You might be surprised to learn that your eyes and your feet have a huge impact on your balance. Here’s why:
Your body uses three different sensory systems to maintain balance:
- Vision – I’m sure you know all too well how hard it is to balance when your eyes are closed!
- Somatosensory – This system provides us with information about our spatial location and the movement of our body by the sense of touch in your feet.
- Vestibular – this delicate balance system is located in your inner ear and is activated when your head moves. I’ll discuss this in detail in my next blog.
Since your vision is key to maintaining your balance, get your eyes checked at least once a year, or more often if you have a gradually worsening condition like cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration. Don’t put off getting cataract surgery – blurry vision can cause a catastrophic fall.
If you wear glasses, be sure to update your lens prescription regularly. Speaking of glasses, progressive or bifocal lenses can increase the risk of falls, especially on stairs. Even though it is not as convenient, I recommend that you have two different pairs of glasses – one for distance and another one for reading.
Your body receives crucial somatosensory cues when from your feet touching the firm surface of the ground. It’s much harder to balance when standing on something compliant, like soft sand or a squishy pad, than when standing on a solid surface. Sneakers with an extra thick padding on the bottom are sort of like standing on a soft pad and will reduce the somatosensory cues your body needs from your feet. Because of this, shoes with thin soles are better for balance. I understand that many of us need to wear padded shoes because of bunions or sore feet, so you might want to consult your doctor or a podiatrist about the best choice of footwear for you.
Obviously, never ever walk around in socks or stockings, and if you wear slippers, make sure that they can’t slip off your feet and that they are not slippery.
Your eyes and your feet are your balance buddies – these tips will help them help you prevent a fall!