Often we see articles, ads, guides, and commercials about picking up the latest shoe. Whether it be for running, walking, working, or just casual wear, shoes are a huge deal. But what about those of us who have “oddly” shaped feet, finding shoes is a chore, sometimes even dreaded. We push our shoes to the limit, hundreds of miles beyond their life span just to avoid going to the store (two or three stores if you are lucky) to get new ones. Finding that right fit can seem nearly impossible. Not to mention the health hazards that are posed for not wearing shoes that accurately fit our feet. Well, let’s talk about this. Let’s give this topic some much needed love and figure out some viewpoints on shoe choice that may help you with your difficult decisions.
Depending on what you are using your shoes for, you may need to make some different footwear decisions. In any case, it is always wise to ask an expert or your doctor to take a look at your feet to see what might be the best option for you. Whether you are looking to use your shoes for sports or not, an excellent option for getting that expert opinion is Gazelle Sports. These folks can take a look at how you walk or run and have a pretty accurate idea of which shoes you may need. They also can offer excellent recommendations on inserts that may alleviate pain and accommodate an abnormal foot shape.
With that out of the way, here are some things to consider when it comes to your foot health:
#1 Have Different Shoes For Different Activities
You wouldn’t go running in your high heels right? (Although there is a race for that believe it or not). Well that same is true for activities like working and exercising. Running shoes tend to be contoured and manufactured in a way that allows feet to breath better, flex in the correct positions, and keep those muscles and tendons firing correctly. Work shoes tend to be stiffer, and appeal more to the fashion sense. It may take some research, but finding a brand of work shoe that is geared toward the functional aspects more than fashion may be ideal. This isn’t to say that fashion must be sacrificed entirely, but sometimes we have to make those compromises!
#2 Get To Know Your Feet
One of the biggest problems for those of us with abnormal feet, or even just those of us who suffer from foot pain in general, is that we do not know our feet. What do we mean by knowing our feet? Well, two things actually. Your feet and your stride are critical, and there is important information you want to make sure you know ahead of time:
When it comes to your feet:
Are you flat footed?
Do you have a high or low arch?
How wide are your feet?
What size are you? (If you don’t know this by now, then you should get right on that).
When it comes to your stride, ask yourself these questions:
Do you overstride (step too far ahead of your body)
How about understride?
Do you heal strike? (land on your heel first)
Do you forefront/midfoot strike? (land on the front or middle of your foot)
Do you roll your foot when it lands on the ground?
Do your feet stick out or inward, or are they perfectly straight when you walk/run?
These questions are essential for figuring out what shoe will help you prevent those nasty injuries and pains. Asking experts is the best way to get solid answers to many of these questions as well.
#3 Consider Your Heel
The heel is very important when it comes to picking shoes. It seems very minimal at first glance. Isn’t everyone’s heel at the back of their foot, right where it should be? Yes. However, the problem is not in the heel itself. The problem is in the shoes. Any type of shoe, whether it be running, working, fashion (the dreaded high heel which makes me cringe), they all have some sort of raised heel. Our feet are made to be barefoot. They are perfect the way they are. So when any sort of raised heel is introduced into the equation, the entire body’s alignment is thrown out of whack. Think about if you stood on a wooden wedge, but your body didn’t compensate for the wacky angle you were standing on. You would fall over. Now think about what happens when you wear high heels. Your feet are essentially pointing straight down. While the high heels are the extreme, it doesn’t take much over time to wear at your feet in your work/exercise shoes. This raised heel is called “drop”, because it is measured in the drop from the heel to the toes. This concept is demonstrated in the illustration below. While in today’s society it is very difficult to eliminate drop completely (at work that is, exercise is a different story), it is good to be aware of, and minimize drop as much as possible to improve foot health.
Figure from cathrynjakobsonramin.com
*As a side note, it is wise to consult your doctor before you go minimizing drop, especially with exercise shoes which have a wide variety of “zero drop” or barefoot shoes available. Jumping right in to zero or minimal drop shoes is a drastic change, and while it does lend you to a more natural way of movement, it does take time to correct. Starting with something like the Merrell Encore may be a good transition option for you.
#4 Shop At A Specialty Store
This becomes highly important as mentioned earlier, when it comes to learning about your own foot. Department stores offer “general” brands and shoes that fit the masses. Well, we have already diagnosed that you are not “the masses”. You are special, and unique, and your feet know it. Specialty stores will offer the assistance and expertise that you require, and will work with you to find the perfect fit. These experts have seen it all, there isn’t a shoe they don’t have (or can’t get) that will not help alleviate some or all of your pain. They work very hard to understand what they do, and they are very good at it.
#5 Plan Ahead
I spent nine years as a track and field athlete. I ran 5K’s, and had a high amount of success as a sprinter, so I have been all over the shoe spectrum from shoe types ranging from training shoes, distance running shoes, distance track spikes, mid distance track spikes, and true sprinter track spikes. I have also used multiple brands including Asics, Nike, Puma, Vibrams, and Merrell. If there is one thing that I have learned from my time in the sport where shoes are your primary concern, it is that companies have a nasty habit of phasing out current models of shoes. Essentially what I am saying is, if you find a shoe that is your miracle shoe, it ends all of your pain, you have NEVER felt anything like it, the world is perfect now....then you need to go buy multiple pairs. So many times I have found a shoe that I love (after much searching) only to find that when I go to reorder after my 350-400 miles (the recommended lifespan of any shoe), that my miracle shoe was discontinued and replaced with the “2.0”. You might be thinking “2.0?! How could that possibly be bad?!”. Well my friends, it’s bad because you are wearing your miracle shoe. Miracles don’t get any more miracley……..er. It’s the classic “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” deal, and shoe companies tend to ignore this as they try to move toward what works best for the mass market. So do yourself a favor, save yourself the hassle and just pick up as many pairs of your miracle shoe as you can comfortably afford. Check out all of our work and exercise shoes here! Your feet will thank you later.