In a previous blog post, we discussed the different types of running shoes and how to select the best one for you. But what about our day to day shoes; for work or play? Again there is a bewildering myriad of shoes available, but what should we look for when buying a pair of shoes. Choosing the right shoe can often mean the difference between comfort and painful injury.
As a podiatrist people seek my advice on dealing with foot injuries. One of the first things I ask my patients is 'what shoes do they typically wear?'
A well-made shoe will perform several functions:
Due to this, a mountain climbing boot is going to be vastly different to a woman's stiletto shoe. Yet all shoes incorporate these design factors to varying degrees. Bearing this in mind, buying a shoe in Singapore however takes a little more time and effort. Due to the hot humid climate, lightweight shoes are often preferred to more supportive (heavier) shoes. While comfortable and breezy, lightweight shoes often don't provide enough support for our daily routine. And to complicate matters even further, the workplace often dictates what sort of shoe is acceptable as opposed to what you can wear after hours.
Our bodies are designed to tell us when things aren't working properly, typically in the form of pain. In the right pair of shoes you should be easily able to walk for a solid 2-3 hours without feeling discomfort. If your feet, or any other part of your lower limbs hurt while walking or standing, there's a good chance your shoe is playing a part. An easy experiment to try is to try walking in a flip flop for an hour or so and note how long it takes for any aches, pains or fatigue sets in. Try the same thing again in a sports shoe and take note of how you feel after an hour. Granted everyone will be affected differently, but chances are, walking in a sports shoe will be much more comfortable than flip flops.
This is because a sports shoe incorporates a higher degree of design features I mentioned earlier compared to flip flops (but fear not, there are supportive flip flops out there; more on that later).
So for ease of understanding, here are my top tips to help guide you when buying shoes:
1. Listen to your body
It seems fairly simple, but we often ignore what’s staring us directly in the face (or feet). If you've been pain free but are now getting pain with your new shoes, there's a good chance the shoes are the cause. Most of us like buying new shoes, and even if we didn't, shoe designs change from season to season. What seem like minor cosmetic differences can affect how your feet feel at the end of the day. Change in to your old shoes. Still getting pain? If not, your new shoes aren't good as you thought they were.
2. Change your shoes regularly
You've had these great shoes for a few years and you've had no problems. Now all of a sudden your feet are starting to ache. What gives? Unfortunately, modern shoes are made from materials that deteriorate over time and use. This translates into decreased support of the foot, which can lead to overuse injuries. Most modern shoes will typically last between 1 to 2 years, depending on daily use. Even if they're used sparingly, Singapore’s climate can cause materials to spoil sooner than you think.
3. Size matters
Your feet grow with age. As does our weight. Increased weight along with general wear and tear will cause our feet to grow not only in length, but width. Get your feet measured correctly at a reputable shoe shop. UK, US and European sizing is all different. Even then it’s not uncommon to find that a size 42 from one company is a size 44 from another. So if you're finding your shoes no longer fit, it may be that sizing is wrong, or more likely, your foot has grown.
Most shoes have some form of cushioning. But a lot of shoes don't have support. A good level of support makes it easier for your feet to function properly. Think of it this way. Try walking on wet sand at the beach. It feels nice and soft initially, but soon enough your leg muscles will start to become tired. Now try walking on the dry sand and notice how much easier it is. When your feet are unstable, your muscles require more effort to get the feet off the ground. A shoe (or flip flop) doesn't have to be rock solid to provide a good level of support. If the shoe bends slightly at the toe, feels firm when twisted and has a strong heel support then your shoe be good enough for your needs. If you can bend or twist the shoe with minimal effort, then it’s likely your shoe is going to cause problems for your feet. Your shoes don't have to be heavy to provide support. There are lightweight shoes that have a good level of support. Just bend and twist them to see for yourself.
5. Listen to your body
Even if you've followed the steps I’ve mentioned, the temptation is still there to squeeze your feet into a pair of shoes that may be a little bit small. That pair of Italian loafers you saw on sale. Or those tiny heels that look amazing. Tempting as it is, your shoes don't change size. Your feet do. Would you buy a jacket that was too small in the hope that it would expand so that one day it was finally comfortable? Most likely not, but there is still the common belief that your shoes will expand in time with enough wear and tear. In my experience this never happens. So instead you're left with a shoe that gives you numbness and blisters. Your shoes by their very design are meant to be comfortable. So as tempting as it is, go for comfort. If it feels tight, go for a half size bigger. Still too tight? Try a more conservative design. Rounded toe box, less of a high heel are a good place to start when finding a comfortable shoe. Too tight and there's a high chance of lasting injuries.
On a final note, no two feet are the same, so picking a shoe out isn't so straight forward as it seems. What works for your friend's feet isn't always going to work for you. But if the shoe feels comfortable, fits well and looks good, then go for it. If you're unsure then there's always expert advice on hand to help pick the perfect shoe for you.
Thanks for reading!
This post has been written by PhysioActive Podiatrist Greig Price B.Sc.
Thoughts or questions?