Fashion or Comfort: Proper Shoe Wear
Improper shoe wear is probably the biggest cause of foot pain and deformities that we see in our office. Ironically, shoes were designed to protect our feet yet some styles actually cause more long-term harm. Most of this change occurred with the transition from functional shoes to the more pleasing aesthetic shoes. A survey by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society showed that almost 90% of women wore shoes that were too small for their feet. The cost financially of multiple surgeries to the feet and toes can be staggering, not to mention the "cost" of persistent foot pain as we get older. Most of these problems do not occur quickly with the wearing of a bad pair of shoes but rather gradually over many years from continued wear.
Although men have foot problems as well, most of this discussion is directed towards women’s fashion footwear and problems. There are different physical characteristics (narrow heel, smaller Achilles tendons, wider pelvis, etc.) that can contribute to various problems. Certainly women’s fashion footwear can contribute as well. High heels elevate the hind foot and put all the pressure on the ball of the foot and toes. Shoes with a narrow toe box squeeze the toes together causing them drift into a bunion deformity or overlap and can put pressure on the nerves between the toes. Bunions, bunionettes, neuromas, corns, and calluses are problems that can develop with improper shoe wear. Below are listed nine things to consider when buying shoes.
- Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Therefore, judge the shoe by how it fits and feels on your foot, not by the size marked on it.
- Do not shop with one shoe size in mind; if the next size up feels better, choose that one.
- Select a shoe that conforms as nearly as possible to the shape of your foot. Do not plan on shoes stretching with wear.
- Do not wear shoes with a heel higher than 2 ¼ inches. Heels higher than this put unnecessary pressure on the ankle and balls of the feet. The lower the heel the better.
- If you own shoes that are too tight, consider bringing them to your shoe repair shop to have them stretched.
- Because our feet spread with weightbearing and become wider with age, it is important to have your feet measured regularly. Also, since most people have one foot larger than the other, have both feet measured, and fit your shoes to the larger foot.
- Shop for shoes late in the day; our feet are largest then.
- Be sure to stand while trying on shoes to ensure adequate space for your longest toe.
- Be sure to walk around in the shoes to ensure their overall comfort and fit. Make sure the ball (or front region) of your foot fits comfortably into the shoe. You should be able to wiggle all of your toes comfortably.
- Your heel should fit snugly but comfortably in the shoe (ie, with a minimal amount of slippage).
- Before you go shopping, be sure to do the "Forefoot Test" at home. The shoes you buy should be wider than your forefoot. To do this test, draw an outline around your barefoot while standing. Set a shoe over this drawing and if you can see part of the outline then the shoe is improper and does not fit your foot.