Finding The Right Shoe

There are now a multitude of choices from which to choose your shoes. Obviously, different shoes are designed for different people performing different activities. It's helpful to have a good idea of what you're looking for and what type of activities you will be performing in the shoe. Some local shoe stores have very knowledgeable staff who can help you choose the most appropriate shoe based on your expectations and the shape of your foot. On occasion, shoes are more of a fashion statement or clothing accessory and this can be understandably important as well. Please keep in mind that chronic use of tight fitting or high heeled shoes can have impact on your foot and ankle health. Similar to a nice dinner dessert, you can get away with it occasionally but please don't make it a habit. Even when choosing fashionable footwear consider finding something with a roomy toe box and a lower heal. Perhaps, one of the best shoes for day to day activity is a cushioned athletic shoe. Things to look for include a nice cushioned sole to absorb the impact of the ground. A wide toe box that allows room for you toes to wiggle without being compressed together. A low heel will help keep the foot in a normal plantigrade position.  Generally, comfort is the most important factor when considering a shoe.  An athletic shoe is designed to cradle the foot, and not just protect it from the pounding, but to optimize performance. Most shoes are made up of an outsole, midsole and upper. The outsole is the bottom of the shoe or durable slab of thick rubber that contacts the ground and provides traction throughout the gait cycle. The midsole rests atop the outsole, and provides cushioning, support, and stability. The upper is the portion that covers the top and sides of the foot and generally is made of mesh, synthetic fabrics or leather. A shoe should fit snug, but should not be so tight that your toes press against the front of the shoe or the upper so tight it make the top of your foot ache. 

Finding the Right Shoe

The arch of the shoe may be important in helping you accomplish a comfortable fit and often times shoe stores have someone who can help evaluate your arch. Many people with normal healthy non-painful feet have elevated or flat arches and shoe manufactures have designed many models to help accommodate different spectrums of foot anatomy. Remember the most important factor is what feels comfortable to you. Many brands exist so consider trying on a few different brands to find what fits you best. Once you find a specific brand you may consider sticking with this same shoe type in the future and buying the same technology when your old pair of shoes wear out. For instance, I prefer to exercise in a Mizzuno Wave Creation because they are light weight and have a nice cushioned sole that fits my foot very comfortably and absorbs impact when I run. Other very popular shoe brands include New Balance, Asics, Brooks, Nike, and Reebok. Some stores only carry certain brands so if you can't find a shoe that fits you well, try somewhere else. Sometimes you may find that removing the factory insole from the shoe and replacing it with a gel or other type of soft cushioned insole will afford you more comfort, especially if you're on your feet for long periods of time. Again it's personal preference, but I often work in a New Balance that I have removed the thin factory insole and replaced it with a gel insole from a company called SofSole. There are many different pre-manufactured insole companies and you should find which company provides the best comfort for you. Some other popular brands include Spenco, Superfeet, and Dr Scholls.

Some people have pathologic conditions that may require a more specialized shoe, a customized shoe, or shoe modifications by a pedorthist. When purchasing a shoe find knowledgeable staff you can trust and tell them about conditions you may have such as Diabetes to help them determine the best choice for you. If your condition requires a shoe that isn't ready made on the shelf, then multiple orthotic and prosthetic businesses are located in the Treasure Valley and they will likely be happy to help.

Shopping for Shoes

For my patients who want to avoid foot problems when shopping for shoes:

Find a shoe that fits your foot. When you are shopping for shoes, it is especially important to purchase shoes that fill well to avoid painful foot problems. The following guidelines, developed by the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, can help you.

  • Have your shoes fitted at the end of the day when your feet are the largest.
  • Stand while being fitted (this is when your foot is the longest and widest), and fit the shoe to the largest foot.
  • Sizes vary among shoe brands and styles. Pick the shoe by how it fits your foot-not by the size marked inside.
  • Select a shoe that conforms to the shape of your forefoot as closely as possible. There should be one finger's breadth-about ½ inch-between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. For greatest comfort, the shoe should be no more than ¼ inch narrower than the width of your foot. The ball of your foot should fit snugly into the widest part of the shoe, without being overly tight, even if this means that your heel is slightly loose.
  • While you are still in the store, walk around to make sure that the fit feels correct.
  • Avoid buying shoes that fit poorly. Do not expect them to "stretch to fit." Shoes that fit correctly do not need to be broken in.

A note to women:

Shoes with a very high heel and a narrow toe constrict the foot and can cause pain and deformity. If you must wear high heels, try to select styles with a lower heel and roomier, preferably rounded, toe. Try to limit the amount of time you spend in high heels. For example, you might switch to tennis shoes for the office commute or lunchtime trip into town.