Foot health is an important issue in older people. Inappropriate shoes increase the risk of callous and ulcer formation, as well as increasing the risk of falls. There are no data defining the size of this problem.
The aim of the study was to investigate the proportion of elderly people on a general rehabilitation ward wearing incorrectly sized shoes and to look for the presence of complications.
Sixty five consecutive patients (mental state questionnaire score >6) admitted to a rehabilitation ward had their foot length and width measured, and the size of their current footwear recorded. Sensation was tested with a standard 10 g monofilament. The presence of ulceration was noted. Foot pain was recorded by the patient on a visual analogue scale. Any history of diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, or peripheral neuropathy was noted.
The median age of the subjects was 82 (range 64-93). Six (9%) had a history of diabetes, seven (11%) had symptomatic peripheral vascular disease, and 17 (26%) had sensory impairment. Ten patients (15%) had foot ulceration present, and 47 patients (72%) had ill fitting shoes (a discrepancy in length of more than half a British shoe size fitting or more than one British width fitting, 7 mm). Incorrect shoe length was significantly associated with the presence of ulceration (odds ratio (OR) = 10.04, p = 0.016). Presence of ulceration was significantly associated with a history of peripheral vascular disease (OR = 11.56, p = 0.008). Pain was significantly associated with incorrect shoe length (p = 0.0238) and with sensory impairment (p = 0.0314).
Most older people on a rehabilitation ward wore ill fitting shoes. An association was found between ill fitting shoes and self reported pain, and between ill fitting shoes and ulcer formation. A straightforward assessment of footwear in older people could improve comfort and avoid preventable foot disorders.