Objective To determine the effectiveness of a multifaceted podiatry intervention in preventing falls in community dwelling older people with disabling foot pain.
Design Parallel group randomised controlled trial.
Setting University health sciences clinic in Melbourne, Australia.
Participants 305 community dwelling men and women (mean age 74 (SD 6) years) with disabling foot pain and an increased risk of falling. 153 were allocated to a multifaceted podiatry intervention and 152 to routine podiatry care, with 12 months’ follow-up.
Interventions Multifaceted podiatry intervention consisting of foot orthoses, advice on footwear, subsidy for footwear ($A100 voucher; £65; €74), a home based programme of foot and ankle exercises, a falls prevention education booklet, and routine podiatry care for 12 months. The control group received routine podiatry care for 12 months.
Main outcome measures Proportion of fallers and multiple fallers, falling rate, and injuries resulting from falls during follow-up.
Results Overall, 264 falls occurred during the study. 296 participants returned all 12 calendars: 147 (96%) in the intervention group and 149 (98%) in the control group. Adherence was good, with 52% of the participants completing 75% or more of the requested three exercise sessions weekly, and 55% of those issued orthoses reporting wearing them most of the time. Participants in the intervention group (n=153) experienced 36% fewer falls than participants in the control group (incidence rate ratio 0.64, 95% confidence interval 0.45 to 0.91, P=0.01). The proportion of fallers and multiple fallers did not differ significantly between the groups (relative risk 0.85, 0.66 to 1.08, P=0.19 and 0.63, 0.38 to 1.04, P=0.07). One fracture occurred in the intervention group and seven in the control group (0.14, 0.02 to 1.15, P=0.07). Significant improvements in the intervention group compared with the control group were found for the domains of strength (ankle eversion), range of motion (ankle dorsiflexion and inversion/eversion), and balance (postural sway on the floor when barefoot and maximum balance range wearing shoes).
Conclusions A multifaceted podiatry intervention reduced the rate of falls in community dwelling older people with disabling foot pain. The components of the intervention are inexpensive and relatively simple to implement, suggesting that the programme could be incorporated into routine podiatry practice or multidisciplinary falls prevention clinics.
Trial registration Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12608000065392.