New Shoes for the New Year
New Year, new you. Right?
After all, January is traditionally the month where we make resolutions, think about the goals we want to accomplish before a new calendar goes up, and generally recommit to living our best possible lives.
Something about a fresh new year makes a fresh new start appealing! (Plus, you might have some holiday gift cards to burn through, too.)
Well, if you’ve experienced any kind of foot pain, foot injury, or foot problem in general in 2018, you’re going to want to put improved foot health near the top of your 2019 wish list. And a great way to get a head start on that is with the right pair of shoes.
Now, let’s be clear here. “New shoes” isn’t a cure-all solution to serious, painful, diagnosable foot conditions. If your feet are hurting you, you need to come see us so we can figure out a comprehensive treatment plan that make sense for your condition and lifestyle.
But having said that, no part of your daily ensemble is as important to your physical health and wellbeing (short term and long term) than your footwear.
And the right pair of shoes, for the right situation or activity, can make a huge difference in terms of how you feel throughout the day and how likely you are to develop ongoing or chronic foot problems.
So with that in mind, what should you look for?
Everyday and Dress Shoes
When it comes to your everyday wear—including casual wear and work attire—comfort and support should always be your primary objective.
That’s not to say they can’t also be stylish, of course. But if you’re going to be standing or walking around in these shoes for most of the day, they have to be comfortable, with good arch support and cushioning. The alternative is pain.
For weekends, home wear, or casual work environments, a pair of walking shoes or casual shoes should do the trick just fine. If you need to wear dressier shoes during the workday, you should have plenty of options there as well. A slightly elevated heel, cushioned insole, generous arch support, and a great and comfortable fit can work wonders.
High heels, on the other hand? We definitely don’t recommend those for everyday wear, and only sparingly for dressy occasions. Wearing them too often can lead to all sorts of painful problems, from neuromas to leg cramps to ankle sprains and falls. They may even accelerate the development of deformities like bunions and hammertoes.
If you do like to wear heels from time to time, we recommend you cap the heel height at 2 inches at the very tallest, and make them as wide and thick as you can for extra stability. Bring a comfortable pair of shoes with you, too, so you can change out as needed.
Okay, it’s not exactly sandal season in Central Illinois. But the days are (finally) getting longer, and before you know it spring will be back—and open-toed shoes will once again be all the rage.
Unfortunately, most sandals you can buy off the shelf don’t particularly prioritize foot support or comfort. Flat, flimsy flip flops are the worst offenders, since they offer basically no arch support or shock absorption and they force you to walk in a biomechanically poor gait that can lead to pain throughout the body. But many other “normal” sandals aren’t much better.
Not to worry, though, because our office carries a brand we really love—Vionic. They company was founded by a podiatrist, and their sandals (and shoes) are designed and developed in collaboration with a team of physicians and fitness experts.
They make a variety of fashionable sandal styles (platforms, slides, toe post, wedge, you name it), so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something that looks great on your feet. And each one comes with patented, contoured arch support technology that keeps your feet properly aligned, cushioned, and supported while you walk.
Are you an active individual? Do you enjoy running, or play a specific sport regularly? If so, you are going to want to make sure you have the right pair of athletic shoes for your activity.
In other words: sport-specific shoes.
A lot of amateur athletes make the mistake of assuming that a generic pair of tennis shoes is going to be the right choice for whatever the situation calls for, from tennis to basketball to field hockey to trail running to running on pavement.
But this just isn’t the case, at least not if you plan to make your chosen sport or activity more than a very occasional hobby.
The type of stresses your feet and ankle must bear are very different in, say, basketball (starting, stopping, pivoting, jumping, landing) than running (straight ahead speed). For the former, high tops and ultra-thick soles are crucial, even if they feel a little bulky. For the latter, minimizing weight and maximizing mobility will likely be more important.
Once again, the fit is really important, including both length and width—the wrong size shoe could put you on the fast track to ingrown toenails, blisters, and heel pain. Runners will also want to consider their arch height, gait and pronation style.
If you’re not sure what that means, we’re happy to offer our assistance. You will also probably have more luck if you do your shopping at a store that specializes in running or athletic shoes, rather than a generic shoe store or department store.
If you have diabetes, you’re not alone—about 1 out of every 10 Americans lives with the disease, and millions more are at elevated risk.
Diabetes also poses substantial risks to the feet, especially in cases where diabetes-related peripheral neuropathy has reduced your ability to feel hot, cold, pain, and injury. This is partly why so many people with diabetes develop ulcers on their feet—which can ultimately require amputation if an infection cannot be contained and treated.
Diabetic shoes are designed to protect people with diabetes from these and other complications, so they can continue to live active and healthy lives.
They often come in the same fashionable styles as other shoes. They just have a few special features, including extra depth to accommodate custom orthotics, padded collars, seamless interiors, and more.
These are all designed not only to properly cushion and support your feet, but reduce the risk of cuts, irritation, friction, and other problems that could lead to skin breakdown or foot injury. Specifically, the objectives are:
- Reduce the amount of pressure on your feet
- Reduce the amount of shear (horizontal) and shock (vertical) forces on your feet
- Stabilize, support, and otherwise accommodate any existing foot problems or deformities you have
- Limit excessive joint motion to help you stay balanced and supported, as well as reduce your pain.
Our office is glad to help you find an appropriate pair of diabetic shoes, and new pairs are often covered by insurance once per year.
Some Additional Shopping Tips
So, you ready to go out to the shoe store and pick up some great footwear to keep your feet healthy in 2019? Great. Here are a few extra quick tips to help you find the perfect match:
- Shop later in the day, rather than the morning. Feet don’t stay the same size all day long; they actually swell just a touch throughout. If you shop when your feet are at their largest, you won’t be surprised to find they’re actually too tight.
- Measure your feet every time. In addition to temporary swelling, feet also permanently change shape (wider, longer, and flatter) as you get older. So once in a while you may to increase the size or width of what you’re wearing.
- Measure both It’s fairly common to have one foot larger than the other, and while the difference is usually small, it’s also not that unusual for them to be half a shoe size apart either. If your feet are different sizes, make sure you buy a pair that fits the larger of the two feet.
- Wear the right socks. A shoe that fits perfectly with a pair of thin athletic socks might be oppressively tight with thick wool socks. Make sure you test any new shoes with the same approximate style or thickness of socks you plan to wear with those shoes. Bring a couple of pairs if you have to.
- Wiggle those toes. They should have plenty of room to move up and down and side to side. There should be about half an inch of space between the longest toe and the front of the shoe, the widest part of the shoe should accommodate the ball of your foot comfortably, and the heel should be comfortable yet firm enough to prevent the shoe from sliding around on your feet.
- Do the “walking around” test. A great pair of shoes should be comfortable to wear and walk in right away. Don’t be tempted to think that really cute pair that’s just a size too small will “break in” eventually, because it won’t.
And of course, one more thing. (We said it earlier, but it bears repeating.)
While a new pair of shoes can make a huge difference in your life, it’s no substitute for checking in with a foot and ankle specialist—especially if constant foot pain is getting in the way of your day-to-day living or favorite activities.
Foot pain isn’t normal, and you can get your life back. We have tons of advanced treatment options to help you. So don’t wait! Give Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates a call at (309) 661-9975, or fill out an online contact form to get started.