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“I’m More Comfortable with a Wide-Fit Shoe” The Footwear Needs and Preferences of Older Adults in Racket Sports

Joanna E. ReevesDepartment for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK.

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Anita E. WilliamsSchool of Health and Society, University of Salford, Salford, UK.

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Sharon Jane DixonSchool of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, St Luke’s Campus, Exeter, UK.

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Background: Physical activity is important throughout the lifespan. Racket sports are popular with older adults and offer important social benefits. It is unknown how the physiologic changes attributable to aging affect lower limb loading during multidirectional sports and how this may influence footwear requirements. The purpose of this work was to explore the footwear needs and preferences of older adults in racket sports to inform footwear design and development.

Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted online with 16 participants (56–92 years of age) who typically play racket sports at least once per week. Thematic analysis was used to group basic themes into organizing themes.

Results: The organizing themes were comfort (general comfort, pain-free, and cushioning), functionality (relating to the structure of the shoe and performance), and choice (mostly around the appearance of the shoe). Comfort was a key priority for the majority of participants, although it was often stressed that the footwear must also be supportive. Support was frequently defined in relation to preventing ankle sprains; however, when asked directly about managing injury risk, avoiding certain shots and appropriate grip were mentioned over support. More than half of participants reported needing a wide-fitting sport shoe, which limited the footwear selection available to them.

Conclusions: This study provides novel insight into the footwear requirements of active older adults, which can inform the development of footwear to facilitate safe and pain-free participation in sport for all.

Corresponding author: Joanna E. Reeves, PhD, Department for Health, University of Bath, Applied Biomechanics Suite, Bath BA2 7AY, UK. (E-mail: jer25@bath.ac.uk)