I want a good pair of shoes. I am sure almost everyone has thought or said that at some time. But what does it really mean? To understand a good shoe, first, we need to know a little about feet. Your foot is a wonder of human engineering. The foot acts during walking or running as a soft accommodating structure which can adapt to terrain (think about the uneven terrain your foot actually lands on when walking on a trail or mountainside) to a rigid lever which propels you forward-all within a split second. Your foot pronates and supinates when walking, which means that your feet roll in and out slightly, to provide shock absorption and propulsion qualities. Your foot absorbs over five times your body weight when running. It has 26 bones, 33 joints, and 107 ligaments which work together and most of us take thousands of steps a day. Your feet put up with a lot!
According to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, more than one in six people have trouble with their feet, yet most of these are acquired through life from neglect and improper fit and shoe type.
A good shoe is one that fits the entire three-dimensional foot shape within it, including abnormalities. The materials should provide adequate cushion for the activity planned and the inner footbed of the shoe should closely match the contours of the bottom surface of the foot. The upper of the shoe should offer adequate protection for the activity.
- Buy the fit and not the size. Not only should you not care what the number on the box is, don't forget about the type of sock that goes in the shoe with you or the possible inserts that may need to go in as well. Thicker inserts or socks may require bigger shoes than what you may measure.
- Have Both feet measured and "the bigger foot wins".
- Buy the right shoes for the activity; as you would not wear a high-quality sandal on a snowy day you should not wear your prettiest high heels when you are on your feet all day. Your hard-working days should be spent in foot friendly styles and dressier styles saved for less active times. Quality shoes should not bend under the arch of the foot but instead be rigid from the heel forward and be flexible across the ball of the foot, like your feet!
- Buy the right type of shoe for your foot type. Low arches should be fit differently than high arches.
- Buy shoes in the evening. We all swell slightly more as the day goes on.
- Slip-on shoe styles which don't have a secure closure or feet that are more flexible will usually slip in the heel. Don't buy them too small hoping to eliminate heel slippage, some is expected.
- Remember, 3/8" to 1/2" is needed from the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe.
- Don't go home from the store with uncomfortable shoes hoping they will "break in". With a couple exceptions this seldom works.
- Good quality shoes are usually made with thicker, tougher materials. Don't be afraid of shoes that are slightly heavier or stiffer as the extra support they offer usually feels good at the end of a long day. Ultra-light extra soft shoes feel great at first, but leave you with tired feet and legs at the end of day.
- Buy your shoes from someone who has basic training in foot anatomy and shoe sizing.