Podiatric issues like severe arthritis, structural foot deformities, edema and complications from diabetes can make it challenging for seniors to find shoes that are comfortable and fit properly. Achieving the proper fit can improve mobility, minimize foot pain, reduce the risk of falls and protect diabetic feet from injuries. Family caregivers share their tips for finding and affording adaptive footwear, orthopedic shoes and custom orthotics.

How to Find and Afford Orthopedic Shoes and Custom Orthotics for Seniors

“My mom has one good foot and one bad foot. She sees a podiatrist every other month, and her insurance pays for it. She has a hammer toe on one foot, and I know it is from wearing shoes that are too small. As we get older and our muscles weaken, our feet get flatter, making them longer and wider. My mom wore a size 8 narrow in shoes all her life and she was determined to cram her feet into those 8 narrows no matter what. After much pain and many arguments, she’s now wearing a 9 medium, but the damage is already done.” –KeepontryintM

“I’ve gotten some nice shoes from my podiatrist, but his office only carries one line. What I’ve found to be more effective is to buy from an orthotics and prosthetics office. They have catalogs from at least a half dozen companies, and the Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist is an expert at fitting deformed feet as well as more ordinary needs. Yes, specialty shoes are expensive. My insurance paid just a small amount toward them, but once I was eligible for Medicare, I found they are completely covered if you have diabetes. This is a great benefit, and it is based on the fact that foot problems in diabetics can be very costly. The preventative benefits of wearing suitable shoes is well worth the investment. Diabetics should wear shoes all the time. My diabetes doctor insists that I wear water shoes from the locker room to the swimming pool and even in the pool! No bare feet or open-toed sandals for diabetics!” –jeannegibbs

“My mother has extremely swollen feet and ankles from water retention, and she also has a toe that crosses over the other, making it impossible to find shoes. I searched everywhere and found shoes she loves. Best of all, they are comfortable and they FIT!!! I found these shoes in the Dr. Leonard catalogue (it is a discount healthcare catalogue). The shoes are made by Dr. Scholl’s, which has always been a good brand. What so excited me after all the long searching was that they carry extra-wide sizes. These are the best I could find, and she loves them and says they are so comfortable. They also have a Velcro flap you can adjust so they fit properly, regardless of fluctuations in swelling.” –3pinkroses

“My mom is diabetic and Medicare Part B pays for a custom-fitted pair of shoes every year that we get through her podiatrist. There are many, many styles and some are really kind of cute. My mom got red patent leather Mary Janes one year! They were custom fitted with an impression made and measurements taken. When she had some issues with swelling, the doctor suggested another style. Even though my mom liked the Mary Janes, she went for it.” –babalon1919

“It’s hard to accept, but our loved ones should care more about the health of their feet than wearing stylish shoes. Amputation of diabetic feet is a reality for many who incur an injury and infection. Any footwear that does not cause restriction in the blood flow to the foot is essential.” –ArmyRetired

“Occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs) from the Falls Prevention Team recommend good, firm-soled, grippy shoes that support the foot and fasten well with straps, buckles or laces (i.e. not slip-ons or slippers). They are also always going on about never wandering around the house barefoot. The best type for your loved one will depend on how, exactly, their health issues affect their balance and ability to use their feet. If they are diabetic with peripheral neuropathy, for example, the feedback sensation they get from their feet will be impaired. You will also need to make sure that their shoes fit really well so they don’t get any sore patches or blisters.” –Churchmouse

“Dr. Comfort is a good, sturdy shoe with Velcro fasteners. You can find them at the podiatrist’s office or a medical supply store. They are pricey but worth it. Otherwise, any good, supportive shoe with easy fasteners should work. Just remember that function and comfort trump fashion.” –LearningCurve

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“Both Land’s End and L.L. Bean make Mary Janes with Velcro straps that loop through a D-ring, which better accommodates swollen feet.” –Babalou

“If you are buying for a female who is not able to leave the house, buying men’s sneakers often gives more room for those poor old misshapen toes. Good quality sneakers with good treads on the soles was the advice I received from my podiatrist. I also like a sole that curls up in the front, so I don’t catch the sole on obstructions. Make sure the shoe is big enough for their worst/largest foot, and then adjust the other shoe with insoles or heel grips if it is too big for the smaller foot. Needless to say, all the heels and slip-ons should head straight to the thrift store. If your loved one is still able to attend dressy events, select a pair of well-fitting shoes that have a low, wide and stable heel. There’s no shame in them using their cane or mobility aid! It’s far better than arriving at a wedding with a broken nose!” –Veronica91

“Our shoe brand of choice for myself, my significant other and my parents is SAS (San Antonio Shoemakers), and they are made in Texas. They carry all sizes from narrow/slim to wide. They’re oh-so comfortable, and the salespeople are excellent at fitting the shoes.” –freqflyer

“The best shoes I ever found for my mom were Dr. Scholl’s. They were Velcro, lightweight and came in black, white, gray and pink. I think I found them in Payless and Walmart. Mom was at inpatient physical therapy and the therapist asked me to take one of Mom’s shoes off and pass it around so the other seniors in the room could see the correct shoes they should be wearing. I didn’t dare tell her where we bought them!” –Rosebush