Give your feet a break and buy the right shoes
DEAR DOCTOR K:
You've often advised readers to buy supportive shoes that fit properly. Can you be more specific about what to look for in a good shoe?
Buying the right shoe is an investment in your foot health. But how do you identify the "right" shoe? The bottom line is how you feel when you put them on.
For women, the best shoes are low-heeled but not flat, with a wide, padded heel, a wide toe box and a sole that provides sufficient cushioning. In general, the higher the heel, the worse for the foot.
Men tend to feel most comfortable in athletic shoes, sturdy oxfords, wingtips, loafers or low-heeled boots. Look for sturdy sole construction that provides support and cushions against shock.
Buy shoes made from breathable materials that keep feet dry and less susceptible to foot fungus.
Here are some useful tips when you shop for shoes:
-- Wait until the afternoon to shop. Your feet naturally expand during the day.
-- Wear the same type of socks that you intend to wear with the shoes.
-- Ask the salesperson to measure both of your feet. Get measured every time you buy new shoes, because feet change with age. If one foot is larger or wider than the other, buy a size that fits the larger foot. (If you can afford it, buy two pairs of shoes of different sizes, and use the proper size for each foot.)
-- Stand in the shoes. Make sure you have at least a quarter- to a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Wiggle your toes to make sure there's enough room.
-- Walk around in the shoes. Is there enough room at the balls of the feet? Do the heels fit snugly, or do they pinch or slip off?
-- Find shoes that fit from the start, not shoes that need to be broken in. If a salesperson tells you, "Oh, that little pinch will go away as soon as you walk in them a day or two," thank him or her for the advice ... and find a pair that doesn't pinch.
-- Trust your own comfort rather than a shoe's size or description.
-- Pay attention to width as well as length. If the ball of your foot feels compressed, ask for a wider size.
-- Make sure the soles provide enough cushioning.
Your feet have to deal with all the weight of your body. When that big slice of cheesecake puts a couple of extra pounds on the wall of your belly, it also gives your feet more pounds to carry.
Trust what your feet tell you about shoes. If your feet don't like the shoes today, it's likely that they will really not like the shoes a month from now.
(Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. To send questions, go to AskDoctorK.com, or write: Ask Doctor K, 10 Shattuck St., Second Floor, Boston, MA 02115.)
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