Monday, July 26, 2010

The Elderly and Bare Feet

Someone on BFT's Group asked about an "Article on bare feet helping the elderly?", and Laskey posted this:
This study seems to say the opposite
"Going barefoot in the home, or wearing slippers or socks with no shoes, may contribute to falls among the elderly, according to a new study from the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife"
Maybe going barefoot might be good for other reasons, but it seems maybe a smooth foot, or socks will lead to a greater chance of slipping and falling. VFFs then?
I replied:

That study doesn't tell you much, actually.
What would be useful to know is not what percentage of people were in their bare feet when they fell, it would be the inverse, what percentage of people who fell were in their bare feet.
So if 18% of people were in their bare feet, but they had 14% of falls, then there's an advantage to being in your bare feet, or the reverse could be true.
"Recommendations such as wearing well-fitting, low-heeled shoes with slip-resistant soles seem sensible," says Dr. Hannan, "but there is only limited data to support this advice."
In other words, "We think we know what we're talking about, but we have no proof." So to be safe, ignore them until they have proof.
Now, there are certain situations where barefoot is not best, primarily peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves in the feet, for instance), which is common in diabetes, which is common in older people, unfortunately.  (Especially common in older people who follow the medical profession's dietary advice.)  Also people with weak feet from wearing shoes may have difficulty transitioning, especially if they have balance issues in addition.

But that said, this study seems to be a glaring example of a medical "conclusion" in search of proof. 

Since pediatricians all recommend that children need to go barefoot for proper foot and leg development, I would like to hear a doctor give a clear-cut explanation of at what age all of our feet suddenly become incapable of supporting us, as they clearly evolved to do.

Many podiatrists would have us believe that once we leave the pediatricians' care, we must slap our feet into shoes and orthotics for the rest of our lives, and now the gerontologists would have us catch those few elderly rebels who have escaped the podiatrists' clutches and finally stuff their wriggling feet in shoes for the few sunset years of their lives.

A pretty grim prospect, if you ask me.

Given the above caveat, I think this "research" is ridiculous on its face.

Oh, I should have mentioned:

The study, which will [sic] be published in the summer issue of the journal Footwear Science.

No conflicts of interest here.  Please move along.