Buying the right shoes is an investment in foot health. But how do you find ones that fit properly and provide adequate support?
Start with your own feet, and look at what’s already in your closet. Stand barefoot on a piece of paper or cardboard, and trace the shape of each foot. Now take your shoes, one by one, and place them on top of the drawing. If you’re like most people, your “comfortable” shoes will closely match the outline of your own feet.
Identify the shoes that cause pain. If you’re a woman, most of these will be shoes with narrow toes or high heels. Check to see if the toe of the shoe is narrower or shorter than your own toes.
When to replace shoes?
- Look at the heel. Most people will wear out the side of the heel over time. When the heel becomes angled, it will alter every step you take and can cause pain in the leg or back. Shoe repair stores may be able to fix the heel. If not, replace the shoe.
- Running shoes can cause pain before they look worn. This is because they lose the capacity to absorb shock. The guideline to replace running shoes is every 350 to 500 miles. Running shoes older than one year old may also cause pain because of changes in the sole with exposure to humidity or heat. Save running shoes for running only and it will prolong the life of the shoe. Old running shoes can be used for walking.
When you’re ready to replace footwear, these tips can help:
- Wait until the afternoon to shop for shoes — your feet naturally expand with use during the day and may swell in hot weather.
- Wear the same type of socks that you intend to wear with the shoes.
- Have the salesperson measure both of your feet — and get measured every time you buy new shoes. If one foot is larger or wider than the other, buy a size that fits the larger foot.
- Stand in the shoes. Make sure you have at least a quarter- to a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- Walk around in the shoes to determine how they feel. Is there enough room at the balls of the feet? Do the heels fit snugly, or do they pinch or slip off? Don’t rationalize that the shoes just need to be “broken in” or that they’ll stretch with time. Find shoes that fit from the start.
- Trust your own comfort level rather than a shoe’s size or description. Sizes vary from one manufacturer to another. And no matter how comfortable an advertisement claims those shoes are, you’re the real judge.
- Feel the inside of the shoes to see if they have any tags, seams, or other material that might irritate your feet or cause blisters.
- Turn the shoes over and examine the soles. Are they sturdy enough to provide protection from sharp objects? Do they provide any cushioning? Also, take the sole test as you walk around the shoe store: do the soles cushion against impact? Try to walk on hard surfaces as well as carpet to see how the shoes feel.
Consider different factors for different shoes:
Athletic shoes: There are four types of running shoes: motion control, stability, neutral/cushioning, and minimalist. The correct shoe for you is based on arch type and biomechanics. One way to test the shoe is to walk and jog in it. You can also balance on one leg and do a one-legged squat. The shoe should feel comfortable right away and these tests should feel easier in the right shoe.
For court sports, a sport-specific shoe is better than a running shoe because it will provide more side-to-side support. For cleats, it can be helpful to pick a shoe that allows you to add an arch support.
Minimalist shoes are used for forefoot running to simulate “barefoot” running. To avoid injury, it’s best to slowly add time and to get guidance for proper form.
Sandals: Flip flops are good for short distance walking only. Choose sandals with straps that cover more of the foot and/or wrap around the ankle.
Boots may fit loosely and not provide adequate foot support. Adding arch support can improve comfort.
Women’s dress shoes are often detrimental to feet, knees, and spines. Heels alter whole body posture and can cause pain. If you wear heels, pick a lower heel shoe, a wider heel or wedge, and a heel that does not curve in. Wear higher heels when you have to, then switch to a lower heels if you have to walk any distance.
Take time to tie and untie your shoes:
Your shoe will work best when it fits snugly and acts as an extension of your foot, without sliding around. Pulling off your shoe without untying it will cause the support in the shoe to break down much faster.