Bad Shoes Could Be Causing Your Heel Pain
The right pair of shoes can be the best friend your feet ever had—cushioning your steps, supporting your arches, and enabling you to live life to the fullest. However, the wrong pair of shoes can be your worst enemy.
Why You Need Good Shoes
We’re guessing you probably spend most of your day walking on surfaces that are hard and flat, without any softness or flexibility. That can be demanding on your feet.
Proper cushioning and arch support in our footwear are crucial if we want to get through our busy days without being limited by aching feet.
Why Our Shoes So Often Fail Us
So here, we arrive at the critical questions. How do you tell a good shoe from a bad one? Why do our shoes constantly fail us? Are your shoes to blame for your constant heel pain, or any other foot problems?
There are lots of reasons why a particular shoe might be causing your heel pain. Here are some of the most common:
- The shoes don’t fit. You’d be shocked at how often people wear shoes that just aren’t the right size and shape for their feet. Shoes that are too big, too small, too wide, or too narrow can all be problematic—in any dimension, the wrong fit can pinch, rub painfully, fail to support you, or even change your gait patterns. Unfortunately, those with especially wide or narrow feet may find it especially difficult to find shoes off the rack that fit properly.
- You’re spending a lot of time walking around in shoes that really aren’t meant for that purpose. High heels, ballet flats, and flip flops all have their uses—but all should be used sparingly if you want to avoid heel pain! Shoes and sandals with poor arch support, little to no cushioning, and poor overall ergonomics should never be your daily everyday choice.
- You’re wearing the wrong type of shoes. You wouldn’t try to run a marathon in a pair of steel-toed boots, would you? Of course not! While this is an extreme example, the truth is that people wear the wrong types of shoes constantly for all sorts of activities. Notably, if you play a particular sport (running, basketball, tennis, etc.) on a regular basis, you should have shoes that are meant to be worn with that specific sport.
- Your shoes are worn out. We know—it’s hard to say goodbye to that old, comfy pair. But shoes definitely have a lifespan. Over time, treads wear down, reducing grip. Midsoles flatten and lose their “spring,” resulting in less shock absorption for your feet. If you start noticing more and more foot pain when you wear a particular pair you’ve had for a while, they probably need to be replaced. (Runners can plan on switching shoes every 300-500 miles as a rule of thumb).
Tips for Finding the Right Pair
So now you understand a little bit about what makes a pair of shoes the wrong pair. In summary: shoes that don’t fit your fit, shoes that don’t fit your activity, and shoes that are past their best-by date.
But how do you go about finding good shoes? Here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Always shoe shop in person. Online shopping might be convenient, but odds are the pair you buy isn’t going to fit quite right. Don’t underestimate the value of testing in person.
- Shop later in the day, or right after vigorous activity. The rationale here is that your feet are likely to be a little bit swollen at this point. You want to be sure your shoes will still fit when your feet are about as large as they typically get.
- Always measure your feet. In addition to minor fluctuations in size throughout the day, feet also tend to slowly flatten, widen, and lengthen in a more permanent way over time. This is especially true if you are overweight or have been through pregnancy but also happens to everyone to some extent. You may not be the same size you used to be anymore.
- Also, as you measure, make sure you pay close attention to the width you need—not just the size number! Width matters just as much as length.
- Bring along appropriate socks to test with your shoes. If you’re shopping for athletic shoes, for example, you should test the fit with your athletic socks. Wearing socks much thinner or thicker than you’d normally wear with the pair of shoes in question will change the feel and fit.
- As you stand in your shoes, make sure your toes have plenty of wiggle room. Press down on the area between the front of the shoe and the longest toe—there should be about half an inch of space there.
- The fit around the heel should be snug but not tight. As you walk around, the shoes should not slip or slide around. Trust your sense of what feels comfortable, as sizes can and do vary between manufacturers. If something feels off, try a different size or a different style.
- Never try to convince yourself a pair of shoes “just needs to be broken in.” While some break-in will happen with, say, a pair of rugged hiking boots, you should never rely on break-in to make a pair of shoes comfortable. If they aren’t comfortable or don’t feel right when you first put them on, chances are they don’t fit, period.
- We mentioned it above, but it bears repeating—always buy shoes that are specific to the type of activity you plan to engage in.
We certainly hope that following the above tips will help make a major difference in your symptoms. You might be surprised at how much a better pair of shoes can change your life!
That being said, sometimes the right pair of shoes isn’t enough on its own. For example, certain structural abnormalities of the feet may require either over-the-counter or custom orthotics to fully be addressed, in addition to good shoes.
If your feet are constantly bothering you—regardless of your footwear choices—you should make it a priority to visit the team at Comprehensive Foot Centers. Foot pain is not normal, and our specialists can help you resolve and prevent it quickly and effectively. Give us a call today at (816) 455-1155 to schedule an appointment at any of our six convenient locations.