People often choose their footwear by the style or season, giving comfort a lower priority than aesthetic value. However, it is possible to buy shoes that are attractive and supportive enough to prevent pain in your heels and arches. Our podiatrists offer these tips to help you keep foot health in mind the next time you go shoe shopping.
Things to Remember When Buying New Shoes
Simply put, shoes should protect your feet, support your weight, and allow you to walk for long periods without pain. Flip-flops, sandals, and high heels usually do not meet these requirements. They put stress on the arch, heel, and Achilles tendon, while open-toed shoes increase the risk of tripping and skin damage. If you absolutely must wear these types of shoes, minimize the time your feet are in them as much as possible.
The best shoes for most feet are pairs with flexible uppers, solid soles, good arch support, and low heels. That said, there are a few factors that can influence whether a particular shoe is right for you. When shopping for new boots, house shoes, sneakers, or athletic shoes, it is a good idea to:
- Go to a brick-and-mortar store. It can be tempting to order a new pair of shoes online in your “regular” size, but this might not be the best option for your feet. Unless you have bought a specific size and brand before, you should always visit a retailer to try them on and walk around in them.
- Shop later in the day. Feet naturally swell throughout the day, and shoes that fit in the morning may begin to pinch when the sun goes down. Always go shoe shopping at the end of the day (or after a period of prolonged physical activity) to make sure your shoes will fit when your feet are slightly enlarged.
- Consider your socks. Before you head out to the store, make sure you are wearing the type of socks you are likely to wear with your new shoe. Your results will vary if you wear socks that are too thin or thick for the purpose—for example, trying on running shoes while wearing pantyhose. When in doubt, choose the thickest pair of socks you would reasonably wear.
- Measure each foot. Shoe shops still carry foot measuring devices, and some have staff members willing to take your measurements for you. These aren’t just formalities, they are necessary tools to guide you toward the best fit. Feet naturally change length, width, and shape over time, and your feet may not even be the same size! Start by measuring your feet and shop for the size that fits the larger foot.
- Pay attention to width. It’s important to shop for a shoe that accommodates both the length and width of your foot. If you have flat feet, resist the urge to “break in” a narrow shoe to widen it, as this will not give you proper support. If the store does not have a variety of widths in stock, ask if they can order your shoe in a larger width.
- Take them for a spin. Stand up and note the feel of the shoe: it should be snug but not tight, and should not slip off the heel as you walk. A shoe that is the right size will allow you to wiggle your toes freely within the toe box, and have about half an inch of space between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. You will want to ensure that the shoes will fit properly in real-life circumstances, so check the store’s policy on returns and exchanges. If you aren’t happy with them after wearing them around the house for a few days, do not hesitate to exchange them for a better pair.
If you are struggling with stubborn foot pain, the foot and ankle specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry can help you find the solution. Simply fill out our online contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET to set up your free initial consultation.