We all are very aware when our shoes don’t fit right; they are either too small, to rigid, too pointy, too big, too high... and cause us to exclaim, “My feet are killing me!” While we’re not really in danger of physical death, ill-fitting shoes will restrict foot and lower leg function, and impede circulation and energy flow throughout the whole body. Poor footwear changes a normal gait pattern and forces the feet and body to compensate. The result is foot pain that quickly becomes whole body pain.
A healthy shoe style is one that allows your feet full range of motion. The more the entire foot is used while walking, the stronger the foot and body will become. A flexible, strong foot creates a strong, stable base for the body. Here are some things to consider when buying shoes:
1. You should be able to flex the shoe from toe to heel and side to side.
2. Look for an ample toe box. Avoid angles, slanted and/or pointed shoes that restrict toe function. Be sure that the toe box is not only wide, but deep.
3. Avoid height variation from toe to heel. (This means no high heels, ladies!) Shoes that limit proper heel strike (anything over a ½ or so) are major contributors to bunions, low back pain, headaches, etc.
4. Select shoe styles that secure the foot from as near the ankle as possible, and that have a heel counter (a strap).
5. A shoe with a flat “inner landscape” is ideal. The bio-mechanical function of the medial arch is to extend and contract under the weight and momentum of each step.
Consider your socks and tights too! When worn too tightly, foot coverings will bind and restrict the toes and cause interference with the dispersion of weight, momentum and propulsion in the final stage of walking. In addition, foot coverings can decrease the space within shoes required for full range of motion.
If you have to wear steel-toed shoes, or other ill-fitting shoes for work, take them off as soon as you are able, walk barefoot when appropriate, and consider seeing a reflexologist who can help increase mobility and reduce joint tension. Your feet and body will thank you!