A Message From Your Feet: Please Wear Better Shoes
If you are like most Americans, shoving your feet into poorly-fitted shoes or taking your flip-flops out for your daily chores, or even worse, trotting around all day in pointy-toed high heels, your feet are not happy with you. If your feet could talk they’d probably say something like: Stop! Enough! I carry you around all day, and by the time you reach 50 years old we would have traveled about 70,000 miles together, while I support about 1,000 lbs. of force every day! Please take better care of me so that I can carry you through the next 50 years. It’s the shoes—it’s mostly about the shoes.
It’s amazing how many people follow fads about footwear and pay little attention to what is good for their feet. Below are some common mistakes people make when deciding what shoes to wear, normally because they just don’t give it much thought, or worse, they might be following some misguided advice. Let’s start with the worst problem – high heels.
High Heeled Shoes: Ladies, they look sexy and in some cases they are indeed the most appropriate thing to wear based on social standards for business and social attire, so no one is saying not to wear them at all (unless you already have foot problems and foot pain, then just know you’re contributing to your own suffering and poor foot health). What we are saying is to take a few things into consideration. First, when you buy heels, consider comfort as well as looks. If you’re only going to be in them for a short while or not very often, there’s little harm in choosing your shoes for the sake of fashion only.
However, if you’re going to be on your feet all day in heels, or for many days in a row, please take some of the things into consideration—your feet will thank you:
- Consider wearing a cap toe shoe versus a pointed toe. When your feet are at an angle in high heels, a significant amount of pressure is naturally being placed on your toes and the balls of your feet. Wearing pointed toe heels means that all of this pressure is being placed on a bunch of scrunched up toes, which can lead to additional foot problems such as bunions that can require surgery to correct later in life. A cap toe or rounded toe leaves a little more space for your toes, distributing the pressure more evenly, preventing some potential foot problems.
- Consider wearing a lower heal. While stilettos may look the part, if you are on your feet for extended periods of time or often while wearing heels, a very high heel can not only lead to foot and toe issues, but it can cause problems with your back and posture as well, because your body was not designed to walk naturally with your foot at that angle. Muscular problems may also arise such as frequent leg cramps and pulled muscles. You are also making yourself more prone to injuries and accidents as your balance will not be as steady, such as trips and falls and sprained ankles. A lower heal will help improve balance, help maintain natural alignment of your body while you walk and reduce the amount of pressure put on your toes and the balls of your feet, preventing potential future injuries and prolonged foot issues.
Choose Better Flip-Flops. This advice goes for sandals as well; choose flip-flops and sandals with contoured arches in them and foot bed construction that has some support, such as a heel cup. Actually, this goes for all shoes such as ballet slipper style shoes and casual canvas shoes, etc. Check out the insides of your shoes before you buy them, and ensure that there is some built-in arch support and shock absorption. Otherwise, long-term wear of this footwear can lead to serious foot pain such as planter fasciitis and other types of foot pain under the heel or the balls of your feet. Also beware of ankle issues with prolonged flip-flop and sandal wearing as there is no ankle support in most of these shoes, and they can leave you prone to trips and falls. If you love your flat flip-flops or sandals, try to only wear them to the beach or out somewhere that doesn’t require much walking and wear an athletic shoe to run errands around town.
Wear Newer Athletic Shoes. And about those athletic shoes, wearing a newer pair will ensure that the shoes have not worn out of their supportive and shock absorption features. Also, choose athletic shoes that are appropriate for the sport or activity you’re participating in. Running shoes are for running, cycling shoes are for cycling, tennis shoes are for tennis, etc. These shoes are specifically engineered to not only help with your performance in these sports and for the unique conditions of the environment, but they are also designed to be the best types of shoes for your feet as you participate in these activities.
Good Foot Care
Pedicures. Do develop good habits to take care of your feet, and you will notice a positive difference. For instance, pedicures are not only for women. Men, having trimmed, clean and polished toenails and clean, smooth feet along with receiving the relaxing foot massage that usually goes along with a pedicure will help improve circulation and will aid in preventing injuries and infections, such as ingrown toenails, blisters and peeling or split dry skin. Plus, women love men with smooth feet. If you notice any foot issues such as blisters, split skin, discoloration of toenails, etc., do treat those conditions quickly. Particularly if you have any immune problems or diabetes, what may appear to be a simple issue can turn into a very serious problem very rapidly, and early diagnosis and treatment is key.
Wear Socks. This is very important with most types of shoes other than flip-flops and sandals. Socks protect your feet in several very important ways:
- Shock Absorption: Socks can actually help provide additional shock absorption, which can be particularly helpful during some activities
- Absorb Moisture: Socks wick moisture away from your foot, helping to keep your foot dry and thereby preventing blisters and the growth of bacteria and fungus that love to live in dark, moist places like shoes
- Prevent Chaffing: Socks serve as a buffer against the inner seams and construction of shoes, which prevents blisters, rashes, cuts and scrapes that can all occur if your foot is rubbing against the inside seams of shoes.
- Orthopedic Insoles: If you are very active and/or have experienced some foot pain, do consult with your doctor, orthopedist or podiatrist about the option of wearing orthopedic insoles. If your foot problem is substantial or your athletic activity is particularly ambitious, your doctor may proscribe an orthopedic insole that will best meet your needs. There are other insoles available in drug stores and athletic shoe stores that you can purchase also that can be inserted into your shoe, offering more support than your shoe may have originally designed.
Taking care of your feet now will help ensure that your feet will be able to carry you for many years to come.
Check out our article on the Benefits of Walking.