You will walk thousands of miles during your lifetime. This is the reason that you need to wear proper footwear and avoid shoes that are too loose, too tight, or unsupportive. Uncomfortable shoes that do not fit properly can cause stress on the feet, ankles, lower legs, hips, and spine. Pain and injuries result from this ongoing pressure, and this can alter your sporting activities, work duties, and hobbies. Simply wearing appropriate shoes that fit your feet, body, and lifestyle can prevent many foot-related disorders and injuries.
Types of Shoes
Children’s Shoes – Infants need only booties and socks in the first months of life. However, as the infant begins to walk upright, shoes are necessary to prevent injury and should be worn outside of the house at all times. For toddlers, a sneaker or soft-soled shoe is appropriate. These shoe types allow the child to develop the muscles and ligaments around the ankle that help with balance and foot stabilization. Be sure the toe box is wide enough for the toes to wiggle.
A finger’s breadth of extra length allows for around 3 to 6 months of growth. Since young children’s feet grow fast, you should check the fit of your child’s shoes periodically. Signs that the shoes are too small include difficulty putting the shoes on and the child wanting the shoes off.
Women’s Shoes – Wearing high heels with a narrow toe box causes deformities like corns and hammer toes, knee pain, bunions, and lower back pain. An ideal women’s shoe is one that has a square, wide toe box with a heel that is lower than two inches. If you must wear higher heels, choose a shoe with a platform under the toe box to decrease the overall stress on the foot pad.
Men’s Shoes – Leather soled shoes are more stable and durable. A softer-soled shoe is often better if you walk long distances on a regular basis.
Sandals – Many people prefer to wear sandals in warm weather. These shoes do not offer much stability and foot support. If you must wear sandals, choose a pair that has straps that secure around the ankle. Make sure the sandal has a cork midsole rather than a rubber sole, as these provide more support. Specially designed sandals for hiking and rafting have supportive arches and are good choices.
- >Athletic Shoes – There are many good brands of athletic shoes available. Choose one that allows flexibility and optimizes stability to minimize injury and improve performance.
Rocker Sole Shoes – These shoes have a thick sole that curves upward at the toe and heel. Many find that wearing rocker sole shoes reduces arthritis pain in the heel or ball of the foot. You should avoid these types of shoes if you have balance difficulties or an unsteady gait.
Shoe Buying Recommendations
- To decrease the risk of developing foot problems, choose a shoe that conforms to the shape of your foot.
- If you have problems with swelling, purchase shoes toward the end of the day when your feet are the largest.
- Try on shoes to avoid purchasing ones that do not fit. Shoe size varies from brand to brand and style to style.
- Have your foot measured each year. Adult feet can grow and change with age. Make sure you are standing when you have your feet measured, as your body weight expands your foot size.
- Make sure there is a ½ inch space between your longest toe and the tip of the shoe. Also, do not wear shoes that are too long for your feet to avoid blisters and pain.
- Try your shoes out before buying them by walking around on different surfaces. Be sure that they are a comfortable fit before you leave the store.
- Do not purchase a shoe that requires stretching or pads to keep your feet from slipping.
The stability of a shoe is related to the material from which it is made. Leather shoes are considered sturdy and durable whereas mesh and other man-made materials often lose their shape and do not provide support. Shoes are divided into upper and lower parts. The upper section includes the toe box, the heel counter, and the vamp. The lower section consists of the insole, the shank, the midsole, and the outsole.
- Toe Box – This is the front area where the toes rest. Choose a shoe with a roomy toe box, especially if you have hammertoes or crossover toe.
- Vamp – This section covers the top of the foot and may be closed with snaps, laces, or fabric. The vamp should be snug to hold the foot firmly in place but loose enough to avoid pain and numbness.
- Heel Counter – This is the back of the shoe where the heel rests. A stiff counter is best, as it provides control and stability. People with pronated flat feet should choose shoes with a stiff counter.
- Insole – This is the area inside the shoe where the main part of the foot rests. Some shoes have removable insoles to provide more flexibility.
- Shank – This is the area under the arch of the foot. A stiff shank allows for more support for your foot.
- Midsole – The material that sits between the top area of the shoe and the outer sole is the midsole. Soft material should be used for the midsole to provide shock absorption.
- Outsole – This area is the hard bottom of the shoe. Choose a shoe where the outsole conforms to your foot.
Types of Athletic Shoes
- Running Shoes – Running shoes are grouped into three categories. Cushioned running shoes (also called neutral shoes) are made for the runner with high-arched, rigid feet. These shoes have a cushioned midsole made up of ethylene vinyl acetate. Stability running shoes provide support to the arch.These shoes are best for the pronator runner. Motion control running shoes are designed for severe pronators. These shoes support flat feet and heavier body weight. To determine if you are a pronator or a supinator, have a professional evaluate your feet.
- Barefoot Running Shoes – These specially designed shoes are made for those who prefer running without shoes, or barefoot running.
- Cross Trainers – These shoes are designed to take you from sport to sport. Good cross trainers are made of a combination of leather, fabric, and mesh materials.
- Walking Shoes – These provide shock absorption, have a smooth tread, and allow for stability in the arch.
- Court Shoes – These shoes are specially made for tennis, basketball, and volleyball. Court shoes are made of soft leather with a solid tread.
- Hiking Shoes – These shoes provide stability for walking across uneven surfaces. Most hiking shoes have a cushioned insole and good tread.