by Shawn Mead ,DPT
What is proper shoewear, and why is it important?
Whether you are an avid runner, recreational walker, or on your feet for a majority of the day, it is important to protect your support structure. This begins with proper footwear. Not only is it imperative to maintain adequate arch support, but it is also important to find a good balance between comfort and rigidity. We can't always go with the most fashionable-we must consider what's best for our bodies for the long haul.
Tips for Finding the Right Pair of Shoes:
- Especially for recreational and competitive runners, pay close attention to the amount of "flare" on the back and outside portion of the shoe. (see picture shown) You want to avoid shoes with excessive "flare."
- Shop or try on new shoes towards the end of the day. Many of us will typically experience an increase in swelling in the feet after sitting or standing throughout the day. To ensure proper fit, wait until the afternoon or evening to try a new pair on.
- Always try on both shoes when looking for a new pair, and don't rely on shoe sizes. Often times one foot is larger than the other, and a size 10 to one company may be slightly different than a size 10 to another.
- Have your feet measured regularly. Our feet tend to grow with age, longer and wider.
- Walk around in your shoes to determine proper feel. Don't justify that the shoes need to be "broken in." Find shoes that fit from the get go. Is the heel fit snugly? Do the shoes slip off? Many individuals with bunions or bunionettes will require a wider toe box, which will ensure proper gait mechanics and reduce stress or strain to the bone.
- For those with sensation loss or alteration of any form, ensure there are no tags, seams, or other items that might irritate the skin. This is especially important for individuals with diabetes or with neurological deficits.
- Be sure to bring Orthotics, and the typical socks you wear with you when trying on new shoes. You will have to be sure that there is enough room in the shoe when you are wearing the orthotic.
- Avoid shoes that are very pliable. In other words, can you bend the shoe in half, and make the ends meet? If so, there is likely little to no support when you attempt to stand, walk, or run for extended periods of time. You want to find shoes which are more rigid at the sole. This will help to provide stability when you ambulate or run.
Southland Physical Therapy recommends and encourages the use of foot orthotics to help encourage natural gait mechanics, and to reduce compensations that can lead to injury throughout the body, from the head to the toes. There are times when the foot may excessively or inadequately pronate during walking or running, which can lead to injuries sustained at the knee, hip, and low back. At Southland, we offer custom orthotics through Footmaxx, which is a system to determine more definitively a biomechanical assessment of gait. Because walking and running are dynamic activities, it makes logical sense to capture what the foot is doing during movement. Footmaxx's metascan pressure mat does just that. We are able to assess new patients for foot function, and each of them is able to see first hand where and how they distribute pressure when ambulating.