gil, Hush Puppies combines ZeroG Technology with Elon foam technology to create an ultra-lightweight, responsive, and durable midsole cushioning system. This new midsole reduces foot and leg fatigue.

Rubberlon Outsole
The Rubberlon outsole is made with a special rubber compound designed to provide support and shock-absorption. The Rubberlon outsole is also designed with a long groove pattern that improves traction.

Cost and Value
This comfortable Hush Puppies brand shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range. Given its removable insole and revolutionary midsole and outsole technologies, the Gil is a great investment.
Pros
  • ZeroG Elon Midsole
  • Rubberlon Outsole
  • Leather Upper
  • Synthetic Sole
  • Removable EVA Footbed
  • Velcro Strap Closure
Cons
  • Thin insole
  • Sizing runs narrow

2. Propet W3851 Wash & Wear

The W3851 Wash & Wear walking shoe is a great support shoe which is also easy to maintain. Its firm leather upper is both durable and supportive, which increases its lifespan and protects your feet at the same time. The EVA midsole unit is lightweight, which reduces foot and leg fatigue. The washable quilted upper won’t ruin if exposed to water.
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Internal Heel Counter
The firm internal heel counter used in this shoe is designed to provide support to help stabilize your step. It’s a firm insert built into the back of the shoe.

Padded Neoprene Collar
The padding helps reduce painful rubbing and pressure on your upper foot and the neoprene collar stretches and flexes to make it easier to put on and to keep on.

Cost and Value
The Propet W3851 Wash & Wear is a simple slip-on shoe that can be found in the low-to-middle price range. It’s one of the most affordable support shoes on this list.
Pros
  • Internal Heel Counter
  • Padded Neoprene Collar
  • Leather
  • Removable Insole
  • EVA Midsole
Cons
  • Sizing runs small
  • Sizing runs narrow

3. Propet TravelActiv Mary Jane

The TravelActiv Mary Jane shoe by Propet is a stylish walking shoe which is available in many beautiful colors. It’s not just a pretty shoe, though. The Propet TravelActiv Mary Jane is built to be lightweight and flexible which reduces strain and absorbs more shock. The simple hook-and-loop closure and velcro strap make this shoe convenient and easy to use.
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Mesh Upper
The breathable mesh upper on this shoe serves three purposes. It cools your feet, helps dry your feet and reduce the development of odors, and flexes with your foot freely.

Removable Insole
Sometimes when we get older, we have to use special orthotic insoles or inserts. The removable insole in this shoe means you can customize it to suit your health needs.

Cost and Value
This Mary Jane has some of the lowest price points on this list. It’s a flexible and comfortable shoe whose breathable mesh upper can help reduce the occurrence of blisters.
Pros
  • Mesh Upper
  • Removable Insole
  • Rubber Sole
  • Stretchy Asymmetrical Strap
  • Hook-and-Loop Closure
Cons
  • Sizing runs narrow
  • Lacking in support

4. Skechers Go Walk 4 Kindle

4. Skechers Go Walk 4 Kindle
The Go Walk 4 Kindle is built with as few seams as possible, making it almost seamless. The mesh upper is breathable, which helps keep your feet cool and dry so you don’t have to worry as much about the development of blisters. The upper is also lightly padded throughout, which promises to cushion your upper foot from light bumps.
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5GEN Midsole
Skechers uses its 5GEN midsole unit in this installment of their Go Walk series. It is a full-length foam unit wedged between the insole and outsole that provides responsive cushioning.

Goga Max Footbed
To add even more comfort in their Go Walk 4 Kindle, Skechers uses their Goga Max footbed as the insole for it. It is made of a responsive foam material.

Cost and Value
This comfortable shoe by Skechers can be found in the low-to-upper price range. Its high-quality cushioning units are well worth the investment if you shop around for a great deal.
Pros
  • 5GEN Midsole
  • Goga Max Footbed
  • Padded Mesh Upper
  • Rubber Sole
  • Wide Sizes Available
Cons
  • Can become smelly
  • Poor arch support

5. Propet W0001 Breeze Walker

5. Propet W0001 Breeze Walker
This sandal has three adjustable straps, including one with a buckle hook-and-loop closure. The straps and upper of the shoe are made of durable, supportive leather. The synthetic sole of this sandal includes a polyurethane outsole which promises responsive cushioning and comfort. It also comes with a low heel, which helps reduce strain and pressure on your feet and legs.
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Air Cell Polyurethane Outsole
Polyurethane is commonly used in the soles of shoes, but this shoe’s outsole is unique. The durable polyurethane is designed with air pockets filled with air to provide better cushioning.

Contoured Footbed
The contoured footbed in this shoe is designed to conform to the shape of your foot. The footbed is thin, but it’s wrapped in suede leather, which makes it softer.

Cost and Value
This sandal is available in the low-to-upper price range. It’s a more stylish option than some other shoes on this list and it doesn’t sacrifice comfort to get that style.
Pros
  • Air Cell Polyurethane Outsole
  • Contoured Footbed
  • Leather Upper
  • Ventilating Perforations
  • Synthetic Sole
  • Adjustable Straps
Cons
  • Poor support
  • Third strap has buckle closure

6. Propet Tour Walker

6. Propet Tour Walker
The Tour Walker is a firm, supportive shoe from the leather upper to the rubber outsole. It is perfect for anyone who needs a lot of foot support. It also comes with refreshing ventilating perforations to help with airflow and soft padding throughout the upper to reduce discomfort from rubbing. This shoe is also Medicaid approved for people with diabetes.
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Herringbone Tread Pattern
The tread pattern on the outsole of this shoe mimics the skeletal structure of a herring. This serves two purposes: to add flexibility and to provide extra grip and traction.

Removable Insole
Sometimes the insole that comes in a shoe just doesn’t meet all of your needs or you require specialized orthotic inserts. This insole can be removed and replaced as necessary.

Cost and Value
As with many of the shoes on this list, it is available in the low-to-upper price range. Be sure to shop around for the best deal on these grippy shoes.
Pros
  • Herringbone Tread Pattern
  • Removable Insole
  • Ventilating Perforations
  • Leather Upper
  • EVA Midsole
  • Padding
  • Medicaid Approved
Cons
  • Inconsistent sizing
  • Very firm

7. Propet M5015 Scandia

7. Propet M5015 Scandia
This leather shoe is firm and supportive from forefoot to heel counter. The sole’s rocker profile promotes natural foot motion and reduces shock from each footstrike. The removable EVA insole allows you to customize the shoe with custom orthotics or replace it when it’s worn out. This removable insole can double the lifespan of your shoes, making it quite cost-effective.
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Rounded Toe
The Scandia comes with a rounded Moc toe. This means your toes will have more wiggle room than in narrower pointed toes. Ample toe space reduces strain on your forefoot.

Extended Widths Available
Wearing shoes that are too narrow can do serious damage to your feet. It’s important for you to wear shoes that are wide enough for your feet to feel comfortable.

Cost and Value
The Scandia can be found in the low-to-upper price range. Its extended widths and Politec cushioning system are just two of the great features that make this a great investment.
Pros
  • Rounded Toe
  • Extended Widths Available
  • Leather Upper
  • Synthetic Sole
  • Removable EVA Insole
  • Politec Cushioning System
Cons
  • Seams may rip
  • May be smelly

8. Grasshoppers Stretch Plus

8. Grasshoppers Stretch Plus
This stretchy shoe is only available in two colors, but their functionality outweighs this flaw. The double hook-and-loop closure on this shoe is easier to use than lace-up closures. The padded tongue and collar protect your foot and ankle from abrasive rubbing and minor bumps. The Drilex moisture-wicking coating on the Ortholite insole helps to cool and dry your feet.
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Suede-and-Mesh Upper
The synthetic suede overlays of this shoe provide support and durability while the mesh parts provide breathability and flexibility. The stretchy upper allows for easier wear and a comfortable fit.

PureFit Comfort Arch
The Ortholite insole of this shoe has a PureFit Comfort Arch built into it, which provides arch support for those who need it. It is also a responsive shock-absorbing material.

Cost and Value
The Stretch Plus can be found in the low-to-middle price range, making it an affordable shoe. It comes with arch support and is accepted by the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Pros
  • Suede-and-Mesh Upper
  • PureFit Comfort Arch
  • Ortholite Insole
  • Drilex Lining
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
  • APMA Accepted
Cons
  • Firm sole
  • Wide heel

9. Hush Puppies Power Walker

9. Hush Puppies Power Walker
This shoe comes in a variety of neutral colors so it is easy to find one that will go with your favorite outfit. The leather upper provides firm support and is more durable than mesh uppers. The Drilex moisture wicking lining is used in the removable insole of this shoe, as well. The contoured sole improves shock-absorption in high-impact areas.
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Bounce Technology
This lace-up shoe utilizes Hush Puppies Bounce Technology in the sole to promote more bounceback and better shock-absorption. This cushioning technology can help reduce foot and leg fatigue and discomfort.

Ventilating Perforations
This shoe comes with perforations in the upper which are strategically placed to promote airflow. The improved airflow keeps your feet dry, which in turn reduces foul odors and blisters.

Cost and Value
This shoe is available in the low-to-upper price range. This shoe can be very affordable considering its supportive leather upper, removable insole, contoured sole, and soft collar and ankle padding.
Pros
  • Bounce Technology
  • Ventilating Perforations
  • Removable Insole
  • Contoured Sole
  • Leather Upper
  • Padded Tongue and Collar
Cons
  • Sole may detach
  • Poor arch support

10. Merrell Barrado

10. Merrell Barrado
The Barrado is a minimalistic shoe but is high-quality. It comes with a flexible synthetic mesh, a durable rubber outsole, and responsive cushioning technology. The Barrado has a zip-up closure that guarantees a snug fit and a flexible opening to slide your foot into. The pull tab on the back of the heel counter makes it easier to wear, too.
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Synthetic Mesh
The synthetic mesh upper of this shoe is designed to promote airflow to cool your feet. The mesh upper also helps with allowing water to drain out of the shoe.

Antimicrobial Technology
Foul odors can develop in shoes when either bacteria or fungi start to grow in the shoes. The Merrell Barrado’s antimicrobial technology reduces the development of fungi in the shoe.

Cost and Value
This unique shoe can be found in the middle-to-upper price range compared to the other shoes on this list. It’s a great value for a breathable, shock-absorbing, and flexible shoe.
Pros
  • Synthetic Mesh
  • Antimicrobial Technology
  • Zip-Up Closure
  • EVA Wedge
  • Pull-Tab
  • Merrell Air Cushion
Cons
  • No ankle support
  • No collar padding

Shopping for shoes for yourself or an elderly relative or friend doesn’t have to be difficult. There are many great shoes out there that utilize innovative new technologies to make shoes more comfortable and supportive. It’s not as daunting of a search as it used to be!

Some major details to consider when you are shopping for a shoe for an elderly friend or relative are the type of upper, the amount of cushioning, how much support it has, and how flexible it is. As a rule of thumb, leather uppers or mesh uppers with supportive leather overlays are best, because they provide more support than mesh or fabric alone. Shoes with a low heel or a tapered effect from heel to toe are also best because they reduce strain on the foot, ankle, and legs, which in turn reduces strain on the lower back.

Be sure to take the time to try on the shoes before you buy them if it is at all possible. If it isn’t possible to try them on, check the reviews on different sites that sell the shoes you are considering to confirm that they have the support, cushioning, and grip that you need.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Shoes for the Elderly

Why do the elderly need special shoes?

No shoe is one size fits all and shoes have never truly been one size fits all because everyone has different feet with different needs. The truth of the matter is that everyone needs “special” shoes- shoes that fit them and their needs. The shoes on this list aren’t elderly-only shoes. Anyone that has weak ankles, has a pronation problem, low or high arches, or participates in activities that require stability and grip.

As we go through our lives, our physical abilities and needs change. A toddler’s shoe is going to be different and require different features than a shoe that an elderly person might wear. As we age, sometimes we develop more joint and muscle pain or debilitating back pain. Bones become weaker and easier to break. Slipping and falling could result in extended hospital stays or even an inability to walk. Rolling an ankle could result in a severe head injury or a broken wrist as you fall.

Good shoes designed to be well-cushioned, supportive, and have good traction can reduce your risk of a serious fall or injury. Wearing shoes that fit properly and are designed with your kind of needs in mind can also greatly increase your quality of life. Growing old shouldn’t be a sad thing, but if you are in pain regularly, it can really get you down. Fortunately, wearing the proper shoes with the right amounts of safety features and comfort features built in can reduce your risk of developing serious medical conditions and reduce the amount of pain you endure day-to-day.

 

Safety Features

There are four primary safety feature categories: cushioning, support, traction, and flexibility. Shoe manufacturers have been able to create a plethora of different technologies to provide these essential safety features, so everyone can find a shoe that suits their personal needs. Cushioning and flexibility primarily provide shock-absorption and shock-dispersion while support and traction primarily focus on keeping the wearer steady on their feet to reduce the likelihood of falls. It is of the utmost importance to find a shoe that provides enough of each of these safety features to suit your needs or the needs of your elderly friend or relative without these features negating one another, as support features can sometimes negate cushioning and flexibility in shoes.

Ultimately, the amount of cushioning, support, traction, and flexibility that you need is something you must figure out for yourself. This guide will provide you with examples of safety features that provide each of the above categories. To ascertain if the shoe you are considering purchasing contains the safety features you want, you will need to do some research online or in the store. As always, trying the shoe on is the best way to confirm that the shoe will meet your needs, but sometimes that simply isn’t an option. Either the shoe isn’t available at local shoe retailers or you or your elderly relative cannot get to the store to try on each of the candidates. There are many people who have already tried the shoes on this list and they have given it their stamp of approval which means you don’t have to take as high of a risk when you are buying the shoe online.

 

Cushioning

Shock-absorption is the first quality on this list because shock can result in pain and serious injury from your toes to your lower back. Let’s take a moment to talk about shock. When you are driving a car, you are buckled in, the seats are relatively soft, and there are airbags that deploy in the event of an accident. If you are in an accident, you are jostled and shaken even though those safety features are in place to reduce the shock generated by wrecking your vehicle. If there were no cushioning features- i.e., the airbags and cushioned seats- any injury resulting from the accident would be much more severe.

Now think of your feet when you walk or run. Unlike with a car, which rolls smoothly until the driver stops the car or it is in an accident, your feet are constantly crashing against the ground. Some people have lighter footstrikes than others, but even they are affected by shock.

Biologically, feet were designed to absorb shock – that’s why we have arches and why our feet look exactly the way they do. Unfortunately, when you are running at higher speeds or have heavier footstrikes, sometimes the shock-absorbing capabilities of your feet are insufficient and the shock travels up to your ankles, legs, hips, and lower back. Just like in the car accident scenario, your body is jolted and jarred with the force of impact, which results in fatigue, discomfort, and strain on your feet, legs, hips, and lower back.

This is where cushioning in shoes comes into play. Shoes are designed to protect your feet; that’s why we wear them. Cushioning absorbs and disperses shock through the cushioning materials of the shoe, which reduces how much shock affects your feet and travels up your ankles and legs to your hips and back. Cushioning can be found throughout the entire shoe, but some shoes have less than others. Similarly, some people need less cushioning than others, so it’s important to know what feels good on your feet and what doesn’t.

Cushioning Features
So, how do shoe manufacturers build cushioning into their shoes? There are four locations in the shoe that can have cushioning features built into it: the upper, the insole, the midsole, and the outsole. Each one of these serves its own purpose and are strategically used in different shoes in different ways.

  • Upper: The upper of the shoe is the part of the shoe that wraps around your foot. The most common form of cushioning found in the upper of the shoe is padding. The padding can vary from shoe to shoe and it can be anything from simple fabric padding or air-pockets enclosed within the fabric and the outer material of the shoe. When looking for a shoe for yourself or an elderly relative or friend, you need to consider how much padding you need in the upper of the shoe. Do you regularly bump your feet against things or do you have a very active lifestyle that means you go hiking or trail running? If so, you need a shoe with more padding to protect your feet from bumps and bruises. Many manufacturers use padding in the tongue and the collar, which protects the wearer’s feet from painful rubbing by a firmer outer material, such as leather or a firm synthetic material. Wearing a shoe that doesn’t have padding in the tongue and collar may result in abrasions and scrapes on your Achilles tendons, ankles, and the top of your foot.

 

  • Insole: The insole of a shoe is the part of the sole that touches your foot directly. It’s also known as the insert or the footbed. The insole can be made with several different materials from foam to fabric padding to gel pockets. Even though this part of the sole touches your foot directly, it doesn’t actually serve as major of a role in shock-absorption as the other parts of the sole! Nevertheless, the insole still needs to be considered. An insole that is too thin and offers little to no cushioning will not be able to protect your feet from shock, which in turn reduces the shock-absorbing effectiveness of the entire sole unit and, ultimately, the entire shoe.

 

  • Midsole: The midsole unit is the MVP of the sole. It’s wedged between the insole and the outsole and generally serves multiple purposes, but one of the most important purposes that it serves is shock-absorption. Shoe manufacturers consistently use their best shock-absorbing shoe technologies in the midsole unit. Ethyl vinyl acetate, also known as EVA, and polyurethane foams are the most common midsole technologies, but they also come in the form of air pockets. Some shoe manufacturers even use more than one of these midsole technologies in their shoes, so it’s good to look into what kind of midsole the shoe you are considering has.

Support

Support is just important of a factor to consider as cushioning is. Unfortunately, as we age, we sometimes find ourselves a little unsteady on our feet. Hence, support is extremely important in a shoe for the elderly.

As we walk or run, our feet naturally rotate slightly around the ankle. This natural movement is broken into two categories: pronation and supination. Pronation is the natural inward rolling of your foot as you roll your foot from heel to toe. As you push off the ground with your forefoot, your foot rolls outward while you bring your heel around for the footstrike. This outward rolling of your foot is called supination.

People who have normal pronation and supination- a fifteen-degree roll inward and outward- usually don’t have as many problems with shock-absorption and stability, because their feet are more efficient at absorbing shock and maintaining balance. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have normal pronation and supination.

Overpronation occurs when your foot naturally rolls inward too much and usually comes with hyposupination when your foot does not roll outward enough to compensate for the overpronation. Underpronation occurs when your foot doesn’t roll inward enough and usually comes with hypersupination, which is when your foot rolls outward too much.

People who have pronation and supination problems generally have arch and heel pain and can develop serious medical conditions, such as plantar fasciitis. As the ability of the foot to absorb shock and to maintain balance is also reduced by pronation and supination problems, these problems can also result in additional strain and shock affecting the foot, ankle, leg, hips, and lower back. The foot’s weakened ability to maintain balance can also result in rolling a foot or an ankle, which can result in a serious fall and injury.

Support Features

Fortunately, shoe manufacturers have invested time and money into researching and creating new shoe technologies that help promote your stability by supporting your feet in the areas that need it most. Support features can be built into the upper, midsole, and outsole of the shoe and it is important to consider each of these regions when making a selection.

  • Upper: The upper, as mentioned above, can be padded for shock-absorption and comfort. However, the upper also plays a vital role in maintaining your balance and supporting your feet. Most of the shoes on this list of great shoes for the elderly have firm leather or synthetic uppers. These uppers reduce your risk of rolling a foot and sometimes for rolling an ankle if the upper comes up high enough. Some of the shoes on this list combine breathable mesh uppers with synthetic or leather overlays that give the shoe a sort of exoskeleton that helps support your foot. These shoes can be quite effective, but the best supportive uppers for the elderly are more firm leather or synthetic materials than mesh. In the back of the shoe is the heel counter. The heel counter is a firm insert that helps make the shoe firm and supportive, often reducing your risk for injurious falls. As the heel counter is hard and thin, it can scratch your Achilles tendons, so shoes with at least a little padding and a soft lining around the upper can reduce your risk of scratches and abrasions on your ankles, Achilles tendons, and lower foot.

 

  • Full-Foot Supports: Sometimes, shoe manufacturers use firmer foams as the cushioning in the midsole. The firmer midsole foam acts as both shock-absorbing foam and as support. Like a mattress, not everyone is satisfied with the same amount of cushion and support. The more firm that midsole unit is, the better the support. For people with pronation and supination problems, shoe manufacturers created full-length foam wedges to use in the midsole. They most commonly taper off to one side to correct overpronation problems. However, foam units aren’t the only means of full-foot support that shoe manufacturers use. They also use full-foot length shanks made of thermoplastic polyurethane, wood, plastic, or steel, depending on the type of shoe you are looking to invest in. Thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU, shanks are the most common as they are more flexible than steel and firmer than just plastic. It absorbs shock and helps to stabilize your gait.

 

  • Arch Supports: Arch supports can come in the form of foam wedges, air pockets, or midfoot support shanks- all of which are found beneath the arch. Arch supports are especially important for people with high arches and for people with pronation and supination problems.

 

  • Heel Supports: For people with heel and back pain, heel support features can really make an impact. Commonly, heel cups, extra-depth uppers, and supportive rings with cushioning are used to produce a supportive effect which often also help absorb shock. Heel cups are a solid piece of a firm substance which is used to cup the heel and provide it with support. Supportive heel rings serve a similar purpose, but these firm units are rings that are filled with powerful cushioning materials to increase the shock-absorption as well as the wearer’s stability. Extra-depth uppers create a more comfortable environment for your heel because the heel and Achilles tendon won’t be rubbed abrasively by the heel counter. One more key detail to consider about heel supports is the heel height. It’s shocking, but a shoe that is completely flat and level, even on a platform, can be just as uncomfortable as a high heel shoe. The key is to find a wide, low, and dense heel like that which is found on each of the shoes on this list. A slightly raised heel can also help reduce strain on the foot and legs, which reduces foot fatigue.

 

  • Outsole: The outsole is best known for providing traction and grip to reduce your risk of falling. However, just as it can with shock-absorption, the outsole can also be designed to support your whole foot or specific areas of your foot that need it most. Nearly every major shoe manufacturer has their own outsole technologies utilizing shanks, firm materials in the outsole, interlocking outsole units, and supportive tread design. For support, however, we will focus on the outsole material and support specific outsole technologies that are most commonly found in shoes.

 

  • Outsole Material: The most supportive outsole materials are leather, rubber, and firm synthetics. However, as we have already discussed, leather does not absorb shock well, so it would be best to eliminate any shoe with a leather outsole from the running. It should be noted, however, that the leather outsole can be more supportive than rubber or synthetics. If grip and cushioning are not major concerns of yours, then the leather outsole may serve your needs better than rubber and synthetics could.

 

  • Outsole Pattern: The outsole pattern varies by manufacturer and within each brand, the outsole also varies from model to model of shoe. The biggest thing you should consider for the outsole pattern when evaluating it for supportive benefits is the location of the firmest parts of the outsole. Some shoes come with an under-arch support beam built into the outsole rather than the midsole to save the midsole unit for cushioning, for example. These shoes often have an asymmetrical groove pattern that connects different areas of the outsole to the rest. This is most common in interlocking outsole parts. When you look on the bottom of the shoe, if there are pieces of rubber or synthetic material that are a different color and shape than the rest of the outsole of the shoe, then that means the outsole uses two or more different compounds to provide you with the best support and shock-absorption.

 

  • Supportive Air Cushioning: Some outsoles have dense air pockets or small support springs built into them. These pockets and springs are great for shock-absorption, but they can also provide excellent support. The dense air pockets raise your heel to provide more support, as do the support springs and beams.

 

  • Shanks: Shanks in the best casual shoes are usually made of hardened polyurethane. They can be found solely in the heel, solely in the midfoot, or across the entire foot as a full-length shank. They help provide support where you need it.

Traction

Another important detail to consider is the shoe’s ability to grip the ground. You need traction both to propel yourself forward and to stabilize your step and help you travel safely. The primary way that manufacturers provide traction is by using effective groove patterns that help the shoe grip the ground.

The most effective groove patterns are deeper than others and extend to the very edges of the outsole. This second part is extra important. The grooves in your sole that help your shoes grip the ground are utterly useless in wet conditions if they do not extend all the way to the edges of the shoe. To illustrate why this is important, consider the car analogy we used earlier about shock. Now, picture yourself driving a car across half an inch or more of water. Odds are, you’re going to hydroplane, which happens when the car floats a bit on the water and the water separates tires from the road, which makes their treads useless for maintaining balance. The same thing is true for your shoes. If you walk in water and the treads on the bottom of your shoes don’t allow water to escape, it will fill the grooves and then you slip.

The specific outsole pattern will vary by manufacturer and shoe model, but by and large, the pattern doesn’t explicitly matter, as long as the grooves are neither too deep nor too shallow, neither too wide nor too thin, and at least some of the grooves extend to the very edge of the outsole.

 

Flexibility

Flexibility, as mentioned above, deals mainly with absorbing and dispersing shock. This prevents your risk of running related injuries. The best shoes come with flexible uppers and flexible soles. There are a number of ways that manufacturers promote flexibility, but it is important to make sure that the shoe isn’t so flexible that it has no support.

  • Flexible Uppers: The most common type of flexible upper material is a breathable mesh. Other materials, such as neoprene, fabric, and canvas are also very flexible, but these materials can be hot and stuffy. Most shoes for the elderly focus on being supportive and firm, but manufacturers know that people need flexibility, too. That’s why most manufacturers combine flexible mesh materials with supportive overlays. This allows the shoe to flex and bend with the foot naturally without losing control. It also supports the foot without becoming hard and unforgiving.

 

  • Flexible Outsoles: The best outsoles for support and cushioning are made with rubber or synthetic materials. Unfortunately, these materials can be firm and thick and, unfortunately, the inflexibility of the shoe can negate all of the shock-absorbing qualities of the entire sole. This is because, just as the people inside the car get jostled by an impact, an inflexible object will snap under pressure rather than bending and dispersing the shock.

To further help the shoe absorb and disperse shock, manufacturers have developed special flex grooves to help the shoe bend naturally with your foot. However, too many flex grooves can reduce the support that the shoe offers and flex grooves that are too deep can, as well. So, look for a balance of firmness and flexibility, because this can really impact your comfort as well as your health.

Comfort Features

Comfort features, for the purposes of this guide, are defined as features that aren’t absolutely essential in shoes for the elderly but can increase the overall comfort of the wearer. The two major comfort feature categories we are going to discuss here are temperature management and odor control. These comfort features are also closely linked. For example, most temperature management features on shoes can help reduce or prevent odor development. However, not all odor control features will help manage the temperature inside the shoe, so bear that in mind.

Temperature Management

Temperature management is an important comfort feature because no one wants to walk or run in hot, stinky, wet socks and shoes. Also, people who live in colder climates need shoes that insulate their feet from the cold. Shoes that keep your feet cool and dry are not only more comfortable to wear, but they also reduce the occurrence of blisters and sores resulting from painful rubbing.

  • Breathability: This is the primary type of temperature management that manufacturers use and it’s usually in the form of a mesh being used in part or all of the upper. That’s because meshes are designed like little nets that wrap around your feet and air can flow straight through the little holes, which cools and dries your feet. However, there is another common technology that manufacturers use to promote the breathability of the shoe: ventilating perforations. Ventilating perforations can take the form of a bunch of small holes in the firm leather or synthetic upper of a shoe, or in the form of a couple of larger holes strategically positioned to allow air to pass through.

 

  • Moisture-Wicking: A material that wicks moisture away sheds water easily. It’s another great way that shoe manufacturers control the temperature inside your shoe. Breathable meshes also usually shed water easily, but moisture-wicking materials are usually treated with some type of chemical that repels water. If you were to purchase a can of weatherproofing or waterproofing spray for your shoes, you would be coating them with a chemical that repels water. Some manufacturers do this for you ahead of time. Moisture-wicking materials in shoes are commonly found on the outside of the upper and in the insole. The outside layer of moisture-wicking materials prevents water from getting into the shoe in the first place, which keeps your feet drier. However, insoles that repel water help move the sweat and moisture inside your shoes to the edges of the upper. There, the moisture can be pulled out with the air that flows in and out of the shoe via a mesh or ventilating perforations.

Odor Control

Stinky shoes are no fun. They can stink up your house and your socks and your feet. However, shoes with good temperature management and odor control can help prevent and reduce odor development. Both breathability and moisture-wicking materials can help with this, but there are also pre-treated insoles that are designed to freshen and reduce the development of odors. These insoles are commonly made with the usual cushioning materials but are coated with an antimicrobial or antibacterial compound. The antimicrobial properties combat the development of fungi while the antibacterial compound reduces the growth of bacteria in the shoe. Fungi and bacteria are generally the sources of foul odors in shoes.

Cost-Effectiveness

Ultimately, the best shoes are cost-effective and give you great value for your money. Most of us cannot afford to go buy a new pair of shoes every couple of months, so it’s important to consider the cost-effectiveness of the shoes you are considering investing in. There are three qualities in a shoe that determine its cost-effectiveness: durability, customizability, and price. Of course, all the categories discussed thus far also impact the overall cost-effectiveness of shoes, so keep those in mind, as well.

  • Durability: You need a shoe that is going to last. A shoe isn’t cost-effective if it falls apart after a few weeks of normal wear. Shoes with leather or synthetic uppers are usually more durable than plain mesh shoes. However, supportive leather or synthetic overlays combined with meshes can produce a durable shoe that combines flexibility and support with durability.

 

  • Customizability: Customizability is important for just about everyone, regardless of age. However, the elderly are more likely to require custom orthotic inserts to use in their shoes that are designed to meet their specific needs. Shoes with removable insoles allow the wearer to customize the shoe by replacing the original insole with a custom one. Removable insoles also give you the opportunity to potentially double the lifespan of your shoes. Here’s how that works: cushioning and support features in an insole will wear down over time, losing their shock-absorbing and supportive properties.  Sometimes, the outsole and midsole won’t wear down as quickly as the insole does, because outsole materials are typically designed to be more durable and the midsole unit is protected by the insole and outsole, which extends its lifespan. Removable insoles allow you to replace the old and worn out insole and replace it with a new one and there are many insoles out there to consider!

 

  • Price: The actual price of the shoe is another major factor to consider. Many of the elderly are living on a fixed income which is often not very large. They have to make good investments with every bit of their money to make it last. Many of the shoes on this list are available in low, middle, and upper price ranges. However, when you lower the price of a shoe, sometimes the number of shoe technologies used in the shoe can decrease. Sometimes, to get a good shoe for an affordable price, you have to choose more support or more cushioning, and so on. Ultimately, you have to decide what your personal shoe needs are and what characteristics you can afford healthwise to sacrifice and what characteristics you cannot give up for a more affordable shoe.

 

Additional Considerations

So far, we have discussed the most important characteristics and features in the best shoes. However, to make an educated decision about the best shoe for you, you need to consider your personal needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: Are the brands listed in this guide the only shoes that are good for the elderly?
A: No. The shoes that made it onto this list are the very best shoes based on our criteria for evaluation. There are many other shoe brands and styles that are also good for the elderly. Orthofeet and Vionic are two other popular brands that develop good shoes for the elderly.

Q: What are the primary characteristics that make a shoe good for an elderly person?
A: The primary characteristics that make a shoe good for an elderly person would be cushioning, support, traction or grip, and flexibility. These four characteristics are the most essential for finding a good shoe for an elderly person, as these are safety features that greatly impact your health.

Q: Are all shoes for the elderly ugly?
A: No! There are plenty of nice looking shoes that fit the criteria listed above that would suit the needs of an elderly person. There are lovely dress shoes, work shoes, and bedroom shoes that are all great for the elderly. The shoes on this list are simply the very best shoes available.

 

Terminology

  • Heel Counter: a firm synthetic insert that is placed in the back of the shoe to create a supportive wall at your heel to protect your feet
  • Upper: the part of the shoe that wraps around your foot
  • Sole: the part of the shoe that touches the ground
  • Insole: the part of the sole that touches your foot directly. It usually provides cushioning and shock-absorption.
  • Midsole: the part of the sole that is sandwiched between the insole and outsole
  • Outsole: the part of the sole that touches the ground. It usually experiences the most wear and tear, so it’s usually made with more durable materials.
  • Pronation: the natural inward rolling of your foot as you prepare to step off
  • Supination: the natural outward rolling of your foot as you prepare for the heel strike
  • Overpronation: a pronation problem where your foot rolls inward too much. This can result in injury and discomfort.
  • Underpronation: a pronation problem where your foot doesn’t roll inward enough. This can also result in injury and discomfort.
  • Hypersupination: a supination problem where your foot rolls outward too much and is usually experienced by people who underpronate
  • Hyposupination: a supination problem where your foot doesn’t roll outward enough and is usually experienced by people who overpronate
  • Plantar Fasciitis: the inflammation of the plantar fascia, a tendon that connects the heel to the forefoot. It is usually a result of pronation and supination problems.

 

Sources

  1. Zero G Online, The Zero G 4-Layer Foundation, 2015
  2. FeetRelief, The Heel Counter, 2007
  3. Asics, What is Pronation, and Why Does It Matter?, 2017
  4. Mayo Clinic, Plantar Fasciitis, March 7, 2018
  5. The New York Times, When the Elderly Fall, Shoes May Be to Blame, February 24, 1998
  6. Phillips LifeLine, The Importance of Foot Care for Senior Citizens, October 21, 2014
  7. Icaa.cc, The Aging Foot
  8. Forbes, How to Find Comfortable Shoes That Don’t Compromise Style, September 6, 2012
  9. AARP, When Comfort Counts: Choosing a Walking Shoe


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