Women spend more time on their feet than men at home, and wear shoes with heels that aggravate foot problems at work. Their unique bodies and circumstances call for extra precautions related to the foot. The following are general guidelines for issues specific to women’s foot health:
The best shoe for women’s feet is a walking shoe with laces (not a slip-on), a composition sole, and a relatively wider heel with a rigid and padded heel counter, no more than three-quarters of an inch in height.
Some women inflict punishment on their feet from improper footwear that can bring about unnecessary foot problems. Some of the problems result from high-heeled shoes (generally defined as pumps with heels of more than two inches).
A study conducted by the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society found that:
- Nine out of 10 women wear shoes that are too small for their feet.
- Eight out of 10 women say their shoes are painful.
- More than 7 out of 10 women have developed a bunion, hammertoe, or other painful foot deformity.
- Women are nine times more likely to develop a foot problem because of improper fitting shoes than a man.
- Nine out of 10 women’s foot deformities can be attributed to tight shoes.
High-heeled, pointed-toe shoes can cause numerous orthopedic problems, leading to discomfort or injury to the toes, ankles, knees, calves, and back. Many high-heeled-shoes also have a pointed, narrow toe box that crowds the toes and forces them into an unnatural triangular shape. These shoes distribute the body’s weight unevenly, placing excess stress on the ball of the foot and on the forefoot. This uneven distribution of weight, coupled with the narrow toe box characteristic of most high heels, can lead to discomfort, bunions, hammertoes, and other deformities.
The height of the heel makes a dramatic difference in the pressure that occurs on the bottom of the foot. As heel height increases, the pressure under the ball of the foot may double, placing greater pressure on the forefoot as it is forced into the pointed toe box.
To relieve the abusive effects of high heels, women should limit the amount of time they wear them and alternate these shoes with good quality sneakers or flats for part of the day. Look for comfortable and attractive walking pumps for work and social activities, that blend fashion appeal with athletic shoe-derived construction, reinforced heels, and wider toe room for greater comfort. Low-heeled shoes (one inch or lower) with a wide toe box are the ideal choice for women. An ample toe box that can accommodate the front part of the foot is as important as the heel in determining fit.
Most men’s shoes conform to the shape of the feet and have a roomy toe box with sufficient horizontal and vertical space and a low heel (usually about half an inch high). Soles made of either hard materials (such as leather) or soft materials (such as crepe) can be worn, but softer soles tend to be more comfortable. If you stand for extended periods of time, shoes with soft, pliable and cushioned soles will protect your feet and help keep them comfortable.
The best shoes for men are good quality oxford styles, shoes ordinarily associated with wing-tip or cap toe designs. Also suitable are slip-ons, dressy loafers, and low dress boots.
It is advisable to have three to five pairs of shoes for business so that you can alternate your shoes on a daily basis.
Choosing shoes for your children can play a critical role in their musculoskeletal development, including their posture.
In general, infants just learning to walk do not need shoes. Infants may go barefooted indoors, or wear only a pair of socks. This helps the foot grow normally and develop its muscles and strength as well as encourages the grasping ability of toes.
Once children are ready to walk as toddlers, their need for properly-fitted shoes is important. In general, a soft, pliable, roomy shoe, such as a sneaker, is ideal for all children. The toe box should provide enough space for growth and should be wide enough to allow the toes to wiggle. A finger’s breadth of extra length will usually allow for about three to six months’ worth of growth, though this can vary depending on your child’s age and rate of growth.
Because high-top shoes tie above the ankle, they are recommended for younger children who may have trouble keeping their shoes on. Contrary to common belief, however, high-top shoes offer no advantages in terms of foot or ankle support over their low-cut counterparts.
Here are some tips when purchasing shoes for children:
- Both feet should be measured every time you shop for new shoes since those little feet are growing. If, as is common, the feet are two different sizes, shoes should be fitted to the larger foot.
- The child’s foot should be sized while he or she is standing up with full weight-bearing.
- There should be about one-half inch of space (or a thumb’s width) between the tip of the toes and the end of the shoe. The child should be able to comfortably wiggle his or her toes in the shoe.
- Have the child walk around the store for more than just a few minutes wearing the shoe with a normal sock. Ask the child if he or she feels any pressure spots in the shoe. Look for signs of irritation on the foot after the shoe is tested.
- Put your hand inside the shoe and feel around for any staples or irregularities in the glue that could cause irritation. Examine where the inside stitching hits the foot.
- Examine the shoe itself. It should have a firm heel counter (stiff material on either side of the heel), adequate cushioning of the insole, and a built-in arch. It should be flexible enough to bend where the foot bends at the ball of the foot, not in the middle of the shoe.
- Never try to force your child’s feet to fit a pair of shoes.
- Shoes should not slip off at the heels. Children who have a tendency to sprain their ankles will do better with high-top shoes or boots.
- Children who frequently remove shoes from their feet may be signaling some discomfort. Check your child’s feet periodically for signs of too-tight shoes, such as redness, calluses or blisters, which will help you know when they’ve outgrown their shoes.
Remember that the primary purpose of shoes is to prevent injury. Shoes seldom correct children’s foot deformities or change a foot’s growth pattern. Casting, bracing, or surgery may be needed if a serious deformity is present. If you notice a problem, please contact our office to have your child’s feet examined.