Shoes serve many functions. They protect our feet. They cushion our body weight. They can make our feet feel comfortable or fashionable — hopefully both!
Finding the proper shoes and making sure they fit are important for keeping your feet and your body healthy and happy. Poorly fitting shoes can be painful and cause foot problems like bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and more.
Follow these tips from Foot and Ankle Orthopedic Surgeons to find the right shoes for you:
- Have your feet measured. Your foot size and shape can change over time. Don’t rely on the fact that you have always worn a certain size.
- Fit your shoes to the larger foot. Most people have one foot that is larger than the other, so make sure you have BOTH feet measured.
- Get measured at the end of the day when your feet are the largest. When you are up during the day, your feet will swell and settle some. You want to make sure you are comfortable throughout the day and not just when you head out of the house in the morning.
- Don’t rely on shoe size alone. Just like clothes, the size marked inside the shoe may be different depending on the brand. So your shoe size is a just a starting point in selecting the correct shoe.
- Look at the shape of the shoe. Make sure the shoe shape resembles the shape of your foot and fits your foot comfortably.
- Don’t plan on shoes stretching over time. They should fit well when you buy them.
- Check the width of the shoe. The ball of your foot (the widest part just before your toes begin) should fit comfortably in the widest part of the shoe.
- Check the depth of the shoe. The shoe should be deep enough to fit your toes, especially if you have hammertoes or other conditions. If the shoe’s toe box is too small, your toes will rub against the top of the shoe and you will get calluses or sores.
- Check the space at the end of the shoe. Stand up and make sure there is 3/8” or 1/2” (about the width of your finger) between your longest toe (usually the second toe) and the end of the shoe.
- Always stand and walk around in the shoes to see if they are comfortable. Check if they fit well and make sure they don’t chafe or rub anywhere. Your heel should not slip or slide while walking.
Match the shoe to your activity
Your ideal shoes will change based on the activity you want to do while wearing them.
- Running shoes are specially designed to provide the proper cushioning at the heel and flexibility at the toes that athletes need.
- Walking shoes have a shock absorbing heel and flex at the ball of the foot.
- Cross-trainers are often good all-purpose shoes for general exercise. Basketball shoes are meant for basketball and may not be the best choice if you do a lot of walking.
- Cycling shoes are stiffer to help you pedal more efficiently but don’t work well for most other activities.
- Dress shoes can be comfortable as well as look good. Many dress shoes are now made with a sneaker-like sole that provides better cushioning and tread and better arch support. Expensive Italian loafers are not for everybody.
Look for good shoe construction
Some basic principles of a good shoe include a cushioned heel, firm sole that doesn’t easily twist or bend, and flexibility at the proper area depending on the type of shoe.
- If the upper part of the shoe is made from a soft, breathable material, it will be more comfortable for a longer period of time.
- The upper part of the shoe should have laces or straps to hold the foot in place comfortably with activity.
- There should be some arch support in the shoe or in the insert inside the shoe. Many shoes can be made to fit better simply by removing the factory insert and replacing it with a high-quality off-the-shelf orthotic. Custom orthotics are rarely necessary and should be prescribed by your foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon for specific foot disorders.
How do I choose for my child?
Children may require new shoes every 3-4 months. How often you replace their shoes depends on how active your child is and how fast their feet are growing.
Children’s feet grow in spurts. Most early toddlers (under 16 months of age) grow more than one-half a foot size in 2 months. Toddlers from age 16-24 months grow an average of one-half a foot size every 3 months. Children 2-3 years old grow approximately one-half a foot size every 4 months, and children over 3 years of age experience increases of one-half a foot size every 4-6 months.
You should ask yourself the following questions when selecting your child’s shoes:
How does the shoe fit?
Is the type of shoe appropriate for your child’s age?
Pay attention to the shoe’s length, width, and depth when fitting your child’s shoe. Poorly fitting children’s shoes can cause toe problems, ingrown toenails, hammertoes, blisters or calluses, and bunions.
- If the shoe has a removable insert, take it out and have your child stand on it to give you a better sense of how much room there is. With your child’s heel at the back of the insert, there should be about one-half inch of space between your child’s toes and the front of the insert.
- If the inserts are not removable, have your child put the shoe on and press down on the front of it. You should be able to fit the tip of your finger between your child’s toes and the front of the shoe.
- Examine the depth of the shoe to make sure the top of the shoe doesn’t press on the toes or the toenails.
- Look for shoes with rounded toe boxes to give the toes more room to move.
Remember, shoes should be comfortable from the start. If new shoes need to be “broken in,” it means either they were not properly designed or not properly fitted for your child’s foot. Frequently check your child’s feet for redness or blisters, which may indicate they need larger or wider shoes. If you have concerns, make an appointment with a foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon.
The Appropriate Shoe
The Pre-Walking Shoe
Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They only need booties, warm wide socks to keep their feet warm, or pre-walking shoes that do not bind their feet. The shoe should be flexible rather than provide a rigid support, and it’s very important that the shoe be shaped like the child’s foot. Your child can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors.
Shoes for toddlers (age 9 months to 3 years) should allow the foot to breathe since their feet perspire heavily. Avoid synthetic materials that don’t breathe. For children 9-18 months, choose a high-top shoe that will stay on the foot better than an oxford or a low-top athletic shoe. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit little feet better. The sole of the shoe should be smooth, like the palm of your hand, to prevent falls. Choose a lightweight shoe since children use a lot of energy walking at this age. Toddlers can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors.
School-Age Children’s Shoes
Style and shoe fit is important for school-age children. At this age, they can choose from a variety of options, including athletic shoes, sandals, hiking shoes, etc. Look for reasonably priced, flexible, well-ventilated shoes that allow plenty of room for growth.