Foot Problems? Swap Your Shoes

Stilettos, flats, open-toes, squared-toes, minimalist…the list of varying shoe styles could go on for days. However, if you’re sacrificing comfort for style, you’re likely setting yourself up for achy feet – or worse, reconstructive foot surgery down the road.

Raymond Stolarski DMP shares tips for finding shoes that are a comfortable, safe fit for your feet.  

Tip #1: Give Your Toes Wiggle Room

Women are notorious for wearing shoes that are squared, blocked, rounded or pointed at the toe. These styles typically compress the toes, which can create a variety of problems, like corns, calluses, or deformities. Dr. Stolarski suggests wearing shoes that leave enough room for your toes to breathe. Similarly, wearing shoes with an open toe may help alleviate that issue, as well.

Tip #2: Go for Ankle Straps

Whether you’re opting for heels or sandals, look for a pair with a strap around the ankle.

“Having the strap on the ankle, and say, across the forefoot, alleviates you contracting the toes to hold the sandal on there,” Dr. Stolarski points out. For this reason, flip-flops are considered one of the worst shoe types for foot health: You rely on your toes to hold them on, and they offer almost no support. Flip-flops also harbor bacteria.

Tip #3: Beware of Heights

As you go up every half-inch in height on the heel area, you increase the pressure on the digits in the metatarsal region (the ball of your foot).

“You can go up to an inch in heel height and that doesn’t put any more strain on the forefoot area,” Dr. Stolarski explains. “But, when you’re getting over an inch in height in the heel, that’s when you’re starting to have problems.” Wearing heels that are too high don’t typically cause problems right away, but over time, they can lead to not only foot problems, but issues in your knees, hips and lower back, later on.

On a related note, he also recommends wearing shoes with a thicker heel, which offer more stability and put less strain on the ankle joint.

Tip #4: Seek Support

Finding a pair of supportive shoes is especially important if you are on the market for exercise footwear. Dr. Stolarski reminds his patients to stay away from canvas gym shoes or boat shoes, because those offer very little support.

When it comes to the minimalist shoe, Dr. Stolarski says he doesn’t have a problem with the shoe itself; however, he warns: “The person who is using it better know how to run in the minimalist shoe.” In this case, the runner is supposed to strike with the forefoot, instead of the heel area, like they would in a standard running shoe.

Also, if you are considering purchasing a shoe insert to alleviate foot pain or support problems, Dr. Stolarski always recommends consulting with your doctor first. “Have it evaluated before you spend a lot of money, because I get patients in [and] so many times, they spent money on inserts, fillers, pads … they would have saved that money if they would have come in and been evaluated.”

Tip #5: Switch Out Old Pairs of Shoes

As we age, our feet don’t always grow, but the muscles do, so you may need to go up in shoe size. “You can’t be in the same size shoe you were 20 years ago,” Dr. Stolarski adds.

Similarly, muscles weaken over time, so you will likely need to opt for a shoe with more support.

Foot Problems: When Should I see a Doctor?

If foot issues are keeping you from participating in your normal activities – whether it’s exercise or your daily work schedule – Dr. Stolarski recommends getting evaluated by your doctor.

If you injure your foot, treat immediately with heat, instead of ice, “and don’t leave it on any longer than 20 minutes,” he adds. Also, if you do sustain a foot injury, depending on any pre-existing medical conditions, like vascular issues or diabetes, don’t put off scheduling a doctor’s appointment. “You want to be seen right away, because that couple of days can create some major problems for you.”

*All professionals quoted in this article were affiliated with TriHealth at the time of initial publication.

Tags Orthopedics

Last Updated: May 06, 2013