Do Non-slip Socks Actually Prevent Falls? | Occupational Therapy Practice

My attention was brought to a research article published in 2021 in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care titled, “Benefits and risks of non-slip socks in hospitals: a rapid review”.

As a fieldwork student and even per some hospital policies, a big deal is made to push for patients to don hospital-issued ‘non-slip’ socks before mobilizing such as to walk to the bathroom or for therapy.

Intuitively, this makes sense. These socks have grippy textures on the bottom that should help to prevent falls compared to being barefoot right? That’s what I thought, but do these actually work?

This research found, that “non-slip socks have the potential to carry an infection control risk that requires careful management. There was no strong or conclusive evidence that they prevent hospital falls.”((Dana Jazayeri, Hazel Heng, Susan C Slade, Brent Seymour, Rosalie Lui, Daniele Volpe, Cathy Jones, Meg E Morris, Benefits and risks of non-slip socks in hospitals: a rapid review, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, Volume 33, Issue 2, April 2021, mzab057,

Keep in mind of the limitations of this study:

  • Moderate-to-high risk of bias for many studies and a broad range of study designs.
  • Absence of randomized controlled trials, limit confidence that the differences observed between groups receiving different interventions were due specifically to non-slip socks.
  • No standard risk of bias tools for laboratory-based studies that was applicable to this field.

But given these limitations, we should really research and ask ourselves if these socks are serving their intended function. Because there is a cost to it, both in terms of money to purchase all of these socks, the cost in time spent in therapy and other staff putting them on and taking them off, and the effort as well spent by staff to educate and manage it.

One level II fieldwork student claims to have even failed fieldwork and the program because of forgetting to put these on a patient.

So there is a huge cost associated with these socks and more conclusive research shows a lack of evidence that they prevent falls, then we should re-evaluate our policies and practices for what may be better.

Maybe it’s just going barefoot? Or regular socks and shoes? I love wearing my flip-flops at home, and they’re awesome. Maybe not flip-flops.