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Shoes: Just Do it Again - Update on 04/12 - Update 04/16 - Update 04/18

Shoes to prevent falls and to satisfy older adults needs

Photo of Andrea Davila Saad

Written by

Who is your idea designed for and how does it enable older adults to live their best possible life by preventing falls?

People who are 65 to 75 years old, that are aware and worry of the risk of falling and have taken steps to prevent falls. They face a dilemma where they want to feel safe but at the same time independent. They want their shoes to match with their mindset and how they feel.

Shoes are key for fall prevention and the elderly acknowledge that they want comfortable, safe and fancy shoes according to their needs. 

During the research phase we identified that wearing appropriate shoes can reduce the number of falls by 36%. Footwear can increase the risk of slips, trips and falls by making people more prone to poor balance and bad gait, or by making it difficult to judge surface friction and distance from the floor (British Medical Journal).

Having that, we believe that the design of shoes for the elderly is an step to prevent falls. There are specific features for shoes that have proven to prevent falls:  1)A high back or collar to support the ankle 2) A strong Velcro fastener on the front to ensure the shoe will not slip off 3) A wide opening to make it easier for the elderly to get their foot in and out of the slipper which is important if they have restricted mobility 4) A house-shoe, which can offer the comfort of a slipper, but with the stable support of a shoe

In order for shoes to be safe it is important to have a hard, slip-resistant sole, a heel height lower than one inch. It is also recommended that older people wear well-fitted, slip-resistant slippers or house shoes indoors rather than walking barefoot or in socks or tights.

With these characteristics we can think on different types of shoes: party shoes, formal shoes , casual shoes and athletic shoes. 

Results from our first user feedback:

We asked to women (12) from different ages and these are the main insights we identify:
-Overall they liked the shoe and they said they were willing to use this type of shoes.
- Some of them were not sure if these shoes were formal or athletic.
- They liked the idea of the Velcro for support but did not like how is located in the front part of the shoe.
- For the sole they didn’t have many comments but when we asked about the possibility to include a device to measure their balance they have different reactions. For women younger than 30 years old (4) they were excited with the idea and asked about details and they considered that it would be cool to have that information. Women from 30 to 60 (4) did not react so excited to the idea, but women older than 60 did (4) not understand the purpose of that device. They mentioned that would be uncomfortable, asked who will see the information and why this was important. We tried to explain the idea but in general they considered that was something that they don’t like.
- Women older that 60 mentioned that the idea of elastic laces was really good, while the boot to support the ankle does not seems very comfortable. Some of them mentioned that their ankle was width so it would be hard to wear that type of shoe.
-Also they mentioned that the shoe needs a higher toe box. And some of them like the high top for support and stability.

Update 04/16 - New sketch including user feedback

We did two new sketch based on user testing (image attached):

1) Try to change some of the features user mentioned such as, the rubber ankle (we change it for a zipper), the velcro and the internal heel.

2) In the user testing presented by Tianqi users mentioned they would like sport shoes, so we include the sketch with the features to prevent falls.

Update 04/18 - Prototype SAM


Aesthetically Pleasing


We hack an old pair of shoes and the video shows the results. We include the feedback found with the user testing. Look the video here:

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Sketches and prototypes with different types of shoes (including the characteristics named above). We plan to show those sketches to the elderly to receive their feedback.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

More information about materials for shoes who prevent falls and make the elderly to feel idependent and confortable

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

NYU- Wagner Student.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Laith Al-Sheikh Hassan

One of the Seniors I worked with for this challenge brought up the issue if ill-fitting shoes. Not only are they uncomfortable, but can pose serious dangers. I'm glad to see you tackling this problem and the various areas you are trying to address. I would like to suggest one more addition: Adjustability and reconfiguration. I learned that one particular problem seniors have with their feet, is that various medical conditions and poor circulation can cause their feet to swell considerably over the course of a day, and sometimes in mere hours. A shoe that fit fine at 9 am, may become too tight by noon and then too loose by evening. Is there a way to incorporate a dynamic and easy method of adjusting the shoe as the user's feet shrink and swell throughout the day? I would love to see your ideas on that.

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