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A Podiatrist’s Guide to Buying Shoes for Foot Pain

Podiatrist’s Guide to Buying Shoes for Foot Pain

A Podiatrist’s Guide to Buying Shoes for Foot Pain

Never before has there been so much choice when it comes to footwear.  Think back to what the options were just 30 years ago in the late 70’s and 80’s.   For the ladies, the style was all about stiletto heels and pointy toes and the men sported Moccasin style loafers.  If you didn’t already have foot pain, it was only a question of time. Heels were engineered to displace body weight forward onto the balls of the feet and squeeze the entire forefoot into an incredibly small space while teetering on very thin and very high heels.   The men in their loafers were not as uncomfortable, to be sure, but damage was also done by wearing shoes with poor structure, often requiring gripping of the ground by the toes just to make sure that the shoe to stays on the foot. 

So What Happened When These Shoes Created Foot Pain?

Back then, if you had foot pain and went to see a foot care specialist like a Chiropodist or Podiatrist, they would surely have told you that the first thing you would have to do was to change your footwear.  But back then, the only footwear alternatives for those who experienced foot pain were Orthopaedic style shoes that you would not be caught dead wearing especially if you were under the age of 65.  Available styles were usually limited to lace up, rubber soles, wide fitting shoes made of that special supersoft leather with the tiny holes punched into it and offered in the colourful choices of beige, white or dark brown leather.  These shoes were never worn by celebrities or featured in the pages of fashion magazines.  In fact, it was a mission to even find these shoes.   These shoes were in scarce supply and you had to search all over town to find the specialty shoe stores that imported them from mostly European suppliers.  It was a real challenge to convince patients of any age, much less the young and fashionable to wear this type of shoe, and realistically, who could blame them.  Aesthetically speaking, they were at best, unattractive.  No matter how much more comfort the soft leather, extra depth and width, and shock absorbing sole provided, it was near impossible to convince someone that comfort was more important than appearance. 

So What’s Different Today?

Thankfully, fashion sense has changed and plain old common sense has prevailed.  It appears that after decades of ill fitting footwear, the footwear industry has also listened to foot specialists like Chiropodists, Podiatrists. They have heard the cries of people with foot pain! At last there is a real choice for people who have feet that need a low but solid heel, narrow fittings, wide fittings, feet that swell up over the course of the day, and feet that are bony and sensitive to any kind of pressure. Today we can easily find shoes to fit feet that need a built in arch support, a rigid leather sole or would do better with a flexible rubber sole, can easily find plenty to choose from.  Dressy shoes have platforms and built in cushions.  Casual shoes come in every colour that you can imagine and can be worn just about everywhere now.

What Features Should You Look For?

The most important things to look for when buying shoes are:

 1. Does it suit the activity you will be using the shoe for?

If you are going to be walking, running, dancing, playing a sport, on your feet all day etc……, is the shoe appropriate for this activity?  This may seem like an obvious question, but you would be surprised how many people buy shoes that are completely inappropriate for the activity that they intend to use the shoe for.  If you know your work requires you to be on your feet all day, walking back and forth on hard surfaces and at a quick pace……why are you considering purchasing a shoe that makes all these activities difficult to do in comfort?

2. Do the shoes fit comfortably?  Did you even try it on?

In today’s global retail economy, many things are being bought online and often shipped from other countries.  You never get to try on the shoe!  Every manufacturer has their own sizing guide, and every country has their own size numbering system.  No matter how convenient this kind of shopping has become, there is no substitution for trying on the shoe and walking around with it to make sure that it is the proper size and comfortable on YOUR feet.  No YELP review or the website’s consumer ratings is going to tell you how that shoe will fit on YOUR feet. 

3. If it doesn’t fit in the store, it won’t fit at home either!

Many people believe that they have to “break in” a shoe before it fits really well.  This is a myth.  The only thing that breaks is your foot!  If a shoe does not fit well when you buy it, it sure won’t fit better at home when you don’t have that plush carpet with the extra-thick under padding like at the store.  Make sure you try on both shoes and walk around the store as much as you can before you buy them.  Buy what fits and don’t be afraid to try a size up or a size down from your usual size just to see the difference.

4. Know what your feet need from a shoe.

You need to understand what features are essential for your feet to function well and feel good in any shoe. Some people can wear any old kind of shoe.  This is the minority.  Most people have requirements that need to be met by the shoe in order to achieve any level of comfort.  You need to know if you need a shoe with laces or slip ons, a shoe with support and structure or light and loose. Everyone is different. Be prepared to try many different styles before you find what works best for you. 

Today, store shelves are stacked with great footwear choices.  The running shoe industry alone produces shoes for every conceivable type of activity.  These shoes are the product of incredible design technology and materials that help your feet perform at optimal levels.  Casual shoes and boots can accommodate many a need.  The toe box is usually wider and deeper, the heel height is moderate, and the foot has more stability and comfort with this type of shoe.  The bottom line is that the shoes you wear the most can’t just look good, they have to feel good as well.  Don’t settle for less……you owe your feet more!!  If you are confused or need more specific advice on what types of shoes will help you avoid chronic foot pain for your foot type, condition or activity you are always welcome to ask one of our qualified and experienced foot specialists at any one of our CanadaPhysio clinics conveniently located in Toronto, Scarborough, Whitby, Mississauga and London. 

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