In general, the best shoes are well cushioned and have a leather upper, stiff heel counter, and flexible area at the ball of the foot. The heel area should be strong and supportive, but not too stiff, and the front of the shoe should be flexible. New shoes should feel comfortable right away, without a breaking in period. There should be plenty of room for all five toes.
Getting the Correct Fit
The best way to prevent nearly all foot problems is to choose well-fitted shoes with a firm sole and soft upper. You should purchase them in the afternoon or after a long walk, when your feet are at their largest size. There should be a ½ inch of space between your largest toe and the tip of the shoe, and the toes should be able to wiggle upward. You should stand when being measured, and both feet should be sized, with shoes bought for the larger foot. It is important to wear the same socks as you would regularly wear with the new shoes.
Ideally, your shoes should have removable insoles (See below:
). If you are an older person, thin hard soles may be the best choice. Elderly people wearing shoes with thick, inflexible soles may be unable to sense the position of their feet relative to the ground, which increases the risk for falling.
High heels are a major cause of foot problems in women. If you insist on wearing high heels, look for shoes with wide toe room, reinforced heels that are relatively wide, and cushioned insoles. You should also keep the amount of time you spend wearing high heels to a minimum.
The way shoes are laced can be important for preventing specific problems. Laces should always be loosened before putting shoes on. If you have narrow feet, you should buy shoes with eyelets farther away from the tongue than people with wider feet. This makes for a tighter fit for narrower feet and a looser fit for wider feet. If, after tying the shoe, less than an inch of tongue shows, then the shoes are probably too wide for you. Tightness should be adjusted both at the top of the shoe and at the bottom. When high arches cause pain, eyelets should be skipped to relieve pressure.
Breaking In and Wearing Shoes
If your shoes require breaking in, place moleskin pads next to areas on your skin where friction is likely to occur. Once a blister occurs, moleskin is not as effective. Change shoes during the day. As soon as the heels show noticeable wear, you should replace the shoes or heels.
Exercise and Sports
The shoes you wear for exercise should be specifically designed for your preferred sport. For instance, a running shoe should cushion your forefoot, while tennis shoes should emphasize ankle support. Buy your shoes at a store with knowledgeable sales people.
A number of occupations put the feet in danger. If you are in a high-risk job, you should be sure your footwear is protective. For example, nonelectric workers at risk for falling or rolling objects or punctures should wear shoes with steel toes and possibly other metal foot guards. Electric workers should wear footgear with no metal parts (or insulated steel toes) and rubber soles and heels. Chemical workers should wear shoes made of synthetics or rubber, not leather.
An insole is a flat cushioned insert that is placed inside the shoe. They are designed to reduce shock, provide support for your heels and arches, and absorb moisture and odor. People respond very differently to specific insoles. What works for one person may not work for you. The thickness of your socks must be considered when purchasing insoles. You do not want insoles to squeeze your toes up against your shoes.
Insoles can be purchased in athletic and drug stores. Shoe stores that specialize in foot problems often make and sell customized insoles that are more expensive. In general, over-the-counter insoles offer enough support for most people's foot problems. Most well-known brands of athletic shoes have built-in insoles.