What if I told you that shoe shopping could change your life? Would you believe it? Well, to be honest, that is only the half it. But by the end of this article, you will want to update your shoe collection. Here we have a guide to finding the perfect fit—the most important characteristics to look for in a shoe, that will help your bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, or whatever is the cause of your daily foot pain. Because perhaps your favorite pair of shoes is the culprit, and you don’t even know it. I always say that shoes can either harm our feet, or help our feet. But our fate lies in the choices we make when shoe shopping. Ready, set, take notes.
- The first thing to look for is a relatively rigid sole. The only location of the sole that should bend is at the toe box. This is called the flex point. This is where our toes naturally bend as we walk. Heel, toe, heel, toe, is the natural progression. We do not need flex of the sole anywhere near the heel or the mid foot region.
- Along with the rigid sole is also a rigid heel courter. The heel courter is the back part of what is called the shoe upper. In other words, it is the part of the shoe that naturally surrounds your heel. If you have a stable heel counter, you will have a stable heel and ultimately a stable foot. Step one to happier feet, check!
- Adjustability of the upper is another important part of the shoe. Be it laces, velcro, straps, buckles, or any other stretchable material on the upper, you need the ability to adjust the shoe to your personal comfort. Laces are the most efficient, and allow for the most adjustability and the best fit. The better the fit, the better the support. Extra adjustability can also make it easier to add an arch support or orthotic to your shoes, if needed.
- Believe it or not, depth and width matters. Most people know that shoes can come in wider or more narrow fits, but did you know that shoes can come with added or extra depth? Having a deeper shoe can reduce pressure from hammertoes and help to fit an arch support or orthotic. Wider shoes can help relieve pressure from a bunion. Depth and width are variables that you have control over—just pick a shoe style that works best for you.
- Lastly, heel height is extremely important to be careful of when dealing with foot conditions and pain. This may not come as much of a surprise, but too high of a heel is not healthy for our feet. The height of the heel is directly proportionate to the pressure in the forefoot. The higher the heel, the more pressure throughout the toes and forefoot. On the other hand, a completely flat or negative heel can also contribute to foot problems. A shoe with no heel will add pressure to the heel or rear foot and put a stretch in the Achilles tendon. The best bet is to avoid heels or a completely flat or negative heel.
As I am certain that it is your goal to reduce or alleviate your foot pain, I hope this offered you some valuable insight on how to find the perfect shoe for your needs. Now that you know what to look for in a pair of shoes, shopping should be much more of a return on investment. Because if you are comfortable in your shoes, you can take on the world. See, we told you this could change your life.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com