There’s no limit to the varying styles of shoes on the market nowadays, but even with numerous options available, aching dogs can still sweep people off their feet. So when selecting that next pair of kicks, consider stepping off with healthy feet in mind.
From low-top sneaks to high-heel spikes, there’s that certain pair of shoes in almost everyone’s closet that sacrifices function for fashion, and local podiatrists say improperly matched footwear could lead people down a painful path.
While everyone’s different, simple considerations for choosing footwear could prevent further pain and potential complications from developing in the future.
“Everyone’s foot is shaped differently, so the main thing is finding a shoe that’s shaped in the same way as the foot,” said Dr. Stephen Stivers, a Paducah podiatrist.
When choosing a new pair of shoes, it’s important to measure fit from the standing position as all body weight is dispersed in a natural way across the foot. Stivers recommended shoes to fit with about a thumb width space between the toes and end of the shoe while standing and to avoid overly tight footwear.
People should also consider the firmness of their shoes in both the sole and heel of the footwear, said Dr. Harry Byrne, a podiatrist in Lone Oak.
The area between the heel and forefoot — also known as the shank — as well as the heel itself, shouldn’t be able to be twisted or folded, and should remain firm for extra stability.
“Really, a shoe should have some stiffness to it, and you shouldn’t be able to fold the shoe up and put it into your pocket,” Byrne said.
For all the pairs of shoes out there that help the feet, there’s equally as many that can have detrimental effects, and many await in the back of people’s closets. Two of the most common culprits remain flip-flops and high heels, both with their own lengthy list of potential foot malformation problems.
While summer favorite flip-flops help the feet to breathe and aren’t necessarily harmful if worn for short stints, over long periods of time the simple beach-goers footwear can lead to further complications. Aside from providing no protection for feet, flip-flops can also have inadvertent effects on toes.
“The floppier the shoe, the more the toes want to grip and over years of wearing shoes like that, that tightens the tendons on the toes and that causes hammer toes,” Stivers said. In addition, flip-flops can also lead to other chronic issues like tendonitis or plantar fasciitis, where tendons in the feet are overly stretched causing inflammation and pain.
Still high-ranking on the list of painful culprits remains high-heel shoes. With several inches of hiked heel forcing the foot to bend down onto the ball of the foot, high-heels can cause some of the same problems as flip-flops with hammer toes and tendon issues.
“With heels up high all the time, the Achilles tendon at the back of the foot gets used to that and over time will shorten and tighten,” Stivers said. “Then it makes it harder to go barefoot or wear flatter shoes because of that tendon causing pain.”
As heels squeeze toes into a small area, that pressure can create painful bunion deformities — callused skin off the big toe that creates a bump on the outside of the foot as the joint turns in toward a person’s second toe — Byrne said.
If a woman is seeking a dressier type of shoe, Stivers recommended lower heels with straps, as they don’t put as much pressure on the front of the foot.
For additional comfort and proper foot alignment, people can purchase custom orthotics to place inside their shoes which pad problems like over-pronation.
“The thing about custom orthotics are they make any shoe a custom shoe,” Byrne said.
Call Will Pinkston, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.