The Right Shoes: What to Look for in Footwear

How do you choose your shoes? Do you do it based on the color, the latest trend, or the type? Do you try on footwear until you find one that’s comfortable, or do you find a style that you like and add cushions or insoles to make it fit better? It can be overwhelming to get a new pair of shoes, especially since there are so many different kinds. If you know what to look for, however, you can find the right shoes for your feet and ankles.

The Good and the Bad

Shoes have an incredible influence on the lower limbs. They protect and support the feet when you are walking, running, or doing other activities. Finding footwear that does those jobs well, without causing pain, can sometimes be a challenge. Finding the right shoes, though, can make a world of difference for your comfort. Your footgear should always fit well and conform to the shape and needs of your feet—not the other way around. You want models that offer sufficient cushioning, support where you need it, and protect your feet from damage.

Look for pairs that are made from natural materials, so your feet can breathe. Make sure there is enough material to hold the shoe in place and offer support—one or two super-thin straps isn’t enough. Soles should have some grip to them, so you don’t slip. They should also be cushioned to help your foot absorb shock. The shoe arch should fit comfortably under your natural one. Choose a toe box that is either square or rounded and wide, so there’s enough room to wiggle your toes.

Avoid shoes that are too narrow, too pointy, too high, too flimsy, or too flat. Footwear that doesn’t fit the shape of your feet can harm them by forcing you to adapt to unnatural positioning and put pressure on different structures. The wrong pair can squeeze your feet, shift your weight and center of balance, and leave you unsupported and unprotected.

Tips for Finding the Right Pair

When you go shopping for footwear, consider the purpose these shoes will be fulfilling. Will they be for a day at the office, a night on the town, an hour at the gym, or an afternoon run? That determines what footgear to look for. Shop in the late afternoon or evening, since your feet swell somewhat throughout the day, and you want to catch them at their largest. Have your feet measured before you try on shoes, too, since your feet expand as you age. In fact, they may have changed since the last time you checked.

Always try on your shoes before you buy them. Don’t judge a model by its size—shape and sizing varies from brand to brand. They should be comfortable as you walk around in them while still in the store, too, without requiring a “breaking in” period. Make sure there is roughly half an inch between the end of the shoe and the tip of your longest toe. If you wear custom orthotics, try them inside the prospective model. They’ll need to be able to fit. Heels should be two inches or less in height and worn sparingly. More than a few hours in high heels can cause significant discomfort and some damage to your foot structures.

The right shoes for your feet are out there, and they are worth looking for. Since your footwear has such a high impact on the function of your lower limbs, investing in good pairs can help you support and protect your feet from avoidable injuries. If you aren’t sure what to look for in shoes, or don’t know what your feet need for stabilization or support, contact NorthPointe Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information. You can reach us by calling (248) 545-0100 or visiting our website contact page.