Footwear Function vs. Fashion

By: Lucas Zelazny

Choosing The Right Shoe For You

Proper footwear will keep you feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine healthy and safer from injury. The more you know about proper footwear the better you’ll be able to pick and choose which shoes will be best for your activity type, your specific foot type, and ensure it fits you well.

What The Right Shoe Can Do

Proper footwear will:

  • Cushion The Foot – The midsole is the main part of the shoe that provides cushioning. Shoes don’t reduce the force that is transferred through the foot and leg all that much. However they increase the amount of time it takes for the force to be applied which allows the body time to adapt.
  • Support Your Foot – Your shoes should help align your foot properly when it strikes the ground allowing for proper mechanics when running, walking, exercising, etc.
  • Feel Comfortable & Fit Well – Your shoes should be comfortable almost immediately. The toe box should have 1-1.5 cm of space. It should be wide enough and long enough for you feet while feeling snug but not tight.

How To Choose The Right Shoe

Shoe shopping is always a challenge, especially if you have large feet. Here are a few tips to consider while you’re at the store.

  • Shop for shoes after exercising – your feet will be slightly swollen allowing you to see what they’ll feel like during your activity of choice. If you buy shoes that are snug when you’re cold you’re more likely to get blisters.
  • Ensure you can wiggle all of your toes comfortably.
  • Walk / run in them. 
  • Ensure they grip your heel and don’t slip with movement.
  • Find a shoe with the best arch support. If it has a flat arch, don’t even bother. 
  • The shoes should be comfortable as soon as you try them on. Don’t rely on “breaking them in.”

Walking or Running

Walking sneakers should have extra shock absorption around the heel and under the ball of the foot reducing heel pain or burning / tenderness in the ball of the foot. Some walking shoes are rounded allowing you to easily shift weight from your heel to your toe.

Running shoes should have a more tradition style with overall shock absorption and good torsional strength meaning the the shoe does not twist easily. They should be quite supportive thus aiding in protection agains shin splints, tendonitis, heel pain, stress fractures and other overuse injuries.

Minimalist Shoes

These shoes allow your foot to land on the ground as if you were running barefoot. They don’t do much more than protect your feet against objects on the ground and provide a more “natural” environment for your feet to be in. But if you don’t have perfect feet. This probably isn’t a great option for you.

Shoe Rocker Patterns?

How Shoes Affect Your Joints

If your shoes are too tight, too loose or insufficiently supportive, your physical activity may place stress on your feet, ankles, lower legs and other joints. 

Poor footwear choice can contribute injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendon pain, corns, bunions, ingrown nails, postural issues and lower back pain. 

The chance of injury can be increased if your shoes are not designed for your activity of choice, the conditions in which you’re active in, or if they’re not suited to your body mass or foot mechanics. 

Wearing the wrong shoe can exacerbate existing problems such as pain or arthritis in your hips, knees, ankles or feet.

Even a short duration in the wrong shoes can cause stress and pain to your bones and joints, and the soft tissues that support them.

Your shoes can make a significant impact on the way you walk, or your gait. The movement of your feet during each step affects how the rest of your body follows. 

Some people’s arches roll inward too much, or not enough – either of which can impact how effectively your feet absorb shock. This can contribute to additional stress on other joints.

Remember, the right shoe can help prevent, reduce or eliminate foot pain. A lack of pain has a huge impact on how well and easily you move. So, find the right shoe and get active!

Internal Shoe Support Options

Heel cups

A heel cup can alleviate pain beneath the heel. They provide support around the heel while relieving pressure beneath the tender spot.

Arch supports 

These treat pain in the mid foot and other problems related to function of the foot and lower leg. Arch supports are worn inside the shoe either over or under the current footbed lining. Custom arch supports are specially designed inserts and may relieve a particular area while supporting other areas. They may also aim to alter foot alignment and function.

Metatarsal pad

A metatarsal pad can be used to relieve pressure or pain beneath the ball of the big toe or other toes. The pad connects to the insole behind the tender area. In this way, the pad helps distribute pressure that would otherwise be placed on the ball of the foot.

Some foot problems can be improved by stretching and strengthening exercises, wearing a different shoe, or simple over-the-counter shoe modifications. However, long-term and complicated problems ‒ such as severe flat foot, high arches, shin splints, Achilles tendon injury and turf toe ‒ may require a different alternatives.

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