Q & A: Why Do Seniors Shuffle When They Walk?

why do seniors shuffle

– Question –

My mom has started shuffling and sliding her feet when she walks. I always remind her to pick up her feet, but she keeps ignoring me! It’s so annoying! Why does she refuse to walk normally?



– Answer –

Asking your mom to pick up her feet and walk normally isn’t likely to work. Why? Because there’s probably something causing her to shuffle. To help her walk more normally (and safely!), the first step is to find the cause.


10 most common reasons seniors shuffle when they walk

  1. Weak hips and leg muscles
  2. Arthritis pain in joints
  3. Loss of flexibility in feet making it hard to flex them normally
  4. Decreased ability to maintain balance
  5. Decreased vision making it hard to see
  6. Fear because of a recent stumble or fall
  7. Slow reaction time when unbalanced which increases fear of falling
  8. Medication side effects
  9. Worn or poorly-fitting shoes or slippers
  10. Slippery floors

Serious medical conditions, like Parkinson’s or dementia, could also cause your mom to shuffle or walk unsteadily. To make sure her shuffling isn’t caused by a health condition or medication, it’s best to get a check-up from the doctor.


A shuffling walk increases senior fall risk

If your mom is shuffling, dragging, or generally not lifting her feet off the ground when walking, she’s at greater risk of falling.

Shuffling is a common cause of falls because sliding feet can more easily trip on rugs, door thresholds, or even slightly uneven surfaces. Older adults who shuffle are more likely to stumble because their shoes can catch on the ground. Also, the narrow stance of shuffling feet makes someone more unbalanced than if they had a normal walking stance.


What to do if your senior shuffles when they walk

Unless the reason for shuffling is obvious and easily corrected, like replacing a too-old pair of shoes, it’s a good idea to take your older adult to the doctor for a full check-up. That will help identify the cause of the shuffling behavior. Once the reason is known, you and the doctor can come up with a plan to improve the situation.


Next Step  3 exercises to improve balance and reduce fall risk


You might also like:
VIDEO: 15 Minute Senior Exercise Program for Balance and Strength
Q & A: Why Do Seniors Have Rounded Backs?
VIDEO: Get Up From a Fall MacGyver Style!


By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Image: Adrienne Hedger


  • Reply January 19, 2019

    Richard Harry Ginsburg

    I am a 59 yr old male.I have Parkinson disease. When I walk I shuffle my feet and have a tenacity to fall. What type of exercises can I do to straighten my leg muscles. I will be starting school in a few weeks and do not want to fall while going from class to class

  • Reply October 6, 2018


    It’s late 2018 but I just wanted to comment that you can suggest the senior person in your life wear wrist supports (the one that contain a rigid insert) and elbow pads and/or knee pads, when about and/or moving around, it helps if the person falls, but is not a save-all or guarantee. The older a person gets the more awareness they need to be more careful, to slow down and not-as-fast when moving around.

    • Reply October 7, 2018


      That’s an interesting idea that some people may want to consider. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply November 2, 2017

    carlotta gladding

    My 99 year old mom shuffles and I’ve had a hard time finding slippers that aren’t too grabby on her wooden floors. I’m afraid if the shoes are too grabby she will get stopped in her tracks. Any suggestions?

  • Reply September 14, 2017

    Art Rod

    Thank you Daily Caring for providing feed back. Enjoy reading your articles!

    • Reply September 19, 2017


      Thank you Art! So glad our articles are helpful 🙂

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