Stay on Your Toes

Don’t be defeated by foot pain—these improvements can help

Ah, the agony of the feet. If you can’t get off your feet, you can make sure your shoes aren’t making your foot problems worse. The right shoes can even improve foot issues. Here’s what you need to know to keep you on your toes.

Right Shoe For The Job
Match the shoe to the activity. “It’s important to wear the right shoe for whatever you’re doing that day,” says Vickie Concilus, manager and buyer for Adams Shoes in Newport News. “If you’re doing a marathon shopping day, you wouldn’t wear a 4-inch heel. You would wear a good casual shoe or walking shoe. I use my running shoes only to run. I use my (exercise) walking shoes only to walk. I have other walking shoes for going shopping. I’m fanatical about the purpose of the shoe.”

Change is Good
No matter how much you like them, don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day. Different heel heights change the way your muscles and tendons work, shortening or lengthening them depending on the shoe, Concilus says. “If you always walk on your toes and you never flattened your foot out, eventually your Achilles tendon is going to change, and it’s going to be painful to walk flat footed,” she says. “Yesterday I worked in a pair of three-inch heels. Today I’m wearing a pair of boots with an inch-and-a-half heel.”

Help for Plantar Fasciitis
If you’re a runner, you may fear plantar fasciitis more than someone passing you right before the finish line. The plantar fascia is the ligament connecting your heel bone to your toes that supports your arch. When the plantar fascia becomes inflamed, weak or swollen, it hurts especially when you first get up in the morning. The solution, Concilus says, can be the right orthotic shoes. She likes shoes by Orthaheel, now part of the company Vionic, that offer a rigid, high arch that prevent the ligament from getting stretched.
“They have some shoes that look quite professional now and they make a great walking shoe,” she says. Concilus cautions, in fact, that the support is so good that you’ll have to gradually increase wearing time with the shoes.

Delaying Bunions and Hammertoes
Many bunions and hammertoes are inherited, according to a 2013 study published in Arthritis Care and Research. If you want to delay the inevitable, then avoid pointed-toe shoes, Concilus says, and wear shoes that are properly fitted.
Ladies, if you already have bunions then avoid the classic pump with the U-shape on top of your foot, she says. The U-shape will cut right across that big toe joint and make the bunion hurt more, she says, while a V-shape cut means the leather will come up higher around the big toe joint without cutting into the toe joint.
If you already have a hammertoe (a toe bending or even crossing over the adjacent toe), SAS brand shoes offer a deeper toe box to give your toes more room, Concilus says.


Size Matters—The Right Size
Just because you wore a size 7 shoe when you were 16 doesn’t mean you’re still a size 7 decades later, Concilus says. “Like everything else, when we age, the foot falls and drops—and it has to go somewhere,” she says. Women often remain in shoes that are now too short while many men wear their shoes both too short and too wide, she says.
An accurate measurement is critical, she notes. A measuring machine can determine that you’re an 8 medium, but won’t tell you that your instep (that’s the bones on top of your foot) is high and you need to go up to a wider width to accommodate that, she says. A professional fitting can determine if you have a high or flat arch and other issues.

Weak Ankles Mean No Sling Back Shoes
If your ankles are weak, sling back shoes aren’t for you, Concilus says. You need a shoe with more support in the back. Also, if you’re wearing lace up shoes, make sure you lace them up tightly instead of leaving them loose and then slipping in and out, she says.

Footnote: Real Leather is Best
If you have problem feet, go for shoes made out of quality leather or a good stretch fabric, Concilus says. Why? The stretch factor. For example, if you have a hammertoe, a good shoe fitter can lift and stretch the toe box on the pumps you’re buying so it will accommodate that bad toe, she says.

The end result: happy feet.

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