Choose the right footwear

Good shoes are essential for healthy and pain-free feet. Read on to know how to keep your feet happy

Choosing footwear

Right from the times of Cinderella, you know that life gets better when the shoe fits right. Today, bizarre fashions, vanity, ignorance and apathy have made sure that a lot of times what you wear on your feet has nothing to do with its health. Worse, the footwear that you choose often causes injury instead of preventing.

Foot health is crucial

Your feet bear a huge burden through the day; they carry the weight of your body and feel the impact and strain when you move about. If not properly supported, they are at a high risk of injury. Footwear plays a big role in the development as well as the prevention of foot problems like bunions, calluses and corns, and hammer, claw, and mallet toes. Shoes that don’t fit properly make these conditions worse and can affect your mobility. On an average day, the feet of an adult bear a force equal to several hundred tons! Needless to say, you owe your feet good care. The right footwear can help you do this.

Who needs feet care?

Although feet care applies for everyone, it is more crucial for those with conditions like diabetes and arthritis as well as people with jobs that require being on the feet for long hours. As you age, your footwear can play a big role in how steady you can be on your feet, which is a big concern to many seniors. Of course we must look for a perfect fit but do know that there is nothing like a perfect shoe. Just as the shapes of different peoples’ feet are different; shoes are perfect for different people in different ways.

Some pointers you need to keep in mind the next time you go shopping for footwear:

Know your foot type

Analyse your feet well: how broad is it? Is it wider than the usual? Are the toes longer?

The extent of physical activity during the day, your weight and age

It’s obvious that a person doing field jobs will put more pressure on his feet than someone with a desk job. A chef or a nurse might need shoes that are different compared to, say, a call-centre executive. Likewise, someone at 70 would need footwear that is quite different from one suitable for a 25-year-old.

The nature of your work and the safety aspects

Does your job require you to be exposed to hazardous materials, or things that could pierce the sole? If yes, you need to choose steel-toed shoes. Exposure to electrical currents would necessitate the need to wear electrical hazard footwear with no exposed metal parts, rubber soles and heels, and rubber-insulated steel toes.

People with medical problems require shoes with extra depth or width to prevent circulatory problems. They need to choose shoes that are not pointed in the front. Pointed shoes can make your toes claw which, besides affecting overall body posture and causing back pain, can cause rubbing, leading to corns and calluses as well as more serious problems.

Footwear tips

For men

As far as men are concerned, it’s best that their shoes have a –

  • Toe box with an appropriate horizontal and vertical space along with a low heel [about half-an-inch-high].
  • Soles made of hard materials like leather. But, softer soles are OK too, if they are comfortable.

For women

When it comes to footwear, women tend to abuse their feet more than men. Experts suggest the following tips for women –

  • Women must wear shoes which are low-heeled [one inch or lower] with a wide toe box.
  • Because most high-heeled shoes have a pointed, narrow front area that crowds and forces toes into an unnatural position, they can lead to numerous problems including discomfort or injury to the toes, ankles, knees, calves, and back.

The higher the heel, the more stress and pressure is put on the ball of the foot and on the forefoot, causing further discomfort. But, low-heeled shoes too can cause discomfort if they don’t fit well.

What experts say

  • If you choose to wear closed shoes, they should be broad and deep enough. If you can see the outline of your feet pressing against your shoes, then look for another pair
  • Your toes should not touch the end of the shoes; there ought to be a gap of at least one centimetre at the end of the longest toe
  • While you may choose broad-toed shoes to prevent the feet from cramping, you need to be careful that they are not too broad otherwise the foot will roll while walking, making you susceptible to tripping
  • When trying on new shoes, you should feel comfortable immediately – do not buy them in the hope that the feet will slowly get used to them
  • Your footwear should have laces, straps, buckles or even velcro to secure them. If the feet have to make an effort to hold them in place, foot muscles might get strained
  • Choosing the right material of the footwear is important. Ideally, your shoes need to be made from a material that breathes; shoes that don’t breathe open you up to the risk of fungal infections.
  • According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons [AAOS], a good walking shoe should have a soft upper, good shock absorption, a smooth tread and a sole that allows your foot to go through its walking motion. A good jogging shoe should have adequate cushioning, flexibility, stability in the heel, lightness and good traction.
  • While shopping for shoes, it’s best to shop in the later part of the day. Most feet tend to swell during the day and it is best to try shoes on when your feet are their largest.
  • Podiatrists suggest that while buying your footwear, always try both sides and lace/strap up properly.
  • While trying on shoes in the shop, check your comfort while hopping or even running a little in them.

Please note that comfortable shoes are not another term for ugly; at the same time, health cannot be sacrificed at the altar of style. A bit of thought put in at what goes on your feet will keep you well-balanced all your life. Time to put your best foot forward!

Gayatri Pagdi
Gayatri Pagdi is a Mumbai-based health journalist. Her areas of interest include emotional, mental and spiritual health.


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