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As Fats Waller used to sing… ‘Your feet’s too big!’

12:00am | & Tips and Advice

Are your feet too big for your stairs? It might seem an odd question, but read on and all will become clear.

As a stairlift supplier, we often talk about narrow staircases, meaning the overall width of your staircase. The compact, foldaway design of Acorn Stairlift carriages and the way our single rail fixes to the stairs close to the wall mean our stairlifts are suitable for almost all narrow staircases.

But in this blog it’s a different staircase measurement we’re looking at – specifically, the depth of your stair tread. The ‘tread’ is the part you step on as you go up and down the stairs and its depth is the distance from the front (or 'nose') of the step to the nose of the next step up. The tread depth is also known in the carpentry trade as the 'going'.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have stairs with a good deep tread, giving you plenty of space to plant your foot safely and squarely on each step as you go up and down. But many staircases in the UK have narrow treads, which can make it difficult and even unsafe to use the stairs, especially as we grow older and less steady on our feet.

According to UK building regulations, the minimum permissible tread depth (or ‘going’) is just 22cm – or just over eight-and-a-half inches. More importantly, it equates to a women’s UK size 3 shoe, while the average women’s shoe size in the UK is size 6, and for a man it’s size 10.

In other words, if your stairs have the minimum tread depth, there’s a good chance that it will be less than the length of your foot. It’s not so much that your feet are too big for your stairs, but that your stairs are too small for your feet.

One reason for the mismatch could be that British feet are getting bigger. According to the College of Podiatry, average foot size in the UK has increased by two shoe sizes since the 1970s. Of course it’s not just human feet which are getting bigger, but humans in general, thanks to things like better nutrition and healthcare, especially in childhood. The problem is that building regulations don’t seem to have kept pace. Feet are getting bigger, but stairs aren’t

And you might be surprised at how many UK homes have stairs with the minimum tread depth, or very close to it. By keeping the tread depth down, you reduce the overall space taken up by the staircase, especially if it’s a single straight flight of stairs. That’s the type found in most terraced houses, which account for more than half (52%) of UK housing stock.

Terraced houses tend to be quite narrow, limiting the space available to fit in a staircase. Keeping the tread depth to the minimum also reduces the overall cost of the staircase, and housing developers are always keen t cut their costs.

The inescapable conclusion is that a very large number of people in the UK are routinely using stairs which are shorter, front-to-back, than the length of their own feet. When we’re young and place our feet with accuracy and confidence, that’s not necessarily a problem, but as we grow older or more infirm, it certainly can be, especially when descending the stairs.

Do you find yourself coming down one step at a time, twisting slightly so that you can place your foot diagonally across each stair, so that it fits on without overhanging? Do you worry that your heel could slip off that narrow tread and onto the one below, causing you to fall? If you do, then you’re not alone. Many of Acorn Stairlifts’ customers report concerns over negotiating steep staircases with short tread depth.

There are some things you can do. Make sure your staircase is well lit, that any stairs carpet is securely fixed and not frayed, that you have a good secure banister rail or even one each side, and that you wear good close-fitting shoes or slippers with non-slip soles when using the stairs.

But if you’re really concerned for your safety on the stairs, there’s no substitute for the security and peace of mind that comes with an Acorn Stairlift. It will let you, or a loved one, use the stairs safely, free from the worry of slipping off a narrow tread.

Narrow treads are most often found on simple straight staircases, with no bends or turns, and the good news is that these stairs are easily overcome by the simplest and most affordable type of stairlift. That’s because they use a standard mass-produced straight stairlift rail, which only needs cutting to the right length.

Discovering how an Acorn Stairlift could transform your life – and how little it could cost – is easy and completely free. Just call us on 0808 223 4871 or click on the green ‘Quick Free Quote’ button at the top right of this page to arrange your free no-obligation home survey and quote.

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