How to Buy Shoes and Sneakers that Prevent Foot Pain
High-heeled stilettos are a red-carpet dream. They’re often strapped, little works of art that make your legs look long, gorgeous and ready for their close up. But, as we all know, appearance isn't everything. Every woman who has dared to wear (or teeter on) a 4-inch heel or higher knows that you have nothing but sore feet by the end of the night.
At one time or another, most people experience foot pain or an injury caused by wearing shoes that don’t fit properly—like heels that were too high, sneakers that were too flimsy, or dress shoes that were too narrow. Thankfully, there are plenty of stylish, high quality, and properly fitting shoes that can reduce your risk for foot pain. You just need to know what to look for.
How can I buy shoes that fit properly?
Even with the wide variety of brands and styles available today, buying a pair of shoes that are right for you isn’t as easy as it seems. Whether you’re buying casual, dress or athletic shoes, one of the most important things you can do to ensure a proper fit is have your feet measured by a professional shoe salesperson.
After measuring the length and width of your feet, a professional shoe salesperson can point you to styles that are supportive, made of quality materials and that have the toe box shape, heel height and sole that’s most comfortable for you. If you’re looking for shoes that relieve foot pain or podiatrist-recommended shoes, a specialty shoe store may be your best bet.
Although online shopping for shoes is popular, it’s best to try on shoes and walk around in them before you buy. If you must purchase shoes online, have your feet measured by a professional beforehand to make sure you’re getting the correct size and read online reviews to see what other buyers say about the fit.
What types of athletic shoes are best?
Athletic shoes come in a range of styles and can be tailored specifically for individual sports. To provide the best protection for your feet during athletic activities, it’s best to look for semi-rigid (sometimes called intermediate rigid), stable shoes that provide support and cushioning.
Avoid shoes that are soft and flexible, such as “barefoot” shoes. Also, avoid negative heel shoes, which keep the heel slightly lower than the rest of your foot. These shoes can cause your Achilles tendon to stretch and can result in heel pain.
For maximum comfort, you should opt for a soft upper, which is the part of the shoe that covers the foot. It’s also best to select an athletic shoe with minimal design accents, as straps and other designs make it more likely that the shoe will irritate the nerves around your ankle and on the top of your foot.
Although there are many less-expensive athletic shoe options, it’s best to invest in quality, brand-name athletic shoes—even if they cost a few extra dollars. Podiatrist-recommended shoes such as Brooks Beast, Brooks Adrenaline, New Balance 1260 and Asics come in men’s and women’s styles and offer protection and support.
What conditions are caused by poorly fitting shoes?
Shoes and sneakers that don’t fit properly can cause all sorts of problems. Pain and discomfort are the most common symptoms and can point to conditions such as:
- Capsulitis occurs when the ligaments that form a “capsule” around the joint at the base of your toe become swollen. It’s most common in the second toe and typically is caused by too much pressure on the ball of the foot.
- Metatarsalgia is an overuse injury that causes swelling and pain in the ball of your foot. Metatarsalgia occurs when your shoes are too snug or too loose and is linked to running and activities that require frequent jumping.
- Morton’s neuroma causes pain, stinging, burning or numbness in the ball of your foot. It also can make it feel like you’re standing on a tiny pebble. Morton’s neuroma is linked to wearing high heels and is caused by thickening tissue around one of the nerves in your foot.
- Plantar fasciitis causes stabbing heel pain due to swelling in the plantar fascia—the thick tissue on the bottom of your foot. Runners, people who don’t wear properly supportive shoes, and people who are overweight commonly develop plantar fasciitis.
Additionally, shoes that are either too tight, put pressure on certain areas of your feet, or don’t offer enough support can cause other problems such as:
- Athlete’s foot, which is a fungal infection of the skin on your feet that can be caused by excessive sweating due to tight footwear.
- Calluses and corns, which are areas of thick, hard skin on your feet that are sometimes painful.
- Ingrown toenail, which occurs when the edge of your toenail cuts into your skin.
- Tired muscles or soreness in your feet, ankles and lower legs.
What should I do if I experience foot pain or injury?
If you experience foot pain or injury, you should see a podiatrist to find out what is causing it. You should also see your podiatrist as soon as possible if you have foot or ankle symptoms including:
- A burning sensation in your ankle, foot or toes
- Drainage from the edge of your toenail
- Reduced range of motion in your ankle, foot or toes
- Skin that’s warm to the touch
If you think your foot pain may be caused by poorly fitting shoes, stop wearing those shoes immediately. Even if your foot pain gets better when you stop wearing your ill-fitting shoes, you should still visit your podiatrist to rule out any serious problems.
For more information about foot and ankle care or to schedule an appointment with a Virtua podiatrist, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3.
Updated July 16, 2018