What makes a good shoe?

By Lainey Heale

First things first, if you have recurrent or sudden pain in your feet, you should start by getting your feet assessed by your podiatrist. Pain is the most obvious signal that your shoes are ill-fitting. Get the right advice from your podiatrist for your foot type or your condition.

Your feet contain a quarter of the bones in your body! That’s 26 bones, as well as 33 joints, 107 ligaments and 19 muscles. They hold our entire body weight, and when running – this increases to approximately 3 times our body weight loading through our feet. A comfortable and correctly fitted shoe is paramount to good foot health. We opt for an 80:20 rule; that is wearing a well-fitted, supportive shoes 80% of the time and understanding that 20% of the time, like special occasions or in the hot weather, you might like to wear thongs or high heels.

When purchasing new shoes for work/school/casual or sport, you should consider the following:

Appropriate type of shoe for the appropriate activity.

Whether you’re a tradie who requires a protective, lace up, steel capped work boot, or a netballer who wants the best supportive runner for your game – it’s a good idea to shop around when investing in the right pair of shoes for your feet.

Correct fit.

A correct fitting shoe can make or break your day. It’s important to get your feet measured when buying a new shoe as our feet are constantly changing size and shape during different stages of our life. You should leave about one thumb-width (1.5cm) of space between the tip of your longest toe and the front end of the shoe you are fitting for.

Firm heel counter.

Push the backing of your shoe to make sure it is going to give your rear foot/ankle/heel enough support inside the shoe. The heel counter should be fairly solid, and not be too flimsy or collapse inwards.

Flexibility.

Our feet are designed to move and be adaptable to different surfaces. It is important that our shoes allow appropriate function and let our toes bend, however we don’t want too much instability making our feet imbalanced or unstable. There can be a fine line between an unsupportive shoe and a well supportive shoe – depending on the flexibility in the middle shank of the shoe. Essentially – if your foot requires support, you shouldn’t be able to scrunch your shoe into a ball or wring it out. This is different for the developing foot (kids); we want the structures in our feet to develop and strengthen – therefore we want a flexible soled shoe allowing ample movement, which still protects the feet.

Fasteners.

By securing your feet, it helps to keep your toes from jamming into the front end of your shoes – and it increases support, which can help relieve pain in your feet. If you don’t want laces, then velcro straps or buckles can achieve the same result.

Build in support.

Some footwear brands design their shoes with built-in support. This may include a raised arch to stop our feet from rolling in, a heel cup which keeps our heel supported or increased cushioning in the soles to reduce pressure areas.

Conditions that can be a result of wearing incorrectly fitted shoes:

Plantar fasciitis – you may experience a deep ache or shooting pain in the heel if you have plantar fasciitis.

Bunions – can present as a swelling or deformity of the first joint of the big toe.

Blisters – can be caused be a range of reasons, but a friction blister is usually caused by tight shoes that create irritation through the foot rubbing against the shoe.

Metatarsalgia – this common condition is when the ball of the foot becomes so inflamed it can be unbearable to stand or walk.

Corns and calluses – can be caused by continuous friction between the foot and the shoe, which can be avoided by wearing correctly fitted shoes.

If you just aren’t sure, make an appointment with your podiatrist to have a chat about what your footwear needs are. Keep these tips handy next time you’re shopping around for a well fitting shoe.

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