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Shoes Matter. Getting to the “Sole” of the Best Shoes for Your Feet

Shoes Matter

Shoes matter. Some want the coolest cross trainers or latest on-trend stilettos they can find. Others need to protect their feet from hazardous conditions. Whether you’re shopping for work or play, doctors agree that picking the right shoes for your feet means looking past the latest designs. Ceasar Irby, DPM, a podiatrist with Northeast Medical Group Trumbull, explains what you should be looking for the next time you head to the shoe store.

“The thing to remember is that we all have unique needs when it comes to our feet,” Dr. Irby said. “Some people run for exercise, some have jobs where they lift heavy things and other people are standing for long stretches during the day. All these things, combined with our age, weight and physical condition create a very unique footwear need.”

Measuring up

The first thing Dr. Irby suggests before buying a new pair of shoes is to have your feet properly measured.

“Most shoe stores have a tool called a Brannock Device that measures the foot’s length and width,” he said. “Many times, especially with adults, they had their feet measured years ago and have stayed with that size ever since. Having an accurate size, both length and width, eliminates a lot of problems people can have when their shoes don’t fit properly.”

Armed with your current size, Dr. Irby said to head to a store that specializes in shoes for the activity you need. Also have a set of goals for that activity.

Trust the experts

“The people who work in these stores are very knowledgeable and if you give them your goals, they’ll be able to give you a good set of recommendations,” he said. “For example, if you’re shopping for an athletic shoe, the salesperson can direct you to a running shoe, or cross-trainer or something else that will meet your needs best.”

When it comes to a general-purpose shoe that isn’t tied to a specific activity, Dr. Irby suggests a basic running or walking shoe.

“These shoes typically come with a lot of cushion and are made to handle the wear and tear of a lot of walking,” he said. “Even if you do a lot of standing, these shoes should give you plenty of cushion and support.”

Function over fashion

With sandal and flip-flop season fast-approaching, Dr. Irby cautions against wearing this type of minimalist footwear too often.

“We try to steer patients away from flip-flops or sandals that don’t offer much support,” he said. “They require the foot muscles to work so much harder than shoes with quality support. You’ll notice it at the end of the day because your feet will be sore.”

If you insist on wearing flip-flops or sandals, Dr. Irby suggests choosing a pair that has a contour under the arch, which can lessen the impact on the foot muscles.

Sometimes, people need a little more cushion or support than even a good shoe provides. That’s where Dr. Irby says orthotic inserts can help.

“Any foot pain, apart from typical soreness after a long walk or exercise, is not normal,” he said. “When someone has regular pain, even when wearing appropriate footwear, they should look into an orthotic. We usually start with an over-the-counter version and, if necessary, move into a prescription, custom orthotic.”

Big price doesn’t mean big performance

Dr. Irby stresses that price and popularity are not evidence that a shoe will provide the benefits you need saying, “Most people don’t need the $300, top-of-the-line model. There are many great options out there that provide very good performance that aren’t very expensive.”

Learn more about podiatry.