Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Philippines who loved shopping, may have had 2,700 pair of shoes, but it’s likely the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) wouldn’t have approved of any of them!
“In order to obtain and maintain foot health, individuals must understand their foot structure [flat feet vs. high arched feet in the simplest form] and select shoe gear that adequately supports their feet. This means not only choosing the correct size but also selecting the appropriate style of shoe,” says APMA spokesperson Dr. Melissa Skratsky.
Indeed, there’s a lot resting on your feet. If you’re feet aren’t healthy and comfortable, it can impact your legs and back, and your ability to exercise or simply move around the house. Here, Dr. Skratsky gives the low down on how to find the right shoes and keep your feet in tip-top condition.
Before going shoe shopping, it’s important to understand your feet. “A number of systemic conditions, like diabetes, neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease, initially manifest themselves in the feet,” Dr. Skratsky says. “Individuals must be cognizant of whether or not they have normal pedal circulation and sensation, and whether or not they suffer from any foot deformities.”
She suggests discussing this type of information with your podiatrist, who can also help you determine if an over-the-counter shoe is right for you.
To find the right shoe, Dr. Skratsky offers the following suggestions:
- Talk to your podiatrist about any foot deformities you may have. If not treated surgically, these deformities must be accommodated with various shoe modifications/padding and/or orthotics.
- “I advise my patients to go shoe shopping late in the day when your feet are most swollen,” she says.
- You should be measured for shoes standing up and using the Brannock Device.
- If you have a bunion or toe contractures (hammertoes), look for a shoe with a round, wide toe box to avoid toe crowding and blister formation. Avoid shoes whose seaming runs across a bone prominence like a bunion, as this will lead to irritation and pain.
- An oxford-type lace up shoe will be more supportive than a slip-on shoe or a mule/clog.
- Look for shoes constructed of breathable leather with rubber soles.
- Shoes should have sufficient arch padding. If you can easily bend and twist the shoe, the arch padding likely isn’t sufficient.
Over-the-counter shoes won’t work for everyone, though. “If an individual is unable to find over-the-counter (non-custom) shoes that accommodate their deformity, they should see a podiatrist,” Dr. Skratsky advises. In these cases, specialty shoes or orthotics may be necessary.
“Specialty shoes and orthotics are created and molded from impressions of your feet,” she explains. “Therefore, if you have rheumatoid arthritis and suffer from severe hammertoes/bunions and metatarsalgia, the areas of increased pressure/pain can be off-loaded with padding and indentations within the custom, accommodative orthotic.”
Specialty shoes can also help support your feet as you age. “You may develop fallen arches and experience pedal pain; specialty shoes/orthotics can be fabricated to support the bones of your feet and make up for the insufficiencies of your soft tissues,” Dr. Skratsky says.
With the right shoes as your foundation, your entire body can benefit!