8 Reasons Why Shoes Matter to Your Foot and Ankle Specialist

If you’ve ever hobbled off the dance floor at a wedding with your heels in hand, you know shoes can easily cause foot pain. Foot and ankle specialists know too. This holds for all sorts of footwear, not just the special-occasion kind. Those pairs of office shoes, exercise shoes, and weekend-errand-running shoes that help you move around in the world? They can lead to pain if you’re not careful.

With all of the above in mind, here are eight shoe mistakes you might be guilty of and why they matter: 

1. You can’t remember the last time you got your feet measured.

Feet change over time. With age, some ligaments and tendons become a little bit looser, and gravity and body weight reshape the feet so they can become wider and stretch out. Significant weight fluctuations, like gaining weight during pregnancy, can change your shoe size, too. So can having bunions or hammertoes, or having a condition like rheumatoid arthritis that can cause joints to swell. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes may also lead to changes in foot size or shape due to nerve damage, which can result in other symptoms like tingling, pain, and numbness, too.

2. You don’t know squat about your arches.

In someone with low arches, the curves between the balls and heels of their feet are closer to the ground. Someone with high-arched feet has taller gaps there. People can also have truly “flat feet,” meaning their arches are so low their feet are flat on the ground.

The curve of your shoe should support your arches so they can in turn support the rest of your feet and your body. Chat with a foot and ankle specialist, or visit a fitness or specialty shoe shop to figure out what’s best for you.

3. You’re usually walking around (a lot) in shoes that aren’t up for the job.

As cute as high-heeled shoes may be, they’re not the right fit for clocking 10,000 steps, exploring a new city on vacation, or even walking around your office all day. You mainly need arch support and enough cushioning for proper shock absorption.

That means high heels are generally out. High heels generally shift your weight forward to the balls of your feet, putting entirely too much pressure on your muscles and joints and potentially causing pain, along with issues like bunions and hammertoes over time. On the other hand, flat shoes like flip-flops typically don’t offer much in the way of arch support or shock absorption, so they can also cause foot pain. For walking, look for a shoe with a low or flat heel, lots of cushioning, and a shape that follows the arch of your foot.

4. You choose your workout or running shoes based on appearance.

Don’t just buy sneakers based on how they look or because a fitness Instagrammer you love swears by them. Even going with a model you’ve always loved could lead you astray, since the shoe’s design may have changed in a way you don’t realize. When you need new sneakers, go to a specialty running or workout shoe store and speak with a specialist. You’ll need to factor in things like the type of exercise you’ll be doing—running over 25 miles on cement each week is very different from doing HIIT classes a few times a week. 

If it’s financially feasible, consider having different kinds of sneakers for the workouts you do most often. While this might seem like the shoe industry’s way of getting you to shop more, it’s legit. “Running and walking shoes are made with forwarding motion as the top priority.

5. You dedicate a day to “break-in” new shoes.

It’s true that leather shoes and those made of multiple materials, like hiking boots, can stretch after you buy them. This means they might need some breaking in before you can get to the point where you feel like you’re walking on clouds.

You shouldn’t rush the process, though. You know the trick where you put on thick socks, force your feet into new shoes, and blow a hairdryer over them to loosen them up ASAP? It typically doesn’t work as well as just letting the shoes become accustomed to your feet over time and can also cause pain or blisters. Also, don’t wear the shoes for hours on end to “push through the pain.” Instead, try to take it slowly. 

6. As soon as you get home, it’s barefoot central.

For a lot of people, going barefoot is about ultimate comfort, not an issue that needs fixing. However, in some people, constantly walking or standing barefoot on surfaces like hardwood floors, tile, or marble puts too much stress on the structures of the feet, either causing or exacerbating pain over time. Going barefoot too much can tax these fat pads without offering external support, so your feet may start to hurt. If you have foot pain that you think is due to being barefoot too much, try getting a pair of slippers with plush insoles to wear around the house, or park a memory foam mat in places where you stand a lot, like by the kitchen sink.

7. You don’t use insoles or understand their purpose

Depending on your foot type and any specific pain you might already have, the insoles that come with your shoes may not be the right, supportive choice for you. If you’re in the market for new insoles, check out a custom insole shop, your local drug store, or an online source like Amazon.

8. You’re still holding on to that worn-down pair of boots from 2012.

Many people only throw away a pair of shoes when the soles are worn down. Once the sole starts to break down, it changes the angle at which your foot strikes the ground. This can cause pain in your feet, knees, hips, and back. Unfortunately, this can also happen way before your shoes’ soles prompt a shopping trip.

Depending on your activity level and the kind of shoe in question, it takes between a few months to a year of everyday use to wear out footwear, the experts say. If you love a pair of pumps, loafers, or dressy boots, resolving them or adding insoles can help prolong their usefulness.

If your shoes look worn out, deformed, or have soles with abnormally smooth spots, a ton of wear and tear, or holes, that’s a clear sign it’s time to get rid of them. Even if your shoes look perfectly fine, if working out in them feels different, they don’t fit the same as they used to, or they make your feet sore during or after use, it might be time to toss them, Sutera says.

The bottom line: Your feet are probably doing way more than you give them credit for, so they need shoes to match.

Shoes, like clothes, are pretty personal. The right choices for you will depend on your activity levels, height, weight, walking and running, personal style, and a lot more. But if you’re experiencing any kind of foot pain that persists for days, makes it impossible—or just uncomfortable—to live your life as normal, or otherwise seems a little too weird to ignore, it’s time to see a podiatrist for evaluation. Call Doc Martins today to help with foot and ankle pain at 517-879-4241