According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, about 17% of the American population has problems with their feet. That’s 1 in 6 people! These problems can range from plantar fasciitis to bunions to hammertoes and neuropathy. While none of these conditions are life-threatening, they are most certainly life-altering. When your feet hurt, it becomes difficult to engage in everyday activities, and it can feel almost impossible to remain active.
Did you know that throughout the average lifetime, most people use their feet to walk approximately five times the circumference of the earth? That’s over 124,500 total miles! One of the best things you can do for your feet is to wear proper footwear. Many feet and ankle issues begin with improper shoes that cram the toes together or force the foot to conform to the shape of the footwear. This problem is especially prevalent for women because they most frequently wear shoes that force their feet into unnatural shapes and angles. Those stilettos may look great when you wear them, but your feet are probably screaming for a break.
When choosing your next pair of shoes, try to find a pair that meet the following guidelines:
- The shoe should conform to your foot, not the other way around.
- The toe of the shoe should provide enough room for your toes to move freely.
- The ball of your foot should fit into the broadest part of the shoe.
- The heel of the shoe should fit snugly without slipping.
- The heel support/cup should be soft but stable and prevent shifting of your heel within the shoe.
- Avoid pointed shoes that force your toes into an unnatural position.
- Heels should not be more than 2 ½ inches tall – anything taller than this will put undue pressure on your ankles and balls of your feet, which can lead to neuromas, bunions, and hammertoes.
Additionally, follow these tips when trying on shoes:
- Pick shoes that are comfortable when you first try them on – shoes shouldn’t need to be “broken in.”
- Try shoes on at the end of the day, which is when your feet will likely be their widest.
- Always try both shoes because each foot is a slightly different size and shape.
- Stand and walk around in the pair to make sure they are comfortable.
- Don’t rely on just the shoe size – many brand sizes are slightly different.
- If you need to buy a pair of shoes online, verify the seller’s return policy in case they do not fit comfortably when you try them on at home.
Wearing ill-fitting footwear with poor support not only affects your feet and ankles, but it can also lead to knee and hip problems and back pain. Be aware of the condition of your footwear as well. Even the best-fitting shoes will begin to break down over time and become less supportive for your feet and ankles. Make sure you replace worn-out shoes as soon as possible. This is especially true for running shoes, which should be replaced every 300-400 miles.
While it may seem evident that super-pointy, sky-high stilettos are a no-no, there are other types of footwear that should also be avoided, such as flip-flops due to lack of arch support and foot protection; clogs or Crocs® which are overly-roomy and allow your foot to move too freely causing instability; and ballet-style flats because they are too flat and provide no support to the arch or heel of the foot. While these are generally ok for limited use, they are not recommended for times that you will be walking a lot due to the problems they pose.