The shoes that you choose to wear, have a significant impact on your level of comfort while wearing them and also on pain levels in your feet after you have taken the shoes off. Spending a significant amount of time walking in unsupportive shoes can lead to ongoing pain.
In this article, we discuss a variety of issues with shoe choice and design that can lead to pain, as well as some tips on what to look out for in a new pair of shoes to minimize the chance they cause you issues.
If you need advice from a podiatrist, Cutting Edge Foot and Ankle can make tailor-made recommendations on the best shoes for your particular feet.
Here are shoe characteristics that lead to pain:
High heels may be stylish and considered necessary or appropriate in some situations, but the truth is that they are not good for your feet. The human body is designed to function with feet resting flat on the ground as you walk. So creating an artificial change to that walking style, with the high heel, can create many issues for your feet and your legs, and even your back.
If you like to wear heels now and then for fun, that’s fine, but if you wear heels every single day for work, you may find that this continual usage contributes to significant foot pain.
Some of the pain you experience may just be your feet getting used to the way the shoe rubs on the different parts of the foot. So the pain related to skin familiarity is likely to go away as your feet do you get used to the way the shoes wear.
But the structural issue of walking around in an unnatural stance could cause pain that you have no control over.
Narrow toe boxes
With heels and with other types of shoes, having a narrow toe box can cause significant pain. If the shoes you are wearing squash your toes together for long periods this could lead to ongoing issues with foot pain.
If you are going to wear shoes with narrow toe boxes, whether that be due to fashion preference or employment requirements, then consider getting shoes that are a larger size than you would typically buy, to give your toes more room at the water part of the shoe. This will minimize the extent to which your toes are squashed together at the tip of the shoe.
Some people have naturally supportive feet that thrive even in a shoe with zero arch support.
But many people have flat feet that require significant arch support to maintain comfort and minimize foot pain.
If your foot naturally rolls inwards, this is referred to as inner pronation, and significant arch support is required in the shoe to minimize the impact of this pronation.
Many shoes include this arch support, but if you need that support and the shoes you are wearing do not have the support inbuilt you could experience significant feet issues unless you install some orthotics.
Bends in the wrong spot
Different shoes bend in different places which can also contribute to foot pain. If the soul of your shoe is very flexible and can be bent at any place along the length of the shoe, this suggests it is a low-quality shoe, and wearing it for long periods could result in pain. Good quality shoes have a rigid sole that only bends at the ball of your foot.
How to choose the right shoe for you
Now that we have covered aspects of a shoe that are likely to lead to pain, will cover some things you should look for when buying a new pair of shoes to minimize the chance those shoes cause you problems.
Fit for purpose
Make sure the pair of shoes you buy is suitable for the purpose you will use that shoe for. Not just in obvious cases where you would use protective footwear on a building site, but even if you work inside a retail store and walk around all day, the choice of shoe is very important.
Within the uniform guidelines of your employer. If you spend a long time on your feet then getting a shoe with significant comfort and the appropriate support for your foot shape will minimise the amount of pain you get.
Try shoes on later in the day
When we are sleeping our feet tend to contract so if you go and try on a pair of shoes first thing in the morning you may choose a pair of shoes that are slightly too small for you. It is preferable to go shoe shopping in the later part of the day after you’ve been walking around for some time already, as your feet will have elongated to their natural size and the pair of shoes you buy will suit your feet.
Common sense goes a long way when buying a new pair of shoes. If you wear shoes that are not designed well for your feet and the activity you will be doing in them you could cause yourself significant foot pain.
Given that walking is so critical to our existence you should not be flippant when shoe shopping.
So if you are buying a new pair of shoes make sure you take the time to browse and get support from educated staff who can help you find an appropriate, comfortable, and supportive pair of shoes, fit for the purpose you are shopping for.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.