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Choosing Footwear: Maximize Fit, Minimize Discomfort
Selecting footwear involves more than picking the right size for your feet. Learn how to choose footwear that will promote healthy feet.
Choosing footwear that properly fits your feet can prevent a multitude of foot problems. In a survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), 73 percent of women admitted to experiencing foot pain and discomfort as a result of their shoes.
“Many problems with the feet, including hammertoes, calluses, heel pain, and bunions, can be caused or aggravated by improper footwear,” says Elizabeth Kurtz, DPM, a podiatrist in Chicago and spokeswoman for the APMA.
Footwear: Choose for Your Foot Type
The key to staving off foot issues is to wear shoes that address your specific foot type. If you have flat feet, for instance, buy footwear with good arch support. That doesn’t mean you have to live in sneakers. “Even many high-heeled shoes have good cushioning in the arch these days,” notes Dr. Kurtz. If you have high arches, look for footwear with cushioning in the ball and heel, recommends Kurtz. Press your finger into the cushioning to test for good support. It should have a little give or a slightly padded feel.
Footwear: Get Your Feet Measured
Don’t rely on the size of your last pair of shoes. “Feet naturally widen and lengthen with age,” says Kurtz. Get your feet measured every time you buy footwear. Have them measured while you’re standing with the full weight of your body on your feet, and fit the footwear to your larger foot.
Two-thirds of women have one foot that’s slightly bigger, says Kurtz. There should be one-half inch between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. Always try on both shoes and walk around the store. If the shoes hurt your feet in the store, don’t buy them. “Footwear shouldn’t need to be broken in,” cautions Kurtz.
Footwear: Pick Styles With Comfort in Mind
Avoid pointy-toe styles, which can cause hammertoes — bent, disfigured toes — and bunions when toes are repeatedly forced into an unnatural position. Oval and even square-toe shoes can also crowd the tootsies, says Kurtz.
A shoe with a round toe box is the best shape since it allows the most breathing room for toes. Additionally, beware of shoes with heels. Heels over three inches put seven times the pressure on the ball of the foot, according to the APMA. They can also lead to balance problems and place unnecessary stress on your knees and ankles. If you do choose to wear heels, wear low heels as much as possible, especially if you’ll be spending a lot of time on your feet. Select a wide or chunky heel rather than a skinny stiletto to help distribute your weight more evenly.
Footwear: Materials and Construction
To reduce the chance of excessive foot sweating and blisters, choose breathable shoe materials such as leather. Avoid synthetics — they don’t allow much air to circulate. Also look inside the footwear for construction details that could lead to discomfort. Exposed seams, pieces of material, or outcroppings of leather that rub against the top of your foot or back of your heel can soon make a shoe too uncomfortable to wear.
Footwear: When to Shop
Don’t shop for footwear in the morning; always shop at the end of the day when feet are largest due to natural swelling. If you have hard-to-fit feet, such as a large size or a very wide foot, try shopping in a major department store. “They tend to have an excellent selection of footwear in various sizes and widths,” says Kurtz. And if they don’t have it, they can usually order it for you.”
Full-service shoe stores and large department stores are more likely to carry half sizes, which may fit better than a whole size. They also tend to have knowledgeable staff members who can measure your feet and suggest a specific style, brand, or inserts to help accommodate specific foot problems.
Focusing on your foot health as you shop for shoes is definitely worth the extra time and effort. “Too many women buy shoes for the color and style, rather than the fit and comfort, which can result in foot pain,” warns Kurtz.
By making shoe comfort and fit a priority, you’ll be more likely to make it through the day (and night) without sacrificing your feet!
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