Your feet are probably doing way more than you give them credit for, so they need shoes to match.
If you’ve ever hobbled off the dance floor at a wedding with your heels in hand, you know shoes can easily cause foot pain. But before you toss every pair of shoes in your closet, let’s run through a quick primer on your feet.
Your feet have the big job of supporting your body weight and sustaining the impact of standing, walking, running, and everything else you do throughout the day. They’re complex body parts comprised of 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
When your feet don’t get the support they need, it can lead to issues like blisters, bunions (bony bumps where your big toes connect to your feet), and hammertoes (when your toes become permanently bent due to pressure and look, unsurprisingly, like hammers). Improper support can also cause pain beyond your feet, like in your knees or back, as other parts of your body have to overcompensate.
With all of the above in mind, here are eight shoe mistakes you might be guilty of:
- You can’t remember the last time you got your feet measured.
Significant weight fluctuations, like gaining weight during pregnancy, can change your shoe size. So can having bunions or hammertoes, or having a condition like rheumatoid arthritis that can cause joints to swell. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes may also lead to changes in foot size or shape due to nerve damage, which can result in other symptoms like tingling, pain, and numbness, too.
it’s worth getting your feet measured in-person at a shoe store when you can, or try to do it yourself online.
- You don’t know squat about your arches.
Generally speaking, there are two types of feet: high-arched and low-arched. The particular demands for those two types of feet are drastically different.
The curve of your shoe should support your arches so they can in turn support the rest of your feet and your body, Gillanders explains. Chat with a podiatrist or visit a fitness or specialty shoe shop to figure out what’s best for you.
- You’re usually walking around (a lot) in shoes that aren’t up for the job.
As cute as high-heeled shoes may be, they’re not the right fit for clocking 10,000 steps, exploring a new city on vacation, or even walking around your office all day. The shoe should match your activity.
- You choose your workout or running shoes based on appearance.
Don’t just buy sneakers based on how they look or because a fitness Instagrammer you love swears by them. When you need new sneakers, go to a specialty running or workout shoe store and speak with a specialist. Wearing a running shoe for tennis, or vice versa, can encourage injuries like sprains.
- You dedicate a day to “break in” new shoes.
You shouldn’t rush the breaking in process. Instead, try to take it slowly. It’s best to wear a shoe a little at a time until it loosens naturally. Whether you’re doing this at home or while running quick errands, keep socks or bandaids handy to prevent blisters or chafing.
- As soon as you get home, it’s barefoot central.
For a lot of people, going barefoot is about ultimate comfort, not an issue that needs fixing. However, in some people, constantly walking or standing barefoot on surfaces like hardwood floors, tile, or marble puts too much stress on structures of the feet, either causing or exacerbating pain over time.
If you have foot pain that you think is due to being barefoot too much, try getting a pair of slippers with plush insoles to wear around the house, or park a memory foam mat in places where you stand a lot, like by the kitchen sink.
- You don’t really use insoles or understand their purpose.
Depending on your foot type and any specific pain you might already have, the insoles that come with your shoes may not actually be the right, supportive choice for you. If you’re in the market for new insoles, book an appointment with Dr. Maria Mangaki, Podiatrist for comfortable insoles customized to your feet.
- You’re still holding on to that worn-down pair of boots from 2012.
Many people only throw away a pair of shoes when the soles are worn down. Once the sole starts to break down, it actually changes the angle at which your foot strikes the ground, which can cause pain in your feet, knees, hips, and back.
Shoes, like clothes, are pretty personal. The right choices for you will depend on your activity levels, height, weight, walking and running gait, personal style, and a lot more. But if you’re experiencing any kind of foot pain that persists for days, makes it impossible—or just uncomfortable—to live your life as normal, or otherwise seems a little too weird to ignore, it’s time to see a podiatrist for evaluation.