Many foot problems could be avoided if people paid more attention to the shoes they wear. While we tend to choose footwear that’s affordable or fashionable, that’s not always a good investment. When comfort and support take a back seat to finances, you could end up paying more in terms of your health.
Most of us take our feet for granted. There are multiple bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles that help transport us. Even simply walking around can place enormous stress on the feet, as each foot takes its turn carrying our full body weight. For athletes or overweight people, the feet are even more abused.
Areas that are especially prone to injury include the toes, the fascia (band of tendons on the underside of the foot) and the heel area. Millions of people suffer from aching or sore feet, and don’t even consider that their shoes could be the problem.
Shoes Need Wiggle Room to Avoid Toe Pain
Let’s start at the tip. Wearing cramped or pointed-toe footwear is asking for trouble. If your toenails look white or dark pink, it may be a sign that your shoes are too tight. Toenails that thicken or become brittle or dark are another warning sign.
When you shop for shoes, make sure your toes can wiggle around a bit. Some footwear companies, such as New Balance, collaborate with medical professionals to design special shoes for people with diabetes, plantar fasciitis, flat feet, arthritis, hammer toes and other conditions. Even athletic shoes come in styles with a wider toe area, which can help prevent an injury called turf toe.
Plantar Fasciitis Can Worsen Without Proper Shoes
Plantar fasciitis affects about one in ten Americans over the course of their lives. A direct cause can be difficult to pin down, but it’s certain that ill-fitting shoes will not help with recovery. Runners are especially prone to plantar fasciitis.
Look for shoes with good arch support, heel support and mid-sole stability. Some evaluators rate the Asics running shoe as the best choice for patients with plantar fasciitis. These are not discount-store shoes; they cost about $120. But if you keep in mind that stylish shoes can cost twice as much, you will feel better about investing in your feet.
New Balance and Saucony also make special shoes for patients with plantar fasciitis.
Worn Down at the Heels
The old expression, ‘down at the heels’, refers to financial stress. But rundown shoes that are thin at the heels can be costly in other ways.
There is a fatty pad that covers and protects the heel bone, or calcaneus. The pad gets thinner as we age, which can lead to pain and injury. While most athletic shoes are made with a thick pad to protect the heel, everyday footwear does not usually offer this feature.
We’ve mentioned some good brands; there are types of footwear to avoid as well. High heels, for instance, have a well-documented association with ankle sprains and foot problems.
While thongs may help protect you from infection or blisters while you’re at the pool, beach or school shower, you should avoid walking, running or working in the yard while wearing thongs or flip-flops.
Patients with diabetes need to be especially careful about blisters and sores on their feet. Walking in bare feet can be a good exercise for the foot muscles, but the chance of cutting the skin or picking up a parasite makes it imperative that diabetic feet be shod.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who are walking around with pain, make an appointment with our clinic. We’ll discuss your situation and decide how best to provide you with happy feet.
(If you are interested in reading more about footwear, here is a post from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society.