Top Tips For Picking Footwear

athletes about to start running on a running track

Let’s talk about shoes!

Considering we spend a lot of time in them, it’s important to pick the right pair.

Humans have been wearing footwear for thousands of years!

Over time, characteristics of footwear have been modified for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include environmental factors, conforming with fashion, assist foot function, accommodate foot deformities, and treat musculoskeletal deformities.

Several foot pathologies can be directly associated with the shoes that you wear, including osteoarthritis, lower back pain, foot ulcers, and foot deformities, such as bunions and hammertoes!

Many issues related to the lower limbs can be resolved by changing or modifying footwear.

But what makes a good pair of shoes? A good pair of shoes isn’t just comfortable for your feet!  They are responsible for providing you with support to actively prevent the risk of developing injuries to your muscles and joints.

We’ve put together some tips on choosing a pair that’s right for you!

 

image of a running shoe with labels of all the different areas of the shoe

To ensure your shoe provides the most stability and cushioning it should have…

 

1. Make sure your shoe has a comfortable upper!

This should be made of leather, mesh or synthetic material.  A good upper holds the foot in the shoe which is one of the most important aspects a shoe can provide!

2. Achilles Notch / Heel Cradle

This is important as it takes pressure off the Achilles tendon which therefore improves the comfort and aids in shock absorption.  Ensure that your shoes are stable around the heel to provide support.

3. Insole

The insole inside the shoe you wear is very important.  Insoles are designed to support and cushion the arch of the foot.  An insole that is too thin or unsupportive can contribute to foot pain.

 

The type of material your shoe is made of matters too!  When deciphering what’s best, it’s important to consider…

 

4. Upper Fabrics

Upper fabrics are important to consider when picking a pair of shoes.  Usually, upper fabrics are made from leather, synthetic materials or mesh.

Leather is often the most durable, but the heaviest and most expensive.  Synthetic materials are also strong, and lighter, but not as breathable as mesh fabric.  Mesh fabric is the lightest fabric, but the least durable upper material and may wear quicker.

Materials can also help to prevent fungal infections of the foot such as tinea due to their breathability.

5. Shoe Sole

The sole of the shoe is the bottom part of the shoe, which means it’s the part that is making contact with the ground.  It’s very important that it is durable.  Think of the sole of your shoe like the tyres on your car!

Rubber is the most common material that the sole of the shoe is made from.  The sole is important for providing traction with the surface of the ground.  This traction is essential in preventing falls, increasing performance and overall stability and balance.

6. Fixation is important!

That’s right! Learning to tie your shoelaces in primary school has paid off because laces are an important feature of your shoe.

Adequate fixation enables your foot to be firmly supported in your shoe.  Shoes without adequate fixation can lead to falls or foot injuries due to their lack of support.  This lack of support increases the strain on the structures in your foot.  The muscles and tendons in your arch and toes actually have to work harder to ensure your slippers are staying in the right spot and staying on your feet!

Also, the muscles in your legs are working harder to decrease the impact on your joints when you’re walking.  Eventually the muscles and tendons will fatigue and you are left suffering with the consequences.

 

Other important features to consider are…

 

7. Flexion in the right spot!

When choosing a pair of shoes, pick them up and bend them.  The only place you want the shoe to flex is where your toes bend.  After all, your toes are the only part of your foot that flexes when you’re walking.

Too many shoes have too much movement through the middle of the shoe which can lead to excessive flexion and movement of the foot structures resulting in injury.

8. Size Matters

When choosing shoes, it’s important to try them on because sizes can vary between brands and models.  Most of us also have one foot larger than the other, so it’s important to fit your shoe to your larger foot to prevent the development of pressure related foot pathologies.

A common rule of “thumb” is to check your shoe size using your thumb at the end of the shoe!  There should not be more than an adult’s thumb width between the end of the big toe and the end of the shoe.  This is particularly important for children.  It is tempting to buy shoes for your kids that are a little big so that they will ‘grow into them’.  However, it is important that the shoes are not too big, as your child is then at risk of slipping, tripping, and blisters!

It is also important to note that our feet can change size due to a number of factors including injury, pregnancy, age and surgery.  You will not always be the same size and you should purchase your shoes based on their comfort rather than what size you ‘should’ be.

9. Arch Support

Arch support helps to distribute body weight evenly across the foot when walking across uneven surfaces.  Some feet require more arch support than others, based on the shape of the foot and how well it can support the weight of the body.

Here’s some info on what type of footwear to look for depending on arch type:

  • High-arches

Your feet may not absorb shock well, so it’s important to consider extra cushioning to compensate for lower natural shock absorption.

  • Neutral-arches

Your feet are neither overly or under-ly arched, so it’s important to consider firm midsoles.

  • Low-arches

This is commonly referred to as ‘flat feet’.  Your feet may have additional joint or muscle stress, so it’s important to consider choosing footwear that best stabilises the foot.

 

If you’re looking for advice on finding the right footwear, or you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort in the lower limbs, book an appointment to see us here at Watsonia Podiatry. We’re here to answer your questions and help your feet be the best they can be! Book your appointment by calling us on 03 9432 2689 or book online here.

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