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10 reasons why older adults walk with a shuffling gait

Don’t ignore a shuffling walk

You might notice that older adults shuffle or drag their feet when they walk. Most people who shuffle don’t even notice that they aren’t picking up their feet when they walk. So, why do people shuffle? The short answer is that they’re not doing it on purpose. When someone starts shuffling when they walk, there’s an external factor at play. The first step to minimizing shuffle is to determine what’s causing it.

At Bold, we talk a lot about recognizing the signs that can lead to falls, but addressing a shuffling walk is also important. Here the top 10 reasons why people shuffle while they walk and what to do about it.

10 reasons why older adults walk with a shuffling gait

  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. Lower 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 fall risk

It might seem like not picking up your feet when you walk isn’t that important. But if someone is shuffling, dragging, or generally not lifting their feet off the ground while 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.

In fact, older adults who shuffle 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 do to about a 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. If you start shuffling your feet when walking, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your 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 you to shuffle your 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 a doctor do a thorough check-up. That will help them identify the cause of the shuffling behavior, so they can make recommendations for how to improve the situation.

Next step: Try gentle exercises that increase flexibility and improve balance with the guidance of expert trainers at Bold. Create your account at and start your first class today.