• Choosing Proper Shoes

  • Shoe Anatomy

    Understanding the basic construction of shoes will help you make more informed decisions and select shoes that fit your foot and needs.

    Shoes are made up of five major components:

    • The toe box is the tip of the shoe that provides space for the toes. Toe boxes are generally rounded, pointed, or squared and will determine the amount of space provided for the toes.
    • The vamp is the upper middle part of the shoe where the laces are commonly placed. Sometimes Velcro is used instead of laces.
    • The sole consists of an insole and an outsole. The insole is inside the shoe; the outsole contacts the ground. The softer the sole, the greater the shoe's ability to absorb shock.
    • The heel is the bottom part of the rear of the shoe that provides elevation. The higher the heel, the greater the pressure on the front of the foot.
    • The last is the part of the shoe that curves in slightly near the arch of the foot to conform to the average foot shape. This curve enables you to tell the right shoe from the left.

    The material from which a shoe is made can affect fit and comfort. Softer materials decrease the amount of pressure the shoe places on the foot. Stiff materials can cause blisters. A counter may be used to stiffen the material around the heel and give added support to the foot.

     

  • What to Look for:

    • Avoid shoes that have seams over areas of pain, such as a bunion.
    • Avoid shoes with heavy rubber soles that curl over the top of the toe area (such as seen on some running shoes), because they can catch on carpets and cause an accidental fall.
    • Flat shoes (with a heel height of one inch or less) are the healthiest shoes for your feet. If you must wear a high heel, keep to a heel height of two inches or less, limit their wear to three hours at a time, and take them off coming to and from an activity.
    • Laced, rather than slip-on shoes, provide a more secure fit and can better accommodate insoles,orthotic devices, and braces.
    • Look for soles that are shock absorbing and skid resistant, such as rubber, rather than smooth leather.
    • Shoes should be made of a soft material that has some give.
  • Analyzing Wear Patterns

    Examining old shoes before buying new ones can help you evaluate your wear patterns and buy new shoes with a better fit and style that compensates for the stresses you place on shoes.

    What are your shoes trying to tell you? Here is a translation of basic wear patterns:

    • A bulge and wear to the side of the big toe means too-narrow fit or you have a bunion.
    • Outer sole wear means you turn your foot out. Orthotics may help.
    • Toe-shaped ridges on the upper means your shoes are too small or you have hammertoes.
    • Wear on the ball of the foot means your heel tendons may be too tight.
    • Wear on the inner sole means you pronate or turn your foot inward. Inner liners or orthotics may help.
    • Wear on the upper, above the toes means the front of your shoe is too low.
  • Getting a Proper Fit

    Everything from serious foot disorders to more common foot and ankle conditions can be exacerbated by one, avoidable cause: inappropriate, poor quality, and/or ill-fitting shoes. Any podiatrist will tell you that a quality, properly fitted shoe pays big dividends for your feet—now and in the future.

    The most important quality to look for in shoes is durable construction that will protect your feet and keep them comfortable. Shoes that do not fit properly can cause bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes and other disabling foot disorders.

    The Fitting

    Here are some tips to help reduce the risk of foot problems when shopping for shoes:

    • Don't force your feet into a pair of shoes in order to conform to the shape of the shoe. The shoe needs to conform to the shape of your foot.
    • Fit new shoes to your largest foot. Most people have one foot larger than the other.
    • Have both feet measured every time you purchase shoes. Foot size increases as you get older.
    • If the shoes feel too tight, don't buy them. There is no such thing as a "break-in period."
    • Many high-heeled shoes have a pointed or narrow toe box that crowds the toes and forces them into an unnatural triangular shape. As heel height increases, the pressure under the ball of the foot may double, placing greater pressure on the forefoot as it is forced into the pointed toe box. Limit heel height to two inches or less to protect your feet.
    • Shoes should be fitted carefully to your heel as well as your toes.
    • Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Judge a shoe by how it fits on your foot, not by the marked size.
    • There should be a half-inch of space from the end of your longest toe to the end of the shoe.
    • Try on new shoes at the end of the day. Your feet normally swell and become larger after standing or sitting during the day, which makes for a better fit.
    • Be sure to try on both shoes. Walk around the shoe store in the shoes to make sure they fit well and feel comfortable.
    • When the shoe is on your foot, you should be able to freely wiggle all of your toes.