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Preventing Falls for the Elderly

Research and presentation by Professor Hylton Menz, LaTrobe University

Falls in older people are a major public health problem, with 1 in 3 people aged 65 and over falling each year. It is well recognised that falls result from the interaction between environmental hazards and physiological risk factors, such as impaired vision, muscle weakness, and slow reaction time. More recently, foot problems, which affect 1 in 3 older people and are a common reason for consultation in primary care, have been associated with falls.

Specifically, foot pain, reduced range of motion, toe weakness, and toe deformity have each been shown to be independent risk factors for falling. In addition, footwear related risk factors for falls include walking barefoot, walking in socks alone or wearing shoes with inadequate fixation (that is, no laces, straps, or buckles), increased heel height, and reduced contact area of sole. Given the emerging evidence that foot problems and inappropriate footwear increase the risk of falls, several guidelines for falls prevention recommend that older people have their feet and footwear examined by a podiatrist.

In addition to the FootHold exercise program, participants in the trial also received a pair of foot orthoses. The foot orthoses were prefabricated, full length, dual density orthoses made from a thermoformable cross linked closed cell polyethylene foam with a firm density base and a soft density top cover (Formthotics; Foot Science International, Christchurch, New Zealand).


A lecture by Professor Hylton Menz, La Trobe University, Melbourne, AU


Research: Martin J Spink, PhD candidate,1,2 Hylton B Menz, professor,1 Mohammad R Fotoohabadi, research officer,1 Elin Wee, research officer,1 Karl B Landorf, senior lecturer,1,2 Keith D Hill, professor of allied health,1,3,4 Stephen R Lord, senior principal research fellow5,6