If the Shoe Fits: How Proper Footwear Is Beneficial in Parkinson’s

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by Jo Gambosi |

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The other day, when I was shopping for sandals, I thought about my sister Bev, who has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease. I pondered how Parkinson’s might affect her footwear options. For example, I thought about how sandals and flip-flops may be trendy, but they typically aren’t good for people with Parkinson’s who experience balance, walking, and gait problems.

Bev has walking and balance issues, but she doesn’t experience episodes of freezing or stiffness. Her unsteady gait and poor balance have led to several falls. Fortunately, she hasn’t suffered any major injuries as a result.

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As Parkinson’s News Today explains, “One of the most debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease is the loss of coordination and control in body movements, which in many cases leads to severe walking disabilities.” I wondered if certain types of shoes might make a difference for those who struggle with walking, balance, gait, or postural instability.

A 2013 study published in PLOS One found that textured insoles can improve posture and reduce sideways swaying in Parkinson’s patients. Researchers concluded that, “Such textured insoles may provide a low-cost means of improving postural stability in high-risk groups, such as people with PD, which may act as an important intervention to prevent falls.”

The use of textured insoles was supported by a review published last year in the Journal of Personalized Medicine of eight other studies involving Parkinson’s patients treated with some type of insole or footwear, including textured insoles, footwear modifications, and habitual footwear. Data collected during the review led authors to conclude that, “There are indications to suggest that textured insoles have positive effects on gait parameters, balance, and plantar sensation in Parkinson’s disease patients.” However, further studies are needed.

Shoes can also be modified specifically for those with foot, balance, or walking problems. In 2020, Parkinson’s News Today‘s Mary Chapman wrote about a partnership between the shoe company Kizik and the Parkinson’s Foundation to make hands-free shoes more widely available to Parkinson’s patients. Kizik makes hands-frees shoes, which allow people to slip their feet into them without bending over and potentially losing their balance. The shoes also have thick foam on the inside for extra support and comfort.

Bev wears tennis shoes with thick soles and no laces so that she can slip them on easily. I am still working on getting her to try textured insoles.

For people with Parkinson’s who experience freezing episodes, laser shoes developed by Dutch researchers may be helpful. In 2018, Parkinson’s News Today‘s Ana de Barros reported that, “The lasers … added to the tops of shoes project lines on the floor that provide patients with the visual cues they need.” This can help to reduce instances of a person freezing in place as they’re walking.

Additionally, a study published last year in the International Journal of Medical Sciences found that people with Parkinson’s are at a higher risk for foot deformities and often wear inadequate footwear, which can diminish their quality of life.

Since balance, gait, walking, and even foot deformity issues are commonly associated with Parkinson’s, it’s important for patients to select the proper footwear. I also recommend adding a podiatrist to your healthcare team.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Comments

DAVID JACOBSON avatar

DAVID JACOBSON

Good information...but what are TEXTURED insoles?

Reply
Karl Pape avatar

Karl Pape

I wear a men's size 16 AA. I take what I can get!

Reply
Sandra Martin avatar

Sandra Martin

It seems I'm always speaking for my husband and I am! He's old schooled and doesn't use the computer so the Parkinson's News Today helps me to learn and understand. I bought him some Kizik shoes. They are 'hands free", lightweight shoes and he says they are very comfortable. We also found the gold tone acrylic fluffies crew socks are the easier to put on as compared to the thicker, cotton ones as well. I'm considering of getting some Kizik tennis shoes for me.

For my mother, she wore the 'no tie' type shoes with silky socks so we could just slip them on her.

Reply
Marycarol Deane avatar

Marycarol Deane

I’ve been recently (6 months) and my greatest challenge is balance. But I’m stubborn and enjoy walking for 30-60 minutes daily. My go-to shoes are Skechers Mary Jane style shoes with a Velcro strap. I sit to put them on now, but find them to be very comfortable and pretty stable. I gave away all my shoes tith a heel night of over a half inch a couple of years ago. I do have an extensive collection of flip-flops, but I suspect they will soon have to go. Bummer.

Reply
Dianne avatar

Dianne

I Had issues with my feet prior to Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2010. Three years ago I discovered an online site, Orthofeet.com that has shoes for every foot condition. Now, I shop for shoes exclusively at Orthofeet.com

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emma jack avatar

emma jack

Wear lightweight, steady shoes with Velcro terminations or flexible shoestrings, or shoes that can be slipped on, which make it more straightforward to put on and remove shoes. Wear pants with a flexible midsection since they are simpler to pull all over and have stretch.

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Steven Emrich avatar

Steven Emrich

I just got a pair of kizik shoes and they work great for slipping right into the shoes. They worked so well I got a second pair. You don’t have to bend over to put the shoes on but it is best to have a counter top or some kind of grab bar to hang onto while slipping one shoe on at a time and temporarily standing on one foot.

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Richard Odessey avatar

Richard Odessey

Another vote for Kizik- very comfortable. as As Steven suggested a grab bar can be useful but is not required. I have an indoor pair and an outdoor pair

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