If the shoe fits… wear it

Things to keep in mind when choosing the right footwear

woman buying footwearSocrates has said: “To him whose feet hurt, everything hurts”. Ill-fitting, ill-designed shoes cause problems like corns, calluses, heel pain, ball-of-foot pain, bunions, and hammer toes. Hence, wearing the right kind of shoes is considered a vital part of feet health. This means you need to spend adequate time buying the pair that fits you well.

How to choose

The basic objective in footwear selection is comfort. Comfort implies that the fit and feel of the footwear is good.

People often compromise comfort for style. Compromising comfort beyond a point would be a sure invitation for foot problems.

The following are some criteria for selecting the right footwear:

  • Toe-box. The toe box of the shoe must have enough room to enable you to wiggle your toes. The toe-box should also be slightly deep so that the tips of the toes do not rub against it.
  • Heel. The heel should be cushioned and shock-absorbing, since there is a significant impact on the heel when we walk.
  • Heel counter. This is the rear-most part of the shoe, at the back of the heel above the sole. The heel counter should be firm and must properly cradle the back of your heel.
  • Footwear material. The upper material of the shoe must be made of a soft breathable material like leather, to avoid excess sweating, which could lead to bad odour or fungal infection.
  • Footwear construction. The inside of the footwear should not have any exposed seam or material sticking out. This might rub against the foot skin or heel, leading to discomfort and/or formation of callus at a later stage.

What not to wear

In addition to knowing what to consider when buying the correct footwear, it is equally important to know the kind of footwear you shouldn’t wear.

  • Avoid wearing heels higher than two inches. High heels put undue pressure on the forefoot. This causes burning pain in the balls of the feet. High heels also exert pressure on the ankle, knee and low back, besides affecting the balance. Further, opt for shoes with chunky heels that distribute the weight evenly rather than stiletto heels. Also, avoid frequent changing from heels to flats; it leads to pain and discomfort.
  • Avoid wearing pointed shoes. Pointed shoes tend to push your toes inwards leading to formation of bunions—bumps—at the base of the big toe.
  • Avoid wearing tight shoes. Tight shoes put pressure on the skin and toenails, leading to formation of calluses/corns and in-grown toenails.
  • Avoid wearing footwear without a good grip. Wearing chappals/sandals that do not have a toe-grip or toe-ring forces you to hold on to the footwear for fear of slipping out, leading to clawed toes. At least opt for sandals with a back strap.

Remember, the footwear should carry you not the other way round.

More advice

Buy footwear later in the day, when feet tend to be at their largest. Also, both feet need not be exactly alike; it is natural for one to be bigger than the other. Prior to purchase, try the footwear and walk within the shop to ensure comfort.

Shoe box

Here are some simple things that can make choosing and using your footwear easier and more comfortable:

Shoe insoles: Most of the low-priced shoes have foot beds are not cushioned and hence uncomfortable to the wearer, especially if the person has to walk/stand for long. In such cases, place insoles inside the shoes. These offer cushioning comfort, minimise foot fatigue, absorb shock and avoid formation of calluses.

Foot orthotics: Nature designed human feet to walk mainly on surfaces like earth and sand. However, we have been walking on hard surfaces like tiles, marbles, and concrete over the last 2000 years, which causes pronated feed [inward rotation of feet].

This in turn leads to problems like flat feet, heel pain [plantar fasciitis], knee pain and low back pain. Foot orthotics are shoe inserts that help correct the foot alignment, thereby minimising excess pronation, the root cause of the above-mentioned problems.

Special footwear: Footwear is specifically designed as per activity, for instance, footwear for walking, jogging and for different sports. Take professional inputs before purchasing such footwear. Similarly, there is also specifically designed footwear for diabetics, which must be purchased only on advice from doctors.

M Sampath Kumar
M Sampath Kumar is a foot specialist with a well-known footwear company.


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