Why Do Seniors Shuffle When They Walk? 10 Top Reasons

why do seniors shuffle when they walk

Don’t ignore a shuffling walk in seniors

You might notice that your older adult shuffles or drags their feet when they walk. 

And even if you constantly remind them, they’re still not picking up their feet when walking. In fact, they may not even notice that they’re doing it.

So why do seniors shuffle when they walk? The short answer is that they’re not doing it on purpose.

When someone starts shuffling when they walk, something is causing that to happen. To help your older adult walk more normally (and safely!), the first step is to find the cause.

We share the 10 top reasons why seniors shuffle when they walk, explain why shuffling significantly increases fall risk, and suggest what to do if your older adult has a shuffling walk.



10 top reasons why 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


A shuffling walk increases senior fall risk

It might seem like not picking up feet when walking isn’t that important.

But if someone is shuffling, dragging, or generally not lifting their feet off the ground when walking, they’re at a much 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. 

And seniors who shuffle when they walk are more likely to stumble because their shoes can catch on the ground. 

Plus, the narrow stance of shuffling feet makes someone more unbalanced than if they had a regular walking stance.


What to do about an older adult’s shuffling walk

An unsteady gait or shuffling walk could be caused by something as simple as slippery floors or as serious as dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

So if your older adult has started shuffling their feet when walking, it’s important to schedule an appointment with their doctor to find out what’s causing it.

To prepare for the doctor’s appointment, check to see if any of these top 10 reasons could be causing them to shuffle their feet.

Unless the reason is obvious and easily corrected, like replacing a too-old pair of shoes that are loose, it’s best to have the doctor do a thorough check-up.

That will help them identify the cause of the shuffling behavior. Once the reason is known, the doctor can make recommendations for how to improve the situation.


Next Step  Try gentle exercises that increase flexibility and improve balance


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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Accuro Home and Community Care


  • Reply August 30, 2019

    Brenda Anderson

    I agree with that.

  • Reply May 2, 2019

    Dovebyrd Volare

    I am 101 and can still walk without the aid of a cane or walker.Slowly and for short distances around the house,etc.I do not need a wheelchair and when I go out,my son helps me and holds my arm. I can climb up stairs,too….but not too many.Hey,at 101 I am not complaining !

  • 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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