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Making the Rounds: Footwear

Last Modified: April 09, 2018

Family Medicine

From fun patterned flip flops to sky high stilettos, shoes are a great way to express your personal style. But, while a heel might be handsome, the wrong fit or a lack of support can mean big trouble for your feet. To mark National Foot Health Month, Ashley Bojrab, DPM, PPG – Podiatry, walks us through what should really be happening south of your ankles.

What makes a good shoe?

When purchasing shoes, make sure they fit. It’s very important to get measured and fitted properly on a routine basis. You want a good solid shoe as well, so you will need to do the shoe test. Place the heel in one hand and the toe in the other, and try to bend it. The shoe should bend toward the toe, not at the mid foot. Opt for a stiff heel cup, too, so it controls the heel motion.

What are the risks of wearing shoes that don’t fit properly?

Wearing the wrong shoe or the wrong size of shoe can mean big problems for your toes. For example, if your shoe isn’t wide enough, you might see a deformity like hammer toe. If you’re putting your foot into a narrow shoe, it can cause ingrown toenails or other deformities.  

Are flip flops bad for our feet?

Everything in moderation. I would say you shouldn’t walk around an outdoor festival all day in flip flops. They aren’t supportive or protective, so something could go right through the sole and cause foot trauma. They are making more supportive sandals these days, and there are smarter options, like a sling back, which would give more control. Look for a sandal with an arch for better support.

What about high heels?

If you can’t give up high heels, again I’d say wear everything in moderation. Don’t do an 8-hour work shift in 2-3-inch heels. Go with a 1-inch heel so you aren’t putting pressure on feet. If worn too much, high heels can cause a structural deformity, bunion deformity, or you can get tight calf muscles, which lead to heel pain. Plan accordingly. If you’re going to a fancy dinner, that’s different than going to the mall. Wear a stiff, supportive shoe to work and then pack your heels to change into for the evening.

Are flats a better option?

Once again, do the shoe test. If they fold like a pancake, they aren’t going to offer any support.

What about gym shoes?

You want to get measured for a proper-fitting shoe. Again you want something stiff and supportive for exercise or working on your feet. For people who work on their feet all day long, I’d also recommend compression stockings to combat foot fatigue.

How long should we keep our shoes?

Shoe gear is only meant to last 3-4 months or 500 miles, so try to change it out regularly. With a work or exercise shoe, you might start to feel your feet getting more tired or achy at that 3-month mark, so that’s a good sign they should be replaced.

Are orthotics helpful?

Depending on the person, orthotics can be beneficial. People with flatter feet can definitely benefit from the stability and support of an orthotic. There are both over-the-counter and prescription options, so be mindful of the best choice for your condition. Similar to being fitted or a pair of glasses, a good structure and design that accommodates your particular foot is often best.  

Overall, I’d say it’s best to spend a little extra money for a good quality shoe. It’s worth it for your feet. There are so many comfortable and fashionable options these days, there’s no reason to sacrifice your foot health.

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