The Importance of Footwear

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While most of the population is tempted to just put their feet in a pair of shoes they find aesthetically pleasing, great-looking footwear is often not the best choice for either proper foot function or overall health. In fact, happy and healthy feet are the very foundation of overall well being.

More importantly, the consequences of wearing poorly fitting shoes can be painful and debilitating, leading to a variety of foot disorders like blisters, callouses, bunions, hammer toes, circulation problems. It can also lead to changes in the skeletal system and the muscular structure that it supports and even change a person’s posture and they way they walk. Aching feet can zap a person’s energy and cause pain in the ankles, hips, knees and lower back.

The aging population and the influence of the boomer generation—who feel very young and want shoes that reflect that, but also insist on comfort— are driving changes in footwear options available today. Not only are there a variety of stylish, comfortable shoes to choose from, now a number of them are designed to help alleviate and/or avoid many of the foot conditions outlined earlier.

The Basics On Fit 

  • Sizes can vary by style and brand. Therefore it’s best to shop a range of sizes to ensure a good fit.
  • Measure feet on a regular basis and measure both feet since feet change as a person ages and one foot is typically longer and/or wider than the other. Always fit the larger foot first.
  • Shoes should be as wide as and longer than the feet—with extra space of 3/8” to 1/2″ beyond the longest toe.
  • Fit shoes later in the day, since feet swell throughout the day and can be affected by certain medical conditions.
  • Have shoes fitted with the socks or hosiery that will be worn with those shoes.
  • Walk around in the shoes to ensure a comfortable fit—before purchasing them.
  • Break in new shoes. Wear them for a couple of hours the first day, then for three to four hours the next day and so on, until they’re comfortable for all day use.
  • Choose shoes based on activities for which they’ll be worn.
  • Bring custom orthotics or inserts to try in various shoes. Inserts or orthotics take up shoe space so look for roomier (extra depth) shoes to accommodate these devices.

Just as important as proper fit, is alternating footwear on a daily basis and ensuring that footwear is appropriate for a particular activity. In fact, it’s best to have a minimum of at least two pair of shoes for daily use. Wearing the same pair of shoes every day can hasten the onset of foot problems, because over time a shoe’s features become distorted by use. Therefore, the more care that’s taken in choosing, purchasing and caring for footwear, the better the chances of preventing many painful and chronic foot conditions.