Avoiding Foot Pain: How Well Do Your Shoes Fit?
By Dr. Jean Archer
Shoes that fit properly help you do the things you enjoy. They provide comfort and improve performance. Statistics show that 80 percent of foot pain is due to the improper fitting of shoes. Many conditions, such as bunions, hammertoes, heel pain and ingrown toenails, as well as corns and calluses, can be caused and aggravated by shoes that are not fitted properly. Steps can be taken to avoid foot pain and keep your feet healthy. Here are 10 tips to help you select the shoes that are right for your feet.
- When you shop, have your feet measured-both of them. Feet naturally widen and lengthen, which means foot size can change over the course of a day and a lifetime, depending on activities and age. Also, for some people, one foot may be slightly larger than the other, so judge fit by your larger foot.
- Remember, shoe sizes are not standard. They vary among brands and styles, so a shoe labeled 81/2 by one manufacturer could fit like an 8 or a 9 from another maker.
- Select shoes that conform as nearly as possible to the shape of your foot.
- Choose shoes that are appropriate for the activity and time you perform the activity. For example, if your job involves standing for long periods of time, shop for work shoes right after work. Shop for exercise shoes right after your workout time.
- Stand during the fitting process and check that there is adequate space (3/8” to ½”) between your longest toe and the end of each shoe. The foot elongates during walking or running, so it needs extra space. Also, remember that for some people, the longest toe is the second or third toe.
- Be sure the ball-or widest part-of foot fits comfortably into the widest part of the shoe. This match means the shoe will bend where your foot flexes, which will give you the greatest amount of comfort.
- Avoid purchasing shoes that fit too tightly, expecting them to stretch after you have broken them in. A shoe should feel comfortable at the try-on stage. Shoes are generally designed to hold a shape, not to conform themselves to your foot.
- Your heel should fit comfortably in the shoe with minimal amount of slippage. It is impossible to avoid heel slippage completely, because the foot stretches forward and backward with every step. You need enough heel room to accommodate your natural step pattern.
- Walk in the shoe to make sure it feels comfortable. You don’t have to go around the block; take at least 10 steps back and forth on the fitting room floor.
- Remember that orthotics or inserts can affect the size and shape of a shoe. Any kind of shoe insert can take up space in shoe intended for the foot. If you wear orthotics, you will need a roomier shoe, or the orthotics won’t fit properly.
Shoes that are too tight or too narrow, as well as those that are too wide, may cause foot pain. Foot pain while you walk or wear shoes is not normal, and one should consult one’s doctor if pain persists.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Keeping your feet healthy by Dr. Jean Archer
Our feet provide us with an invaluable service: They carry us wherever we go. Most people come to this realization only after years of wear and tear on their feet, or when they have a foot problem. Foot pain can be as debilitating as a toothache or stomachache, and can affect us at any stage in our lives, from infancy to old age. As a Board certified physician specializing in podiatry for over a decade, I treat many painful foot conditions and promote healthy feet, using both conservative and surgical management.
The foot is a biological masterpiece. It contains 26 bones connected by 33 joints. It takes more than 100 ligaments to hold the foot together, permitting flexibility and motion. Many muscles also provide the power to move the feet and toes. This network of bones, joints, ligaments and tendons, as well as blood vessels and nerves, provides the strong flexible and functional unit that enables us to walk and supports the rest of the body. Invariably, however, problems arise.
Children’s Foot Problem
The most common foot complaints in infants and young children are excessive toeing in or out, flat feet and constant tripping and falling while running. Early management of these problems may prevent these conditions from worsening. A Podiatrist can accurately diagnose and manage the situation with treatments that could include prescription shoes, cast immobilization, orthotics and bracing.
Adult Foot Problems
Foot ailments in adults may be attributed to heredity, ill-fitting shoes, poor foot hygiene, improper care, neglect and/or abuse from wear and tear. Common adult foot complaints include:
These are very painful and occur when the toenail punctures the skin bordering the nail. Improper cutting of the nails and/or wearing tight shoes may cause this. A bacterial infection may occur if the condition is allowed to persist and worsen, resulting in redness, pain, swelling and purulent drainage. Treatment requires removal of the ingrown nail, sometimes under local anesthesia, and antibiotics.
These microscopic bugs are found everywhere in nature. They thrive in moist, enclosed environments and may spread to the toenails through contact with contaminated objects such as pedicure equipment, wearing contaminated shoes and socks, or by walking barefoot. Fungal nail infections cause discoloration of the nail plate, as well as changes in the texture and thickness of the nail. This condition can also be painful, especially if there is pressure from shoes. As a result of the nail infection, the nail plate may become separated from the nail bed and fall off. It is important to have a fungal nail infection diagnosed and treated. Treatment options include both topical and oral antifungal therapy as well as laser treatments. Prompt treatment can get rid of an embarrassing and ugly condition as well as prevent it from spreading to other nails and skin. Some systemic conditions may cause changes in the nail, including nutritional deficiency, pulmonary disorders, cardiac disorders, thyroid disease, cirrhosis of the liver, skin diseases and poor circulation. Trauma, external chemical irritants and medications may also cause abnormalities of the nail.
A bunion occurs when there is a misalignment of the big toe joint. It may cause pain in most shoes. Prolonged standing and walking may be difficult. The condition may also be associated with swelling and redness. While genetics may play a role in contributing to the beginning of a bunion, narrow shoes are definitely an aggravating factor.
This problem may cause pain. The toe joints are misaligned, the result of tight shoes and/or heredity. Treatment may include pain medications, padding, injections and/or surgery.
Plantar Fascitis and Heel Spur Syndrome
This condition causes pain in the arch and/or heel. It generally occurs as a result of overuse and strain of the supportive ligaments and the heel on the bottom of the foot. The heel is the major weight-bearing bone of the foot and the arch ligament, or plantar fascia, is the supportive ligament of the foot. These two structures are attached to each other.
As a result of excess strain or fatigue, parts or all of this apparatus may become inflamed, leading to foot pain. Prolonged standing and walking without shoes, absence of arch and heel support or cushion, excessive weight gain over a short period of time may aggravate the condition. Generally, the first step after arising from sitting or lying down is the most painful. X-rays are helpful in establishing a diagnosis and sometimes, a spur, or small outgrowth of bone, may be seen at the heel. Treatment may include medications, injection, surgery, arch supports, heel cushions and custom molded inserts or orthotics.
Remember, any changes in the normal functioning and condition of the foot warrant attention, for they may signal a problem. Self- diagnosis and neglect of the condition may worsen the problem. Here are a few tips to help promote healthy feet. Following these simple tips may prevent further problems down the road.
Maintaining Healthy Feet
- Although it may seem obvious, wash your feet daily and remember to dry them thoroughly. Some viruses, bacteria and fungi thrive and grow in moist areas, especially in between the toes.
- Moisturize the feet daily to avoid dry skin and to soften rough callused heels. Some prescription medicated creams contain ingredients to promote the exfoliation of calluses and rough skin. For calluses and corns that do not respond to this, painless in-office procedures are available to remove them. Although these procedures are very effective, the condition sometimes reoccurs. Failure to moisturize the skin may result in painful cracks in the skin, as well as itching.
- Wear shoes or slippers at all times to protect your feet from contact with contaminated surfaces, glass, splinters and other harmful objects.
- Cut your toenails straight across. Cutting nails incorrectly may lead to ingrown toenails.
- Change shoes and socks daily. Shoes should be aired out to allow perspiration and odors sufficient time to evaporate. If you suffer from sweaty feet or foot odor, try a foot powder or foot spray. Prescription foot powders and sprays as well as over-the –counter items are available to absorb excess foot odor and excess sweating (Bromohydrosis). In office procedure such as Botox injections can be helpful in treating this condition.
- Avoid tight shoes. It is better to buy shoes at the end of the day than early in the day. Feet tend to swell and expand near the end of the day, so you want to make sure you select the right shoe size. It is advised to allow a half –inch of space between the shoe and the longest toe, so that toes are not cramped. Wear comfortable shoes with sufficient arch support and heel cushion during exercise and prolonged standing or walking. The adequate shock absorption provided by walking shoes and sneakers can protect the feet from excess stress and strain.