Your choices for fall shoes can help relieve a world of foot pain.
Women’s feet, in particular, take a beating in the summer. Dressing up involves high heels, while choices for dressing down are sandals and flip flops. Pretty summer shoes can cause blisters, pain and increased risk of injury. Too-high heels affect your foot position, and flat sandals lack arch support and adequate cushioning for your feet.
Your seasonal shoe choices may cause or exacerbate a range of common foot problems, so don’t be surprised if by fall you’re noticing things like:
- Bunions – an enlargement or bony bump at the base of your big toe, that, as it grows, pushes the second toe over and can cause swelling and pain if shoes are tight.
- Hammertoes – toes contract up instead of lying flat, caused by toes gripping your shoes to keep them on; aggravated by tight shoes that cause rubbing and pressure, resulting in corns and callouses.
- Plantar fasciitis – inflammation of the tissue on the bottom of the foot, caused by shoes with inadequate support and resulting in heel pain.
- Metatarsalgia – pain in the ball of the foot from improper fitting shoes and high heels and leading to extreme discomfort. Also as we age, fat pads in our feet thin and we lose our natural cushioning.
- Achilles tendon pain – shrinkage happens to this tendon (running from the back of the heel to the calf) when high heels are worn too often, causing pain when going barefoot or in flat shoes.
You’ll likely walk about 75,000 miles by age 50, so you might as well do some of that in good shoes.
I suggest you pamper your feet with better shoes for fall. Here are some tips for making better shoe choices:
- Re-measure the length and width of both feet to ensure proper fit because shoe sizes do not follow a universal standard. Fit for your longest toe.
- Check shoe construction for proper support. Shoes should bend in the toe box, not at mid-arch. The heel area shouldn’t be easy to squeeze in new shoes.
- Check the toe box shape and depth. Choose a deeper shoe box for room for bunions, hammertoes, wide forefoot. Square and round shapes are better than pointed.
- Choose shoes that lace, buckle or have straps for better arch support.
- Opt for removable insoles to let you add orthotics or more cushioned insoles.
- Avoid spending too much time barefoot or in socks—time without arch support and cushioning.
A few words on heels. High heels themselves are not the enemy. Wear your Manolos, just not too often. And make wise choices the rest of the time—like wearing walking shoes to your destination, then changing into stylish shoes for your grand entrance.
A few more tips:
- Choose wider, lower heels and wedges. Heels higher than two inches shift body weight forward, increasing pressure on the ball of the foot and on toes, leading to hammer toes, metatarsalgia, corns and callouses. Lower heels give more support and reduce the risk of ankle rolls and falls.
- Peep toe shoes tempt women to show off pretty pedicures. But this style can cause toes to slip forward or overlap, and may push nail edges into skin, causing ingrown toenails.
A special note to those with diabetes. You should be hyper-vigilant about foot problems, checking daily for pressure areas, redness, blisters, sores and nail problems. Nerve damage and numbness in the feet of diabetics means you may not feel minor problems that can quickly become serious.
Finally, remember that your feet shouldn’t hurt all the time. Pain may indicate injury, irritation or illness, so persistent foot pain means you should see a podiatrist. That’s a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) who diagnoses and treats conditions of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. The DPM designation means the doctor has completed years of rigorous foot and ankle training in podiatric medical school and hospital residency training, making them uniquely qualified to care for this key part of your body.
So please take these steps to help your feet last a lifetime.
Dana Dober, DPM, is a board certified podiatrist at The Art of Podiatry, Inc., 905 W. Sproul Rd., Ste. 106, Springfield. 484-472-6726; TheArtOfPodiatry.com.