Updated: Feb 7, 2022
“When Your Feet Hurt, You Hurt All Over”
Feet are the foundation for our structural system and can affect the whole body when they are not well supported. That is why finding the best shoe for your feet is so important, and getting rid of that same shoe after wearing it down to prevent injury.
1. Foot Type
There are three different types of arches: flat, normal and high. This needs to be a consideration for comfort and support. A physiotherapist, podiatrist or staff at a specialized foot store an usually help you determine what kind of arch you have. There are also some at home DIY ways to figure it out, such as the ‘wet test’.
Also known as shoe size. Trust your comfort level when trying on shoes, not the numbers inside of them. As sizing is pretty consistent among shoe sizes, but there are occasions when they vary slightly due to design or brand. Don’t think you will break a shoe in. Buy a shoe that is comfortable.
Usually, you will know if you have narrow or wide feet. Narrow feet often feel like shoes don’t support them properly. People with narrow feet may prefer shoes they can tighten or wear extra socks with to feel more stability. People with wide feet may encounter difficulties fitting in shoes that are their size. The shoebox feels tight and uncomfortable unless it is a wider shoe or one with more give.
Research done by The Center for Locomotion Studies at Penn State University in Pennsylvania discovered that men and women’s feet have significant differences in 85% of individuals. When buying performance specific footwear, this may be something to consider.
2. Shopping Test
When shopping for sure make sure to take socks with you that you will use most often in the shoes you are planning to purchase. This helps you find a shoe that performs well with your preferences.
Time of Day
Another consideration is that your feet expand naturally during the day as you are walking and moving around. They get to rest at night so they will be slightly smaller. Shopping for shoes in the afternoon will ensure you find a pair of shoes that will be most comfortable as it is more true to your size.
Test your shoe by bending it. Does it bend in half? Does it bend completely or just slightly? You want a shoe that bends in the same place your foot does and at the same angle, this will offer you the most support.
When you try to twist the shoe, does it keep its shape for the most part? Does it not twist at all? Can you wring out your shoe? Depending on what you want it for it is important to have a shoe that offers some support. This will keep you injury free and comfortable.
3. Shoe Features
The part of the shoe that rests on top of the foot acts to secure the shoe to the foot and minimize strain, as well as protect the foot from the elements. Laces help adjust the foot, particularly preferential for folks with narrower feet. If you have bunions or high arches, you may want a soft and flexible material that does not constrict the foot and provides adequate comfort.
The toe box is the very front of the shoe where the toes sit. Shoes with softer material offer more wiggle room, shoes with stiffer material may press down on the foot (depending on the foot shape), causing in grown nails, corns, blisters, etc. Shoes with a short toe box may cut into the foot. Shoes with points are detrimental to optimal foot health as they compromise the foot mechanics.
Some shoes, particularly performance shoes, have a heel collar. This is the small cushion that protects the Achilles tendon from the heel cup, if not present blisters and bleeding may occur due to the constant rubbing.
This holds the heel securely in place offering stabilization and balance to the foot. Shoes without good heel cups may result in the foot rolling off the sole.
Insole / Sock Liner
This is the part of the shoe your feet come in immediate contact with inside the shoe. It offers a little bit of cushioning and comfort but is important for breathability considerations. Is it hot or cold outside? Will your feet be sweating? How do you stay comfortable, warm and prevent your foot from slipping within your shoe?
This is the part between the insole and the bottom sole of the shoe. It offers the cushion needed to minimize the impact on the foot. If you will be doing more standing and walking on hard surfaces, more cushioning is ideal. Less shock absorption is ok on softer surfaces.
The quality and type of sole are important for overall safety. Are you shopping for casual, work, or performance shoes? What kind of terrain will you be walking on? How often will you be wearing these shoes? These are all important to consider. Ideally the foot should sit at a 0% angle, completely perpendicular with the floor, for optimal range of motion. Although heels are popular they are not ideal. If they must be worn, the smaller the heel the better.
The rule of thumb is the life of a shoe is 300-500miles, if you are walking the usual 5 miles a day (taking into account all the steps you take at home, at work and in running errands), you should be replacing your shoes every 1-3 months if you are wearing the same shoes on a daily basis. This will help prevent injury and any trauma caused by your shoes no longer supporting you properly.